Josh Snodgrass profile

The Scientist is running a profile of University of Oregon anthropologist Josh Snodgrass, who studies the biology of indigenous peoples of Siberia and Ecuador: “Josh Snodgrass: An Adaptive Mind”.

In 2001, as a PhD student under Leonard at Northwestern University, Snodgrass started a field project studying indigenous populations in northeastern Siberia to understand how long-term environmental adaptation shapes biological responses to culturally induced lifestyle changes.
In the early 2000s, indigenous Siberians called the Yakut began to abandon traditional ways of life, meaning they became less physically active and ate more high-calorie Western foods. As a result, Snodgrass found, they developed high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke, but maintained low cholesterol levels. Pima people of the southwestern United States, on the other hand, when faced with similar lifestyle changes, developed high cholesterol and an increased risk of diabetes, but maintained low blood pressure.

This is some of the most valuable anthropological work, observing ongoing changes in human diet and behavior and tracking their effects. By understanding how human biology changes, we can see what the limits of plasticity were in past populations as well as understanding the way that different dietary and activity influences affect people as societies become more sedentary.