Research Interests

As a human population biologist representing a transdisciplinary science with human variation, evolutionary biology, genetic, biobehavioral, and human life cycle perspectives, my research focus has been on natural experimental models of disease using both a field and laboratory approach. Over more than a quarter-century, I have conducted fieldwork among remote population groups in the Pacific Islands, China, and Latin America in the search for high-incidence foci of unique or unusual diseases having widespread biomedical significance. Our field research program has provided the basis for initiation of laboratory studies of cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal degeneration and the role of abnormal accumulation of cellular proteins, identification and mechanisms of action of "slow neurotoxins," and in vivo and in vitro experimental modeling of diseases of unknown etiology. Our population-based biobehavioral studies have resulted in the discovery of a new neurotoxin, a new retrovirus variant with implications for evolution and peopling of the Pacific, demonstration of gene-environment interactions and adaptive responses to environmental stress, and the development of new experimental models for studying pathogenetic mechanisms.

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Primary Section

Section 51: Anthropology

Secondary Section

Section 63: Environmental Sciences and Ecology