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I am an Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology at Purdue University and Director of the Laboratory for Ontogeny, Behavior and Reproduction (LABOR). My research program examines several nutritional, epidemiological, and behavioral processes modulating human developmental variation in Latin American indigenous populations. Current projects toward this goal include (1) causes and consequences of globally rising cesarean birth rates (2) modernizing influences and infant feeding practices, and (3) infant and childhood growth and immunological and microbiome development.
Cesarean birth rates are rising in most parts of the world, with a number of implications for short and long-term maternal-offspring outcomes. While they can be life-saving procedures for mothers and their infants, cesarean sections also have negative consequences for both. For example, cesarean births are often epidemiologically associated with decreased maternal fertility, poor breastfeeding outcomes and increased maternal morbidity. In infants, cesarean births are also linked to increased child and adulthood obesity, asthma and allergic disease, which are all independent risk factors for the number one cause of death globally: cardiovascular disease. Evolutionary and biocultural perspectives are useful in understanding the causes and consequences of globally rising cesarean birth rates. Previous biological anthropology research has examined human birth from an evolutionary perspective, exploring the proximate and ultimate mechanisms underlying pregnancy-related morbidity and mortality. Other research within our discipline has focused on the dynamic social and biological forces that contribute to rising cesarean birth rates. Biological anthropology is therefore well-equipped to examine global patterns and local contexts under which cesarean birth rates seem to inevitably rise.