Andrea Wiley

Professor of Anthropology

Director of Human Biology Program

  • (812) 856-4993
  • Sycamore Hall 043
  • Office Hours
    Th ursday
    1:00PM - 3:00PM
IU Bloomington


  • Ph.D., Medical Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley, 1992
  • M.A., Demography and Anthropology, University of California-Berkeley, 1986
  • B.A., Biological Bases of Behavior, University of Pennsylvania, 1984, cum laude

Topical Interests

Human diet and nutrition and the adaptive significance of human dietary behavior; human adaptability, particularly to stressful environments such as high altitude; Human health and disease, especially maternal and infant health within an evolutionary framework; Demography and determinants of fertility and mortality in human populations

Full Biography

I originally became interested in anthropology as an undergraduate when I discovered that the discipline would afford me a unique opportunity to merge my interests in the social and biological sciences. Hence my approach to anthropological questions is distinctly biocultural – I am interested in how biology affects culture, how culturally patterned behavior affects biology, and how these forces interact over time. I make extensive use of an evolutionary perspective in both my research and teaching, which means that I consider how biology and behavior can be considered adaptive. I apply this approach to problems related to health, disease, demography, diet and nutrition, and human social behavior. My two main areas of research are in reproductive health and diet and nutrition.

Reproductive health

I have conducted long term research on maternal-child health issues, within the ecological and cultural context of the Tibetan plateau of the high altitude Himalaya in India. I have been particularly concerned with how both the ecological challenges inherent to this environment (e.g., hypoxia) as well as culturally prescribed patterns of behavior affect maternal and infant health. In addition, I am interested in how very high rates of infant death can be understood and have implications for emotional development (i.e., attachment) and household kinship relations. This work is summarized and detailed in my book, An Ecology of High Altitude Infancy: A Biocultural Perspective (Cambridge University Press, 2004)

Diet and Nutrition

My current work is on the relationship between milk consumption and child health in the United States and in India. I am interested in testing widespread claims that milk enhances child growth, particularly in height. I have also worked on the relationship between milk consumption and age at menarche, milk consumption and how it affects children who grow particularly rapidly, and I am more broadly concerned with the relationship between milk consumption and life history parameters. That is, milk is designed to facilitate the growth and survival of juveniles within a particular mammalian species, yet cow's milk is now widely consumed by individuals of all ages. Thus the question is how this food affects human biology when consumed after infancy. I am interested in the U.S. and India because both are major producers of milk and both have cultural and/or religious traditions that privilege milk, yet the context in which milk is promoted is very different. It is also the case that there is variation in the digestive physiology necessary to consume milk after infancy, yet milk is increasingly consumed in populations with little or no history of milk consumption. How milk has become a globalized food and how this relates to population variation in milk digestion capacity is one aspect of this complex topic.