Michael Gurven

Principal Investigator

Contact Phone

(805) 893-2202

Office Location

Office: HSSB 2060
Lab: HSSB 2048


behavioral ecology, evolutionary medicine, indigenous health


I am an evolutionary anthropologist aiming to explain behavior and physiological systems as adaptive solutions to competing demands of limited resource allocation. Combining ethnographic field methods with biomedical methods, I test hypotheses about human variation in physiology, behavior, and psychology. 

Currently my research focuses on two broad, inter-related areas:

(1) biodemography of human health, lifespan and aging. I am interested in the roles of pathogens, diet, activity and reproduction in shaping the aging process - including immune function and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia. I am also interested in how social dimensions of aging, like social isolation, loneliness and connectedness, are impacted by changes in health and prosocial behavior.

(2) transitions in social and economic behavior. I study how pro-sociality, risk management strategies and identity change with socioeconomic transformation. I study how increasing globalization, market integration, and urbanization affect various aspects of well-being in small-scale societies.

I am co-director of the Tsimane Life History and Health Project, funded by NIH/NIA and NSF. I am Chair of the Integrative Anthropological Sciences Unit of the Anthropology Dept., and Area Director of Biodemography and Evolution at the Broom Center for Demography

I have conducted fieldwork with three South American indigenous populations, the Ache of Paraguay, and the Tsimane and Mosetene of Bolivia.