Shuar Health and Life History Project


Josh Snodgrass, University of Oregon; Larry Sugiyama, University of Oregon; Melissa Liebert, Northern Arizona University; Samuel Urlacher, Baylor University; Felicia Madimenos, CUNY Queens; Josh Schrock, Northwestern University; Chris Harrington, University of Oregon; Tara Robins, University of Colorado - Colorado Springs; Richard Bribiescas, Yale University; Dorsa Amir, Boston College.


The Shuar Health and Life History Project is an interdisciplinary collaborative research effort conducted among Shuar forager-horticulturalists concentrated in the regions of Sucúa and Logroño in the province of Morona-Santiago, Ecuador. Traditionally, the Shuar lived in households widely distributed across the Upano Valley, between the eastern Andean foothills and the Cutucu range. The traditional Shuar economy is based on fishing, hunting, and horticulture. Shuar living in the remote region east of the Cutucu continue to follow this lifestyle. However, economic change is rapidly occurring in the Upano Valley. Upano Valley Shuar now usually live in large communities and subsist on small-scale animal husbandry and pastoralism, horticulture, and available wage labor. The market-integrated Upano Valley communities and the more traditional trans-Cutucu populations share many genetic and cultural traits. These shared characteristics provide a unique opportunity to examine the effects of various lifestyle factors on health outcomes.


Select Publications 

Gildner TE, Cepon-Robins TJ, Liebert MA, Urlacher SS, Schrock JM, Harrington CJ, Snodgrass JJ, Sugiyama LS. 2020. Market integration and soil-transmitted helminth infection among the Shuar of Amazonian Ecuador. PLOS One,15(7), p.e0236924,

Gildner TE, Cepon-Robins TJ, Liebert MA, Urlacher SS, Snodgrass JJ, Madimenos FC, Sugiyama LS. 2016. Regional variation in Ascaris lumbricoides and Trichuris trichiura infections by age cohort and sex: effects of market integration among the indigenous Shuar of Amazonian Ecuador. Journal of Physiological Anthropology, 35(1), 28,

Cepon-Robins TJ, Blackwell AD, Gildner TE, Liebert MA, Urlacher SS, Madimenos FC, Eick GN, Snodgrass JJ, Sugiyama LS. 2021. Pathogen disgust sensitivity protects against infection in a high pathogen environment. PNAS, 118(8), e2018552118.

Rural Embodiment and Child Health (REACH) Study



Tara Robins, University of Colorado - Colorado Springs.

Using this framework, the REACH study seeks to clarify how patterns of social and physical environmental interactions are embodied, resulting in health inequities. This study focuses in particular on understudied parasitic diseases, especially soil-transmitted helminths (STH; intestinal parasitic worms). Almost no attention has been devoted to STH infection in the U.S., with the last large-scale studies occurring in the 1970s/1980s. These studies documented high STH prevalence in numerous regions of the Southern U.S. and there have been no follow-up studies to suggest that these infections have been reduced or eradicated.


The research proposed here will be one of the first studies to reexamine STH infections in these regions, documenting current infection patterns and determining specific lifestyle factors that increase disease risk. Current data collection focuses on children aged 3-12 years old, due to the fact that this age group is most commonly infected with parasites in other populations and may experience adverse growth and educational effects from endemic STH infection. 

Additionally, we are interested in the role microbiome composition and diversity plays in shaping child development and immune function. Microbes in the environment directly shape intestinal microbiome profiles, with implications for child nutrition, growth, immune regulation, and health outcomes (including potential interactions with STH species in the gut).

This project is currently in the exploratory data collection phase, with future goals of becoming a longitudinal project investigating the effects of climate change on disease transmission.


This project documents associations between lifestyle variation, ecological factors, and child health in low-socioeconomic status regions of the United States. Our research explores the ways that lived experiences and environmental interactions become “embodied” (i.e., the process by which individuals literally incorporate their social and ecological circumstances into their biology). Embodiment may lead to long-lasting changes in immune function, growth, and development and alter human biology in ways that shape long-term health. 

COVID-19 and Reproductive Effects (CARE) Study



Zaneta Thayer, Dartmouth College


The purpose of the CARE study is to understand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affecting pregnant women's wellbeing and their healthcare experiences.

We have been recruiting a convenience sample of women living in the US who are currently pregnant. Participants fill out an online questionnaire and, if interested, are followed up again after their child's birth to understand their delivery and postpartum experiences.

Select Publications 

Gildner TE, Thayer ZM. 2021. Maternity Care Preferences for Future Pregnancies Among United States Childbearers: The Impacts of COVID-19. Frontiers in Sociology, 6, 17.


Gildner TE, Laugier EJ, Thayer ZM. 2020. Exercise routine change is associated with prenatal depression scores during the COVID-19 pandemic among pregnant women across the United States. PloS one, 15(12), e0243188.

Gildner TE, Thayer ZM. Maternal and child health during the COVID-19 pandemic: Contributions in the field of human biology. American Journal of Human Biology, e23494.

 Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE)



SAGE is a longitudinal study that compiles data on adult well-being and ageing processes across six middle income countries (China, Ghana, India, Mexico, the Russian Federation, and South Africa). Nationally-representative samples of older adults (>50 years old) and comparative samples of younger adults (18-49 years old) are drawn from each participating SAGE country. A diverse array of health markers are collected from each participant, comprising both subjective perceptions of well-being and more objective measures of health to fully capture individual health during aging. This protocol includes physical performance tests (e.g., 4m timed walk, grip strength, chair rises), cognitive performance tests (verbal fluency, immediate and delayed recall, digit span forward and backward), biomarkers (e.g., blood pressure, hip and waist circumference, blood spot from finger prick), and self-reported data on lifestyle factors (e.g., subjective well-being and sleep patterns). This battery of diverse measures enables SAGE researchers to more extensively assess the many varied factors that contribute to individual health. The longitudinal nature of the SAGE project also ensures multiple measures of these health variables are collected from the same individuals overtime. This data can be used to clarify how behavioral factors and age-related lifestyle changes influence health in older individuals. 


Select Publications and Presentations

Gildner TE, Liebert MA, Capistrant BD, D’Este C, Snodgrass JJ, Kowal P. Perceived Income Adequacy and Well-Being among Older Adults in Six Low- and Middle-Income Countries. 2019. Journal of Gerontology: Series B, 74(3), 516-525, doi: 10.1093/geronb/gbw145.


Gildner TE, Barrett TM, Liebert MA, Kowal P, Snodgrass JJ. 2015. Does BMI generated by self-reported height and weight measure up in older adults from middle-income countries? Results from the study on global AGEing and adult health (SAGE). BMC Obesity, 2, 44, DOI:10.1186/s40608-015-0074-0


Gildner TE, Liebert MA, Kowal P, Chatterji S, Snodgrass JJ. 2014. Associations between Sleep Duration, Sleep Quality, and Cognitive Test Performance among Older Adults from Six Middle Income Countries: Results from the Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (SAGE). Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 10 (6), 613-621, doi: 10.5664/jcsm.3782

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