Zaneta M. Thayer

Assistant Professor
Academic Appointments

Associate Professor of Anthropology

I am a biological anthropologist interested in understanding how (biological mechanisms) and why (evolutionary origins) environmental experiences shape patterns of human biology and health. One important application of this interest is understanding how social inequalities create health inequalities. As such, my research has focused on evaluating how factors such as poverty, racism, and historical trauma affect health. 

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My overall research goal is to contribute findings of interest to both evolutionary anthropologists and public health professionals. I am strongly motivated to increase public understanding of evolution, developmental plasticity, and how the social construction of race/racism can create health inequities.

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Ph. D. Northwestern University
A.B. Dartmouth College

Selected Publications

2020 Gildner, T. and Thayer, Z. "Maternal and child health during the COVID‐19 pandemic: Contributions in the field of human biology." American Journal of Human Biology doi:10.1002/ajhb.23494

2020 Thayer, Z., Rutherford, J., & Kuzawa, C. The Maternal Nutritional Buffering Model: An evolutionary framework for pregnancy nutritional intervention. Evolution,
Medicine, and Public Health (1), 14–27. doi:

2019 Running Bear, U., Thayer, Z., Croy, C., Kaufman, C., & Manson, S. The impact of individual and parental American Indian boarding school attendance on chronic physical
health of Northern Plains Tribes. Family & Community Health, 42(1), 1–7. doi: 10.1097/fch.0000000000000205

2019 Conching, A and Z. Thayer. "Biological pathways for historical trauma to affect health: a conceptual model focusing on epigenetic modifications." Social Science & Medicine, 230:74-82.

2018 Thayer Z, Wilson MA, Kim AW, Jaeggi AV. "Impact of prenatal stress on offspring glucocorticoid levels: A phylogenetic meta-analysis across 14 vertebrate species." Scientific Reports 8(1):4942.

2017 Fox, M., Thayer., Z., and P. Wadhwa. “Acculturation and health: the moderating role of socio-cultural context" American Anthropologist 119(3): 405-421.

2017 Thayer, Z., Barbosa-Leiker, C., McDonell, M., Nelson, L., Buchwald, D., and S. Manson. “Early life stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, and allostatic load in a sample of American Indian adults” American Journal of Human Biology 29(3): e22943

2017 Thayer, Z., Blair, I., Buchwald, D., and S. Manson. “Racial discrimination associated with higher diastolic blood pressure in a sample of American Indian adults.” American Journal of Physical Anthropology: 163(1): 122-128.

2017 Wilson, M. and Z. Thayer. “Maternal Salivary Cortisone to Cortisol Ratio in Late Pregnancy: a Better Predictor of Offspring Birth Weight than Cortisol.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 78: 10-13.

2017 Fox, M., Thayer, Z., and P. Wadhwa. “Conceptualization and operationalization of the construct of acculturation in minority health research. Social Science & Medicine 176: 123-132.

2015    Thayer, Z. and A. Non. “Anthropology meets epigenetics: Current and future directions.” American Anthropologist 117(4): 722-735.

2015    Thayer, Z and C. Kuzawa. “Ethnic Discrimination Predicts Poor Self Rated Health and Cortisol in Pregnancy: Insights from New Zealand.” Social Science & Medicine 128: 36-42.

2014    Thayer, Z. and C. Kuzawa. "Intergenerational effects of maternal experience: Influence of SES on maternal and offspring stress physiology in New Zealand." American Journal of Human Biology 26(6): 723-730.

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