Luseadra McKerracher

Graduate student

My research area is human biology, with an emphasis on applying evolutionary ecological theory and methods to questions concerning contemporary public health. I am particularly interested in how women and other female primates allocate energy to reproduction and what trade-offs are involved in allocating energy to one purpose (e.g. continuing to lactate) rather than another (e.g. beginning a new pregnancy or activating an aspect of the immune system).  For my PhD dissertation, I am focusing on weaning. Unlike other living apes, humans begin weaning our infants from breastmilk well before those infants are physically or cognitively capable of foraging for, processing, or digesting adult foods without assistance from older children or adults. Initiating the weaning process relatively early likely allows for shorter intervals between births and higher fertility. In my project I am investigating when and why we switched from an ape-like weaning strategy to the relatively early weaning strategy that characterizes all contemporary human populations. In addition to my dissertation work on human weaning, I am also collaborating on a project on the evolutionary underpinnings of nausea and vomiting of pregnancy (colloquially called “pregnancy sickness” or “morning sickness”).