Ph.D. Northwestern University, 2003
Fax: (919) 962-1613
209B Alumni Building
I am a biological anthropologist specializing in biocultural and evolutionary approaches to human variation. My research focuses on the linkages between social and cultural processes, human biology, and health. I am particularly interested in the biological impacts of globalization, modernization, and cultural change, in human adaptability and in ecological models for hominid evolution.
My current research project, subsistence strategies, adaptation and health in Yakutia, investigates the impacts of the post-socialist transition on the health and well-being of Siberian reindeer herders. I am collaborating with researchers in Russia to investigate changing household subsistence strategies among Evenki, Eveny and Sakha (Yakut) herders. In this project we are investigating the role of economic status and subsistence activities on psychosocial stress and measures of health and immune function in the circumpolar environment. The goal of the project is to understand the health consequences of rapid social and cultural changes, and to determine the mechanisms through which social and cultural processes affect health and human biology.
My other work focuses on metabolic adaptation among circumpolar populations. In this work we have found that elevated metabolic rates in Siberians are consistent with physiological adaptation to the stressors of an high latitude environment. Currently we are focused on determining relationships between metabolic variation and risk for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases including hypertension, coronary heart disease, obesity, and the insulin resistance syndrome.
In prior research I investigated the role of social and biological factors on health status of indigenous Siberians. In this project, I explored how the breakup of the Soviet Union has contributed to the rapid decline in cardiovascular health in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). The results of the study indicated a return to traditional subsistence patterns, concomitant with increased economic disparities, with newly impoverished Yakut showing poorer overall health status, depressed immune function and higher rish of cardiovascular disease.
2006 Sorensen, MV; Leonard, WR; Tarskaya, LA; Ivanov, KI; Snodgrass, JJ; Alekseev, VP; Krivoshapkin, VG; Rifai, N. High sensitivity c-reactive protein, adiposity and blood pressure in the Yakut of Siberia. American Journal of Human Biology 18: 766-775.
2005 Sorensen, MV; Leonard, WR; Snodgrass, JJ; Tarskaya, LA; Spitsyn, VA; Ivanov, KI; Krivoshapkin, VG. Health consequences of post-socialist transition: dietary and lifestyle determinants of plasma lipids in Yakutia. American Journal of Human Biology 17: 576-592.
2005 Leonard, WR; Snodgrass, JJ; Sorensen, MV. Metabolic adaptation in indigenous Siberian populations. Annual Review of Anthropology 34: 451-471.
2002 Leonard, WR; Sorensen, MV; Galloway, VA; Spencer, GJ; Osipova, L; Spitsyn, VA. Climatic influences on basal metabolic rates among circumpolar populations. American Journal of Human Biology 14: 609-620.
2001 Sorensen, MV; Leonard, WR. Neandertal energetics and foraging efficiency. Journal of Human Evolution 40: 483-495.