My research is prompted by a desire to understand how small-scale human societies develop and evolve both short- and long-term biological and cultural responses to environmental settings that appear to offer limited resources. Thus, I have a strong interest in the relationships between human biology, subsistence, subsistence-related habitual workloads, health, and cultural change in hunter-gatherers, pastoralists, and the earliest agriculturalists. I have addressed these questions in the context of cultural research among Oklahoma Native Americans, archaeology in the Prehispanic American Southwest, behavioral ecology fieldwork among Venezuelan hunter-gatherers, extensive analyses of the skeletal remains of fossil and prehistoric human foragers, collaborative bioarchaeological excavations with Samburu pastoralists in Kenya, and recent fieldwork investigating health and morbidity within northern Kenyan pastoralist groups. More recently, I am examining how health, disease burdens, and health disparities within such small-scale human societies are impacted by aspects of marginalization and political ecology.
I am a collaborator on four current research projects related to biological adaptations, health, morbidity, and cultural buffering among hunter-gatherers and pastoralists. The first examines biological evidence for cold adaptations in the 480+ precontact Arctic forager skeletons (at the American Museum of Natural History) from Point Hope, Alaska. The second, with Dr. Marsha Ogilvie, is a comprehensive bioarchaeological investigation of cultural and biological adaptive variation in foragers of the Lower Pecos cultural region of the west Texas Chihuahuan desert during the Archaic Period. I collaborate with Professors Bilinda Straight (Western Michigan Univ.) and Paul Lane (York University, UK), on a multidisciplinary project examining the evolution of pastoralism in northern Kenya. Since 2008, I have participated on a National Science Foundation project, co-directed by Professors B. Straight (WMU) and Ivy Pike (Univ. of Arizona), examining the impact on health of chronic low-intensity violence associated with livestock raiding among northern Kenyan pastoralists.