Biographical sketch

I am an interdisciplinary behavioral scientist and anthropologist. Currently I am a Research Fellow at The Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse and maintain an affiliation at Washington State University as Adjunct Faculty in the Department of Anthropology. I am also co-director of The Omo Valley Research Project.

I received a B.A. in anthropology and psychology from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln in 2012 and completed my Ph.D. in anthropology at Washington State University in 2019.

Research statement

My research program focuses on relationships between individual behavioral strategies and group dynamics in the context of cultural transitions. In particular, I investigate how behaviors such as leadership and followership, social learning, decision-making, and economic strategies are related to group-level pressures stemming from, for example, social contexts, network dynamics, political structures, and cultural norms. I am especially interested in how relationships between these individual-level and group-level processes vary across populations and across time. I draw on adaptationist, behavioral-ecological, and cultural-evolutionary theoretical frameworks.

More broadly, I am interested in how subsistence-based populations with limited market integration navigate increasing pressures from state-level influences and maintain or adapt long-standing components of their social, cultural, and economic livelihoods. My ultimate goals include developing more robust, generalizable theories of human behavior, social organization, and cultural change which are supported and tested through solid empirical foundations.

Field research

I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Southwest Ethiopia since 2015. I have worked with the Chabu forager-horticulturalists in the Sheka forests investigating traditional and contemporary systems of leadership among women and men in this relatively egalitarian society.

Conducting interviews at a Chabu house, 2016

Currently, my field research is focused on developing The Omo Valley Research Project (OVRP), which I co-direct with Dr. Luke Glowacki. Ethiopia’s Omo Valley is among the most culturally diverse regions in the world. Dr. Glowacki and I established the OVRP in 2019 and are working to build a large-scale data set from multiple ethnolinguistic groups for comparative and longitudinal social, biological, and health research.

As an interdisciplinary non-profit scientific organization, OVRP is focused on 1) understanding cultural change and diversity in human social organization and behavior and 2) facilitating education, conservation, and philanthropy across Southwest Ethiopia.

Attending a Hamar cow slaughter ceremony, 2019

Scientific philosophy

  • I value quantitative multidisciplinary approaches in the human sciences, built upon sound theoretical foundation. I am a proponent of open science and the coupling of confirmatory and exploratory analyses.

  • The opportunity to collect observational, empirical, and ethnographic data from culturally diverse, subsistence-based populations is rapidly diminishing and should therefore be a top priority of the social sciences.

  • Anthropologists are uniquely situated to be meaningful allies as rural, minority ethnic populations navigate their changing worlds.

  • Field methods can be informed by comparative results and evolutionary scientists should draw on broad phylogenetic perspectives, across cultures and species. The ethnographic record is an indispensable tool for testing predictions and generating theory on the diversity and universality of humanity.

  • The evolutionary human sciences will be strengthened by increased integration synthesizing adaptationist, behavioral-ecological, and cultural-evolutionary frameworks.