Cynthia Beall is a biological anthropologist whose research focuses on human adaptation to high-altitude hypoxia, particularly the different patterns of adaptation exhibited by Andean, Tibetan and East African highlanders.

Research Interests

My research pursues two main themes. The first is how populations with different microevolutionary histories adapt to the unavoidable lifelong environmental stress of high-altitude hypoxia. My field work with populations on the Andean plateau of South America, the Tibetan Plateau of Central Asia, and the Simien Plateau of East Africa has revealed that there are two different patterns of adaptation to hypoxia rather than the single universal human response envisioned by classical environmental physiologists. Expanding the usual focus on young adult males to include males and females at all stages of the life cycle and combining physiological and quantitative genetic approaches have been integral to these findings. The second theme is the influence of the sociocultural environment, which can both create and buffer stress and can have beneficial and detrimental effects on human biology.

Membership Type


Election Year


Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology

Secondary Section

Section 27: Evolutionary Biology