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Djuke Veldhuis


Current position: Senior Lecturer / Course Director, Faculty of Science, Monash University, Australia.

During her AIAS Cofund Junior Fellowship, Postdoc Djuke Veldhuis has been working on the project "Stress in modern human populations: a biocultural approach to assessing the costs and limits of adaption".

Current contact information of Djuke Veldhuis.

AIAS project

My aim is to conduct a cross-cultural comparison examining the costs and limits of adaptation, including the effect of modernization through biocultural stress measures in several European and African populations. The proposed populations would include a comparison of rural and urban populations in Denmark. Being frequently ranked as one of the happiest in the world, they provide an excellent context for measuring stress hormone levels and perceived happiness and anxiety. The human populations of the Turkana basin in Kenya have been chosen as a contrasting population under extreme modernization pressures and rapid cultural change.

Thus, a multi-faceted approach, which envelops evolutionary anthropology, endocrinology, human ecology, ethnography, psychology and neuroimmunology, seeks to build a comprehensive picture of the human stress response in various human populations in Northern Kenya and Denmark.

Extrapolating environmental from social influences is notoriously difficult. However, without interdisciplinary research venturing to look at this bigger picture we risk being like the doctor who puts a bandage over a wound without asking why it is bleeding in the first place. By understanding what attributes make individuals resilient to cultural and environmental changes, we are better placed to elucidate the human condition and minimize the impact of stressors in our lives.

The key objectives for this three-year research project are to 1) build up a physiological profile of stress, via cortisol in saliva and blood pressure measurements; and 2) assess behavioural responses to and psychological indicators of stressors amongst urban and rural populations in Denmark and Kenya. These data will be 3) evaluated to consider the evolutionary context in which the human stress response evolved.

Short bio

Djuke Veldhuis earned her PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. She was subsequently awarded a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship there to examine the biological and social influences on human behaviour and development. Her research interests range from human behaviour and evolution to psychology and health. In addition to her research, she is passionate about science communication and holds a Masters in Science Journalism from City University in London. Her fellowship at AIAS seeks to combine high quality research with direct public engagement, education outreach and popular science writing..