I research the anthropology of aging and disability with mixed-methodologies in the Circumpolar North. Utilizing biocultural, socioecological, and healthy aging frameworks, I research the relationship between humans and their environments and how this relationship affects health and wellness. These environments include the sociocultural, political-economic, and physical influences as well as individual strategies and priorities that people develop to cope with stressful environments or resource constraints. Because individuals experience such constraints differently, both culturally and biologically, my work contributes to the literature on resiliency among older adults. Specifically, I study how vulnerable populations articulate and navigate changing sociocultural environments as measured by such biological indicators as nutritional status, healthy aging, and well-being.
My dissertation research in Alaska looked at the sociocultural influences on older adult nutritional status outcomes, such as the role of friends, family, cultural identity, and the media on diet and physical activity practices. This mixed-methods project collected data from 82 seniors in Anchorage including a Food Frequency Questionnaire, a physical activity assessment, a survey, participation observation, and semi-structured interviews. I am currently working on a project in Anchorage, Alaska that utilizes concept mapping methods to quantify how various stakeholders (older adults, senior advocates, service providers, local gerontologists) in Anchorage conceptualize “healthy aging” in the urban subarctic.
My past research includes smoking cessation, cancer screening, and health promotion programs, and a federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant to assess the accuracy, feasibility, and cultural acceptability of various physical activity measures among rural Appalachians, including self-report, pedometers, and accelerometers. I have also conducted survey research in Martin County, Kentucky on an environmental impact follow-up study to the coal sludge spill in 2000. Additionally, I’ve worked to understand smoking behaviors and other healthcare concerns for Kentucky’s LGBT community, and research into early detection of challenging child behaviors in primary care settings. I utilize the anthropology of aging, medical anthropology, healthy aging, and disability studies perspectives in my work to tell the stories of some of the country’s most vulnerable populations.
In the past, I have also served as the Research Analyst III for the Alaska Governor’s Council on Disabilities and Special Education and coordinator of Research and Development at Hope Community Resources, a service provider agency for Alaskans that experience disabilities. My work at Hope was two-fold: to improve our agency’s service delivery through research and increased use of evidence-based practices, as well as increase available research data relevant to people with disabilities through collaborative projects and publications. I have also taught Intro to Anthropology, World Cultures, and Medical Anthropology at Northern Kentucky University.