Masako Fujita

  • Associate Professor
  • Director, Biomarker Laboratory for Anthropological Research


Curriculum vitae

Research Interests

    Biological Anthropology, Evolutionary Medicine, Ecological Immunology
    Human Adaptability, Maternal and Infant Health, Human Milk, Biomarker Methods

Biographical Info

I am a biological anthropologist with a broad background in human biological variation with training in evolutionary theory, evolutionary medicine, ecological immunology, and human adaptability. I am interested in uncovering the reasons why some public health problems, such as anemia, are so pervasive despite decades of intervention efforts. I tend to draw on evolutionary and social theories to study these problems situated in ecological and cultural settings. I have investigated how women and children cope with nutritional and disease stress in harsh conditions of northern Kenya. More recently, I have investigated how human milk nutrient and immune content change (or not) when mothers are exposed to nutritional and disease stress, again in northern Kenya. I am involved in research characterizing how human milk immune content may respond when experimentally exposed to bacteria, and how this may differ between mother-infant dyads. I am also involved in research on the extent mild iron deficiency might decrease or exacerbate COVID-19 risk among healthcare workers in Nigeria. My research efforts also include making laboratory diagnostic techniques more useful for researchers without ready access to centralized labs.

This year, I am focused on teaching courses on campus, mentoring students, and publishing results from recently completed projects that aim to clarify some key biocultural processes that influence mother-infant health in the backdrop of climate change and increasingly unpredictable precipitation patterns.

Current Research Projects

- Evolutionary Nutritional Adaptations and COVID-19 Risk among Healthcare Workers. (PI: Katherine Wander, Binghamton U)
- Effects of household composition on infant feeding and mother-infant health in northern Kenya (Student PI: Amulya Vankayalapati)
- Selling livestock during drought increases mother-infant infection risks among Kenyan agropastoralists (with Bilinda Straight, Western Michigan U)
- Exploring the extent dietary diversity protects against folate deficiency among breastfeeding mothers amid drought and food shortage (with Ananyaa Asthana)
- Toward understanding how polycystic ovarian syndrome and its remedies influence women’s reproductive health. (with Allison Harkenrider)
- Exploring the link between maternal dietary diversity, human milk immune factors, and infant infection risk during drought (with Rachel Pham)
- Exploring how mothers' milk content may differ by marriage rules (with Natalie Morou)


2022. Fujita M. Wander K, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Odo A.N. Human milk lactoferrin variation in relation to maternal inflammation and iron deficiency in northern Kenya. American Journal of Human Biology.
2022. Fujita M, Brindle E. Comparing the creamatocrit of human milk before and after long-term freezing. Experimental Results.
2022. Fujita M, Wander K, Tran T, Brindle E. Characterizing the extent human milk folate is buffered against maternal malnutrition and infection in drought-stricken northern Kenya. American Journal of Biological Anthropology.
2022. Wander K, Fujita M, Mattison S, et al. Tradeoffs in milk immunity affect infant infectious disease risk. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.
2021. Wander K, Fujita M, Spathis R, et al. In vitro stimulation of whole milk specimens: a field-friendly method to assess milk immune activity. Journal of Human Lactation.
2020. Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Bignall E, Fujita M. Age and socioeconomic status in relation to risk of maternal anemia among the Ariaal agropastoralists of northern Kenya. Human Ecology.
2019. Fujita M, Wander K, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Brindle E. Human milk sIgA antibody in relation to maternal nutrition and infant vulnerability in northern Kenya. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.
2019. Corbitt M, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Fujita M. Variation in breast milk macronutrient contents by maternal anemia and hemoglobin concentration in northern Kenya. American Journal of Human Biology.
2018. Fujita M, Paredes Ruvalcaba N, Wander K, Corbitt M, Brindle E. Buffered or impaired: Maternal anemia, inflammation and breast milk macronutrients in northern Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
2017. Fujita M, Wander K. A test of the Optimal Iron Hypothesis among breastfeeding Ariaal mothers in northern Kenya. American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
2017. Fujita M, Lo Y, Brindle E. Nutritional, inflammatory, and ecological correlates of maternal retinol allocation to breast milk in agro-pastoral Ariaal communities of northern Kenya. American Journal of Human Biology.