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My interests include: ancient DNA (aDNA), reproduction, maternal child health, and heritable disease evolution.


While in graduate school, I studied polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as an authentic evolutionary mismatch disorder. This occurs when a beneficial or neutral trait evolving in one environment becomes maladaptive in another environment as time progresses.

My current projects expand on this idea and are aimed at improving our understanding of the disease. 

PCOS & Early Menarche

Principal Investigator 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormone disorder that negatively impacts ~4 – 20% of females globally. PCOS is characterized by polycystic ovaries (presence of enlarged fluid-filled follicle sacs around ovaries), anovulation, and hyperandrogenism (high androgens such as testosterone). Research suggests abnormal hormone fluctuations during adolescence may cause females with PCOS to experience premature adrenarche, early awakening of the adrenal gland, often regarded as the onset of puberty. Additionally, it is believed that the hormones associated with premature adrenarche may lead to early menarche, defined as experiencing menstruation before the age of twelve. However, the relationship between PCOS, early puberty, and the long-term impacts on female reproductive health in adulthood are not well understood. We surveyed 76 adult females (18+ years of age; ongoing survey 2021 - present) and categorized them as PCOS (61.85%) and non-PCOS (38.15%). The results indicate that people with PCOS experienced menarche earlier (11.64 years of age ± 1.58) than females without PCOS (12.59 years of age ± 1.68). However, chi-square analyses revealed no significant relationships between reproductive factors including pregnancy, live births, breastfeeding ability, breastfeeding duration, and early menarche in either group. Additionally, one-way ANOVA tests found the mean number of offspring was not greatly impacted in individuals with PCOS (2.7 ± 1.48) compared to individuals without PCOS (2.05 ± 1.55). These preliminary results suggest that although individuals with PCOS may experience menarche on average ~1 year earlier than people without PCOS, reproductive capacities do not differ significantly in adulthood.

Accepted Abstract for the 2024 Human Biology Association Conference.

PCOS Hyperandrogenism & Fractures in Female Athletes

Principal Investigator

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is argued to be an evolutionary mismatch disorder. One argument suggests that PCOS hyperandrogenism may have been beneficial to ancestral populations experiencing sporadic nutritional stress by increasing bone mineral density (BMD), however current research is conflicting. Here, we test the hypothesis that PCOS-related hyperandrogenism has a protective effect on BMD, especially during reproductive stress (i.e., pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding) or hormonal supplementation (i.e., contraceptives) and leads to reduced fracture occurrence. CrossFit athletes were recruited due to their intense fitness regimen that is often linked to altered nutritional status and increased fracture occurrence compared to the general population. 56 adult women were surveyed and categorized as follows: CrossFit athletes with PCOS (35.7%), CrossFit athletes without PCOS (30.3%), and non-athletes with PCOS (33.9%). Though non-significant (p = 0.338). CrossFit athletes without PCOS reported a higher percentage of fracture occurrence (47.1%) compared to CrossFit athletes with PCOS (20%) and non-athletes with PCOS (10.5%). Chi-square tests revealed no significant relationships between pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and elevated fracture occurrence in any group. However, there were significant relationships between bone fractures and diet at the time of injury (p = 0.009), as well as with hormonal contraceptive usage (p= 0.026) among CrossFit athletes without PCOS, but not in any other group. These results suggest females without PCOS are more likely to experience bone fractures during nutritional stress or hormone supplementation compared to those with PCOS, providing limited support for the hypothesis that PCOS hyperandrogenism may have helped preserve BMD in ancestral populations.​


Accepted Podium Presentation for the 2024 American Association of Biological Anthropologists Conference. 

Submitted and Under Review at the American Journal of Human Biology.


Testing the Hygiene Hypothesis Among Older Adults Residing in the United States.

Research Collaborator

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Intestinal inflammation is an indicator of serious health conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease and gastrointestinal cancers. As part of the innate immune system, the inflammatory response is sensitive to environmental and demographic factors. The Hygiene Hypothesis posits that reduced exposure to immune-priming pathogens is responsible for increased prevalence of inflammatory disorders. Here, we test relationships between childhood environment and adult intestinal inflammation among 85 older adults (58 females, 27 males; ages 51-88 years). While all participants lived in Colorado Springs, CO at the time of this study, almost all lived in other locations throughout their childhoods. Stool samples and interview data were collected to measure fecal calprotectin (FC; a biomarker of intestinal inflammation) and assess childhood environment (e.g., urban vs. rural residence; domesticated animal exposure; socioeconomic status [SES]). Results indicate that women who lived in suburban areas between the ages of 0 and 5 have significantly higher FC compared to those who were raised in urban environments (p = 0.043). Women who lived in suburban areas from ages 5 to 10 also have higher FC than those who lived in rural (p = 0.006) and urban (p = 0.027) environments. Surprisingly, these relationships were reversed in men. Further, clinically elevated FC (> 50 ug/g) was associated with higher SES during childhood (p = 0.045) among women. We find mixed, sex-specific support for the hygiene hypothesis that suggests that childhood SES may be associated with reduced adult intestinal inflammation, possibly due to altered environmental exposure associated with sanitation/hygiene in suburban areas.

Past Research Projects.

PCOS as an Authentic Evolutionary Mismatch Disorder

Principal Investigator 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the most common endocrine disruptive disorder in females characterized by polycystic ovaries, anovulation, and hyperandrogenism. The high heritability of genes associated with PCOS and the worldwide occurrence in approximately 6% of females suggests a genetic origin prior to early human migrations out of Africa. It has previously been argued that PCOS is an evolutionary mismatch disease, where a trait evolving in one environment becomes maladaptive in another. However, PCOS presents a constellation of phenotypes varying between affected individuals making it difficult to articulate which of these traits would be the target of a mismatch. Furthermore, mismatch arguments often fail to provide sufficient detail about the physiological interaction of the trait in both ancestral and modern environments resulting in a maladaptive phenotype. Here we argue that hyperandrogenism associated with PCOS likely aided with conception in older females, increased bone mineral density (BMD), and supported prolonged breastfeeding in an ancestral environment with periodic nutritional stress. In modern post-industrial environments characterized by an overabundance of food energy, hyperandrogenism no longer preserves maternal reproductive fitness but instead contributes to the pathogenesis of PCOS. This conclusion is supported by PCOS treatments that control insulin and the feedback loop associated with hyperandrogenism. 

Presented at the 2021 International Society for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health conference. 

Women in Trucking: An Ethnographic Examination of Agency Amongst Pregnant Long-Haul Truck Drivers.

Principal Investigator

Long-haul truck driving has long been regarded as a male-dominated industry. However, as time progresses, more females of reproductive age are becoming licensed drivers all over the world. This project aimed to provide a voice to pregnant drivers while encouraging them to advocate for themselves. Most carriers had no rules or regulations regarding pregnancy prior to this study. This project received a significant amount of media attention and led to the emergence of many laws to protect this vulnerable population. I am honored to be recognized as the researcher who started this MCH movement in the long-haul trucking industry. What began as an ethnography transformed into advocacy and encouragement for female truck drivers!

The Immigration Experience: The Efficacy of Deep Maps as an Anthropological Teaching Method.

Principal Investigator

The project The Immigration Experience: An Examination of the Deep Maps as an Anthropological Teaching Method commenced as an undergraduate course assignment and quickly became a thesis. The project examined the efficacy of deep maps as an anthropological teaching method while simultaneously reviewing empathy studies. Participants completed a survey detailing their attitudes towards immigrants to the United states presently, both legally and illegally. Participants were then directed to a deep map with digital archives involving immigration pinned in various locations. Exploration of the map was encouraged, with no time limit provided. Participants then completed a second survey to determine if attitudes had been altered. The results indicated a 97% increase in empathy amongst all participants. Most noted they felt heightened acceptance for all immigrants.​

Key Collaborators

1 / Dr. Tara Cepon-Robins

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs

2 / Dr. Anna Warrener

The University of Colorado Denver

3 / Dr. Theresa Gildner

Washington University St. Louis

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