The effect of lifestyle change on health and life history in the Daasanach
Graduate Student Award in Social and Biological Determinants of Health
Investigating the relationship between human ecology and life history is essential for understanding both our evolutionary past and the contemporary global health implications of changing lifestyles. The Daasanach, a highly physically active semi-nomadic pastoral group living in semi-arid and arid regions of southwestern Ethiopia and northwestern Kenya, are keenly positioned to test hypotheses related to the effects of lifestyle transitions. Due to a variety of political, economic, and environmental pressures, the Daasanach are becoming increasingly sedentarized, leaving traditionally non-settled living for more settled lifestyles. Through the collection and analysis of health, demographic, and life history data, this project will identify the associations between competing energetic demands (e.g. physical activity, growth, reproduction, and immune activity), and advance current understanding of life history tradeoffs that occur as a function of sedentarization, an important ecological phenomenon for both past and present human populations. Our findings will also test competing models of energy expenditure through the investigation of metabolic tradeoffs that result as a consequence of lifestyle change.