Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Come hang out with the cool kids: the 2011 American Association of Physical Anthropology Meetings, Minneapolis

Biological anthropologists are a cool lot. We study bones, death, fossils, phylogenetics (how things are related to each other), hominin evolution, behavior, reproduction, physiology, primates, communication, cognition, genetics, migration and more. We study how these things vary, what produces their variation, and why that variation is meaningful. So the AAPAs tend to be a fun conference full of lively conversation, strong sessions, and engaged attendees.

Plus, you see a lot of people wearing sandals with socks.

This year, that particular population might be slightly underrepresented, because we are having the meetings in Minneapolis, where snow is predicted on Friday and Saturday. While that has impacted the wardrobe that will be crammed into my carry-on luggage tomorrow, I still expect a great meeting, because there are several wonderful symposia planned, a lunch event for women in biological anthropology, and a BANDIT Happy Hour on Saturday at 5pm. Julienne Rutherford has curated a great list that can be found by reading the posts under her AAPA label.

Me? I'm going to self-promote, but I'll encourage you to do the same in the comments.

On Thursday morning you can find me in Session 3, the invited podium symposium chaired by Grazyna Jasienska and Diana Sherry entitled "Evolution and Health over the Life Course" in Salon C. The session starts at 8am with what looks to be a great talk by Beverly Strassmann, "Evolution and health from infancy to adolescence in the Dogon of Mali."

My talk is at 9:30am, is co-authored with my former students Theresa Emmerling and Ashley Higgins, and is entitled "Variation in adolescent menstrual cycles, doctor-patient relationships, and why we shouldn't prescribe hormonal contraceptives to twelve year olds." I'll be talking about what we know of adolescent menstrual cycle variation, what we know of the impact of hormonal contraception on different reproductively-aged women, and some pilot data from our focus groups on doctor-patient relationships. I hope the last bit will provide a bit of framework for understanding how and why US women use hormonal contraception in such comparatively high proportions for off-label use.

On Friday afternoon, you can find me in Session 31, the invited podium symposium chaired by Julienne Rutherford and me entitled "Eating for Two: Maternal Ecology and Nutrition in Human and Non-Human Primates" in Marquette V/VI. The session starts at 2pm with a talk by Betsey Abrams and Julienne Rutherford entitled "Risky business: an evolutionary perspective on placental nutrient transport and postpartum hemorrage." I am VERY excited to hear this paper!

My talk is next, at 2:15pm, and is called "Pro- and anti-inflammatory food proteins and their impact on maternal ecology." This talk is co-authored by two of my students, Laura Klein and Katherine Tribble. I'll be doing a bit of a review of the literature to place this topic in context, and discussing some pilot data.

I may be biased, but the rest of this symposium is pretty kick-ass.
  • 2:30 Yildirim et al speak on vaginal microbial communities and maternal ecology (University of Illinois research!)
  • 2:45 Milich et al discuss habitat quality and reproduction in female red colobus monkeys (University of Illinois research!)
  • 3:00 Julienne Rutherford has prepared a version of her talk to be shown at 3pm on energetics and life history plasticity in callitrichine primates as she is on maternal hiatus
  • 3:15 Valeggia shares insights into the metaboliv regulation of postpartum fecundity
  • 3:30 Nyberg discusses HPA activity in pregnant and lactating Tsimane' women
  • 3:45 Miller shares recent work on breastmilk immunity in Ariaal women
  • 4:00 Pablo Nepomnaschy will be the discussant for the first half of our symposium.
  • 4:15 In our second half, Hinde et al discuss commensal gut bacteria and breastmilk
  • 4:30 Quinn and Kuzawa developmental trajectories in infants and later milk composition
  • 4:45 Fairbanks shares her work on nutrition, energetics and vervet maternal investment
  • 5:00 Piperata and Guatelli-Steinberg discuss how social support may impact the costs of reproduction
  • 5:15 Dunsworth et al look at some very interesting data on energetics versus pelvic constraint in determining human gestational length
  • 5:30 Finally, Leslie Aiello wraps it up as the discussant of the second half of our symposium.

Science bloggers and writers, like any of the topics above? Consider interviewing some of these symposium participants! You won't be disappointed.


  1. Will you be able to post about your talks afterwards? For those of us who can't make it:)

  2. Yes, absolutely! I will post recaps of both my talks, and probably a summary of both the symposia.

  3. Is your presentation "Variation in Adolescent Menstrual Cycles. . . " derived from a paper? If so where could I find more information? I am working on a paper with a classmate looking at women's menstrual cycles and using Fertility Awareness to identify irregularities and this presentation sounds like it may back up some of the conclusions we made.

  4. Hi A Christian Wife, the presentation isn't based on a paper, but will be a foundation for a paper. Though there are also older papers that cover some of the intro material I talked about in that talk. You can check out a post co-authored by two of my students here on the topic: http://lee-anthro.blogspot.com/2010/08/adolescent-menstrual-variation-and-oral.html

  5. Thanks for the link! It is saddens me that even after all this time and all the research that has been done regarding women's cycles, overall they are still seen as pathological. Only now doctors just prescribe the pill to cover up any normal individual variances to make everyone fit within specific parameters.

    I'm excited to see what you and your students will come up with from your study and put together for the paper.