New Faculty Profile: Melanie Martin

Assistant Professor Melanie Martin
Assistant Professor Melanie Martin

The biological anthropology subdiscipline welcomes Assistant Professor Melanie Martin to campus this summer. Martin received her BA in anthropology from the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras and a MA/PhD in Integrative Anthropological Sciences and Certificate in College and University Teaching from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is joining the UW after two years as a post-doctoral associate in the Department of Anthropology at Yale University.

Initially an undergraduate English major, Martin became interested in anthropology while taking an introductory course, and later pursued a BA in anthropology after moving to Puerto Rico for work. However, she now recognizes that the seeds of her interest in anthropology began much earlier with her desire to travel and learn from other cultures different from the community where she grew up in suburban Florida. Martin’s academic training spans all of the subdisciplines in our department, as she has done work related to bioarcheology, work with non-human primates, and medical anthropology.

Her research focuses on family and ecological influences on growth and development. Previously, she has used the classic and complex topic of maternal tradeoffs to examine issues related to breastfeeding and complementary feeding, and studied behavioral and environmental influences on infant microbial development and female pubertal transitions. She has worked with indigenous populations in Bolivia through the Tsimane Health and Life History Project, and in Argentina through the Chaco Area Reproductive Ecology Program. She will be spending this summer in Argentina with Qom/Toba communities exploring new opportunities for work related to maternal health, infant development, and participatory research projects.

Martin asserts that with her work, she is strongly motivated both by the broad theoretical questions in the field but also in the applied significance of her findings in working with study populations to improve their health and wellbeing. She looks forward to growing collaborations within the University of Washington as an affiliate with the Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology and through engaging undergraduates and graduate students in her projects. In addition, Martin hopes to engage in projects in the local community in Seattle to gain additional perspectives on the ecology of the family. Understanding the ecology of the family, and in particular the maternal-infant dyad, is knowledge Martin feels she has expanded upon personally in recent years as the mother of five-year old Arya and one-year old Jack.