About the Organizers


Melanie Martin, PhD  

I am an Assistant Professor in Biological Anthropology at the University of Washington. My research examines biocultural influences, particularly related to nutrition and microbial exposures, influence growth and development. My most recent research, in collaboration with Claudia Valeggia and the Chaco Area Reproductive Ecology Program, examines anthropometric and hormonal changes during pubertal development in Toba/Qom girls. I completed my PhD in Anthropology at the University of California Santa Barbara in 2015. My dissertation research, conducted with Tsimane mothers and infants in the Bolivian Amazon, examined maternal and infant factors associated with duration of exclusive breastfeeding. I am also collaborating on several projects examining variation in maternal milk composition and human microbiomes. 

I became interested in birth stories over the course of my conversations with Tsimane women, and subsequently my own first pregnancy.  I wrote my own birth story in 2013, shortly after my daughter Arya was born. You can read it here. I wrote it to share with other parents from the birth classes my husband and I attended, and it totally reads like an overly detailed and technical recollection of a first time U.S. mom who has just taken a series of "natural" birth classes. 

In the time since we first conceived of and organized this project, I have also had a son, Jack, born in 2017. I have not yet gotten around to writing his birth story. Sorry second child.

Amanda Veile, PhD

I am an Assistant Professor of Biological Anthropology at Purdue University, and previously held appointments as a Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College. I gave birth to Simone in 2009 and earned my PhD at the University of New Mexico in 2011. I specialize in human behavioral ecology and biological anthropology with emphases on birth and breastfeeding practices, mother-child health and interactions, infant and child immuno-nutrition, and Latin American indigenous health.   I have conducted field research in
communities of small-scale foragers and farmers in Bolivia, Venezuela and Mexico. You can read about more of my research  here and here.

In 2014 with my collaborator Karen Kramer, I launched a project examining the demographic and child health outcomes associated with rising cesarean birth rates in Yucatec Maya subsistence farmers. I have since interviewed a number of Maya mothers about their birth experiences. My favorite is the woman who gave birth to her 11th child in a pickup truck on an isolated road in the midst of hurricane Isidore.  While I'm bashful about sharing my own birth story, I will say that it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be.











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