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Anthropology | Marsha Quinlan

Ph.D., University of Missouri, Columbia
Cultural Anthropology

Interests and Current Research

I am a medical and ecological anthropologist. My research (and much of my teaching) concerns:

  • Cultural shaping of health and medicine (risks and treatment)
  • Cultural influence on individuals’ contact with plants and animals
  • Effects of human-plant or human-animal interactions on health and medicine

I concentrate on ethnomedicine and ethnobiology—usually at the family (non-specialist or popular) level, from orientations of human ecology, cognitive linguistics, behavioral ecology and one health. Slight shifts in my relative allocation of these perspectives result in my sociocultural research falling within various fields, e.g., public health, mind-body well-being, ethnobotany, ethnozoology, ethnopharmacology and global health. I take an empirical approach to ethnography by using quantitative and qualitative data together to describe medical and ethnobiological systems.

I’ve had a life-long geographic interest in Latin America although I have enjoyed fieldwork in North, South and Central Americas, the Caribbean, and East Africa. I also conduct cross-cultural research in topics related to my fieldwork-based research.

My latest line of inquiry takes a one health, ethnobiological perspective in two East African multi-site projects. In Ethiopia, I (in a US-Ethiopian anthropological team) investigated Sidama traditional enset-cattle-human interdependence; new farming shifts (responses to changing climate, land ownership and food security); and, psychological corollaries of subsistence change.

In northern Tanzania, I worked on a project studying livestock medication, human-animal interaction, and antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance with Maasai, Warusha and Chagga pastoral and agro-pastoral ethnic groups. We found that ethnicity, “sectors of veterinary care” (professional, popular, and folk sectors), and livelihood strategies are strongly associated with antibiotic use, and human exposure to antibiotics. Preliminary results for antibiotic resistance in E. coli in northern Tanzania indicate that ethnicity and associated milk handling behaviors correlate with prevalence of resistance in humans. We also studied medicinal plants and ethnomedical views.

I have been involved with numerous aspects of anthropological research in a community in Dominica, including general medical ethnography, ethnobiology (especially medical ethnobotany), ethnomedicine, ethnopharmacology, child health, breastfeeding, growth, and mental health (these topics overlap on the ground).


  • ANTH 101 General Anthropology
  • ANTH 203 Peoples of the World
  • ANTH 268 Seminar in Ethnography
  • ANTH 405 Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH 468 Sex, Evolution and Human Nature
  • ANTH 554 Anthropological Field Methods Seminar
  • HONORS 370 Global Issues in Social Science

Representative Publications:

For a complete list and downloads see my ResearchGate page.


Quinlan, Marsha and Dana Lepofsky, Eds. (2013) Explorations in Ethnobiology: The Legacy of Amadeo Rea. Contributions in Ethnobiology Series. Denton, TX: The Society of Ethnobiology

Quinlan, Marsha B. (2004) From the Bush: The Front Line of Health Care in a Caribbean Village. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage.



Roulette, CJ; Njaub,EFA; Quinlan, MB; Quinlan, RJ; and Call, DR. (2018) Medicinal foods and beverages among Maasai agro-pastoralists in northern Tanzania. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 216: 191–202

Quinlan, Marsha B. (2018) The Freelisting Method. In Handbook of Research Methods in Health Social Sciences, P. Liamputtong, ed. Springer Nature, Singapore. DOI:10.1007/978-981-10-2779-6_12-1

Quinlan, RJ, Dira, SJ, Caudell, M., Quinlan, MB (2017) Culture and Psychological Responses to Environmental Shocks: Cultural Ecology of Sidama Impulsivity and Niche Construction in SW Ethiopia. Current Anthropology 57(5): 632-52.

Caudell, MA; Quinlan, MB; Quinlan, RJ; and Call, DR. (2017) Medical Pluralism and Livestock Health: Ethnomedical and Biomedical Veterinary Knowledge among East African Agropastoralists. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 13:7

Quinlan, Marsha B. and Robert J Quinlan (2016) Ethnobiology in One Health. Ethnobiology Letters 7(1): 59–61.

Quinlan, Marsha B., Robert J. Quinlan, Samuel J. Dira (2014) Sidama Agro-Pastoralism and Ethnobiological Classification of its Primary Plant, Enset (Ensete ventricosum). Ethnobiology Letters 5:116-125

Flores, KE and Quinlan, MB (2014) Ethnomedicine of Menstruation in Rural Dominica, West Indies. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 153(3): 624–634, DOI 10.1016/j.jep.2014.03.015. Available at

Quinlan, Marsha B. (2011) Ethnomedicine. In A Companion to Medical Anthropology. Merrill Singer & Pamela I. Erickson, Eds., pp. 381-403. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell/Wiley Publications.

Quinlan, Marsha B. (2010) Ethnomedicine and Ethnobotany of Fright, a Caribbean Culture-bound Psychiatric Syndrome. In Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine6:9


Current Graduate Students

Cynthia Hecklesmiller — Health ethnobiology, Maasai, Tanzania, Ph.D. 2022
Amanda Thiel  — Medical ethnobotany, Q’eqchi’ Maya, Guatemala, Ph.D. 2022
Jaime Chambers — Cross-cultural canine-human interaction, Ph.D. 2023 (co-advising)
Evelien Deelen — Cowboy/girl-equine interaction, Northwestern USA, Ph.D. 2023


Past Graduate Students

Dr. Katherine Flores
Dr. Jennifer Roulette
Dr. Armando Medinaceli (2018 co-advised with Rob Quinlan)
Dr. Amy Snively-Martinez
Dr. Kevin Feeney
Dr. Charles Snyder
Dr. Sarah Council
Dr. Ethan McGaffey