indigenous siberian health and adaptation project
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The Indigenous Siberian Health and Adaptation Project is a international collaborative research project that focuses on two primary issues related to metabolic adaptation and health change among indigenous Siberians. The first is adaptation to the circumpolar environment, with a focus on evaluating evidence for metabolic adaptation to cold stress. This research tests the hypothesis that human groups native to cold regions have elevated basal metabolic rates (BMRs) as a result of exposure to chronic cold stress in the circumpolar environment. Our findings to date have supported this conclusion, and we continue to research seasonal variation in metabolic rate and the hormonal mechanisms responsible for this physiological adaptation.

bill leonard
Bill Leonard measuring basal metabolic rate (Berdygestiakh, Sakha Republic, Russia), Summer 2009

Further, there is emerging evidence that elevated BMR is associated with increased chronic health risk, the second focus of this research project. We are specifically investigating the health effects of economic and social changes on indigenous Siberians in the post-Soviet period, with an emphasis on cardiovascular disease. We are examining factors such as dietary change, altered patterns of physical activity, and levels of chronic psychosocial stress, that may contribute to the increased burden of stroke and heart disease that has emerged in the past decade. Click here for a detailed description of the research.

http://www.bonesandbehavior.org/josh snodgrass
Josh Snodgrass collecting urine samples for analysis of
total energy expenditure using the doubly labeled water technique


The Indigenous Siberian Health and Adaptation project is co-directed by Josh Snodgrass (University of Oregon) and Bill Leonard (Northwestern University) and is a continuation of a project initiated by Michael Crawford and Bill Leonard in 1991. The project is a collaborative effort with scientists and physicians from the University of Kansas (Larissa Tarskaia and Michael Crawford), the Yakut Scientific Center (Aitalina Egorova, Natalia Maharova, Irina Pinigina, Simeon Halyev, Niurguyana Matveeva, Anna Romanova, and M.I. Tomsky), and the FSRI Institute of Health (Tatiana Klimova, V.I. Fedorova, M.E. Baltakhinova, and Vadim G. Krivoshapkin). Further, the project has involved a number of students including students from the University of Oregon (graduate students Tara Cepon, Melissa Liebert, Felicia Madimenos, and Erica Squires and undergraduate student Elizabeth Streeter) and Northwestern University (Stephanie Levy). In the past, we have also collaborated with
Sharon Williams (Purdue University) and Mark Sorensen (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill). Click here for more information on the project collaborators.

The project has been made possible through the generous funding of a number of federal granting agencies (National Science Foundation [ARC-0802390] and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), private foundations (Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research [6884), the Leakey Foundation, Sigma Xi, and the National Geographic Society], universities (University of Oregon, Northwestern University, University of Guelph, and University of Florida), and research institutions (the Yakut Science Center and the FSRI Institute of Health). Click here for more information on funding.


The project has led to publications and presentations on a range of topics, including metabolic adaptation, stress and lifestyle change, and changes in chronic disease patterns in the post-Soviet period. Click here for an archive of publications from the project.


The PIs have in the past made data from the project available to other researchers. For example, Andrew Froehle used metabolic data from the Yakut in his analysis of the effects of climatic variation on basal metabolic rate (Froehle AJ. 2008. Climate variables as predictors of basal metabolic rate: New equations. Am J Hum Biol 20: 510-529.). If you are interested in discussing data availability, please contact Josh Snodgrass.