Our Team/Nuestro Equipo

Dr. Carolyn Hodges-Simeon

Associate Professor
Boston University

Interests: childhood and adolescent growth, puberty and hormones, health and immunity

Main Research Questions on Utila: Why do some children grow and develop faster than others? What are the factors that most affect growth and development?

Methods: surveys of children (ages 6-18) and their main caregiver, collection of biological samples to measure pubertal development (through hormones), health, and immunity (parasites and other measures of immune function)

Community Goals: Clarify which environmental features matter most for speeding up child and adolescent growth and development.

Dr. Aaron Blackwell​

Associate Professor
Washington State University

Interests: immune function and health, child growth and development, stress and health

Main Research Questions on Utila: How does immune function develop in childhood and adolescence? How does illness affect growth?

Methods: Measures of immune function and parasite exposure from biological samples. Statistical modeling of growth patterns

Community Goals: Help understand the disease and environmental factors affecting child growth and wellbeing.

Dr. Angela Garcia

Phoenix Children's Hospital

Interests: social disparities in health, metabolic and cognitive health, stress and inflammation

Main Research Questions on Utila: How does social inequality and ecology impact hormone-immune interactions and disease risk?

Methods: surveys, collection of samples to measure hormones and immune functioning

Jessica Hlay, M.A.

PhD Candidate
Boston University

Interests: Childhood and pubertal development; disgust; health and immunity

Main Research Questions on Utila: How do environmental and developmental pressures influence children’s pathogen disgust sensitivity?

Methods: Surveys and interviews; dried blood spot analysis of immune markers;

Community Goal: 1) To better understand how the emotion of disgust protects individuals’ overall health, and 2) how the interaction of emotional disgust and physiological health affects childhood growth and development.

Caroline Smith, M.A.

PhD Candidate
Washington State University

Interests: ​depression, adversity and interpersonal conflict, women’s health

Main Research Questions on Utila: Does immune activation mediate the relationship between stressful life events and depression?

Methods: focus groups and interviews, surveys, biomarkers of immune activation

Community Goals: 1. Better understand what types of stressful life events women on Utila encounter. 2. Measure the rates of depression symptoms among adult women on Utila.

Michael Gaffney, M.A.

PhD Candidate
Washington State University

Interests: Sibling relationships; investment in children by parents, family, and community members

Main Research Questions on Utila: How do siblings compete to signal need to parents and caregivers? How do these signals influence parental investment, sibling competition, and alloparenting?

Methods: Focus groups; surveys & interviews

Community Goals: To better understand how conflict over [decisions about] parental investment can affect child and parent mental health, especially in light of the short- and long-term economic impacts of COVID-19. Plans to develop more short-term community goals during July 2022 focus groups.

Madison Honig, M.A.

PhD Candidate
Washington State University

Interests: Environmental influence; hormones & hormonal disruption; occupational conflict

Main Research Questions on Utila: How do people trade-off occupation and exposure to environmental dangers (i.e., endocrine disruptors)? How does endocrine disruptor exposure affect short- and long-term health?

Methods: Focus groups & informal interviews

Community Goals: What environmental stressors are people exposed to while working, specifically in the agricultural and textile industries? How does this exposure to endocrine disruptors affect individual health?

Jeff Simeon picture

Jeff Simeon, M.A.

Tech Consultant
Boston University

Interests: Solving technical problems for the UCHP team, exploring Utila’s natural environment and culture.

Main Research Questions on Utila: How can I assist with the teams technical needs? What animals and plants are on Utila? What is “traditional” Utilian food?

Methods: Setting up websites and tablets with surveying software. Using binoculars and apps to catalogue animals, plants and fungi encountered on the island. Eating food grown on the island and interviewing community elders on food.

Community Goals: Helping recruit participants for the Utila Child Health Project.

Dr. Steven Arnocky

Nipissing University