Aaron Blackwell

Aaron Blackwell
Associate Professor

Contact Phone

(805) 893-4234

Office Location

HSSB 2049


Integrative Anthropological Sciences (evolutionary anthropology, biological anthropology, human biology, human behavioral ecology, ecological immunology, life history theory, South American forager-horticulturalists)


PhD, University of Oregon



Research Interests:

Professor Blackwell is a human biologist and behavioral ecologist whose research examines health and life history in small scale Amazonian societies. His research examines how immune function develops in populations exposed to high levels of pathogens and how early life experiences shape health later in life in both small scale and industrialized populations. His research incorporates both field and laboratory work to examine biological outcomes. His other interests include examining how market integration affects health and development, senescence and aging, and ecological effects on parental investment and growth.

The questions motivating Professor Blackwell’s research are the fundamental questions of life history theory: How do organisms allocate resources to the competing demands of growth, reproduction, and somatic maintenance? How do organisms use cues in their environments to predict future demands? How do early environments affect health and well-being later in life? How does our modern environment differ from the conditions under which we evolved, and what are the consequences of our novel environment on health and ontogeny?  His current work addresses what has come to be known as the hygiene hypothesis, which postulates that some of our diseases of “modernity” such as diabetes, obesity, and allergy, may occur because in our modern sterile environments our immune systems are not challenged by the pathogens we evolved with, and thus react in non-adaptive ways.
Professor Blackwell is co-director of the Human Biodemography laboratory, with Michael Gurven, and director of the Human Biology and Ecological Immunology Laboratory.



Sample Publications:

Click here for a complete list of publications and pdfs.

Blackwell, AD, Trumble BC, Maldonado Suarez, I, Stieglitz, J, Beheim, B, Snodgrass, JJ, Kaplan, H, Gurven, M. (2016) Immune Function in Amazonian HorticulturalistsAnnals of Human Biology. DOI: 10.1080/03014460.2016.1189963.

Blackwell, AD, Tamayo, M, Beheim, B, Trumble, BC, Stieglitz, J, Hooper, PL, Martin, M, Kaplan, H, Gurven, M. (2015) Helminth infection, fecundity, and age of first pregnancy in women, Science 350 (6263): 970-972, DOI: 10.1126/science.aac7902 Blackwell AD, Martin MA, Kaplan H, Gurven M. (2013) Antagonism between two intestinal parasites in humans: The importance of coinfection for infection risk and recovery dynamics, Proceedings of the Royal Society B 280(1769) 20131671. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2013.1671

Blackwell AD, Gurven MD, Sugiyama LS, Madimenos FC, Liebert, MA, Martin, MA, Kaplan HS, and Snodgrass JJ. (2011) Evidence for a peak shift in a humoral response to helminths: Age profiles of IgE in the Shuar of Ecuador, the Tsimane of Bolivia, and the U.S. NHANES, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 5(6): e1218.

Blackwell AD, Snodgrass JJ, Madimenos FC, and Sugiyama LS. (2010) Life history, immune function, and intestinal helminths: trade-offs among immunoglobulin E, C-reactive protein, and growth in an Amazonian population, American Journal of Human Biology 22 (6): 836-848.



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Anth 192AB Developmental Plasticity and Evolution

How organisms develop differently in different environments; how developmental plasticity facilitates evolution; adaptive landscapes; genetic accommodation of phenotypic variation; reaction norms; variation and flexibility in immune function, growth, behavior. Emphasis on humans but with examples and applicability to other species.


Anth 177AB Reproductive Ecology and Behavioral Endocrinology

Regulation of reproductive function by diet, energy balance, lactation, and social context. The role of hormones in the regulation of human reproduction, behavior, and physiology. Hormonal changes with parenting and pregnancy in men and women.


Anth 161 Human Growth and Development

Analyzes human growth and development from an evolutionary and cross-cultural perspective. Life stages from birth to death are considered, and contrasted with other primates. Other topics include brain evolution, fetal programming, sexual dimorphism, senescence, immunity, play, parental care.


Anth 253 Laboratory Methods in Biological Anthropology

An introduction to the laboratory methods used in human biology for analyzing blood and saliva samples to determine levels of antibodies, hormones, and other biomarkers. The focus is on hands-on training and troubleshooting assay problems.


Anth 260 Applied Data Analysis in R

Graduate level workshop in data analysis using the R language. Focus is on practical applications to research questions, data management, and graphing. Topics vary by participants, but may include mixed models, non-linear modeling, writing loops and functions, manipulating data, interfacing with Access databases, matrix operations, contour plots, graphing of geographical data, etc.