Chair • Professor
Health and Behavioral Sciences

Office location:
North Classroom 3018B

Office hours:
By appointment

I am a biological anthropologist by training and Professor of Health and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado Denver. My main area of expertise is "human ecology" – how environment and context influence  aspects of both human biology and behavior. My research is grounded in evolutionary, economic and anthropological theory. Within the biological arena my interests have focused on ecological aspects of maternal and child health including nutrition, growth and development, and determinants of fertility. Within the area of behavioral ecology, I am interested in life history theory, decision-making and trade-offs. My behavioral research has examined human social norms such as reciprocity, altruism, selfishness, bargaining, and punishment. Most of my research has been conducted among the Au lowland forager-horticulturalists of Papua New Guinea though I have also worked with Bedouins in Israel as well as in the US and Europe.

My specific research projects have included:

  • effects of resource availability on birth interval duration
  • cumulative effects of repeated pregnancies and prolonged lactation on women's health
  • influences of maternal body composition on the effectiveness of breast-feeding as a natural contraceptive
  • effects of socioeconomic development and social stratification on hemoglobin levels, birth weights and growth
  • biases in parental investment by age and sex of children and the effects of such biases on child growth and neuromuscular development
  • effects of different levels of market integration on bargaining behavior, reciprocity and fairness
  • effects of punishment and reputation-building on bargaining and fairness

Ph.D., Anthropology (Biological) University of Michigan, 1991.

M.A., Anthropology (Biological) University of Michigan, 1985.

B.A., Anthropology (Magna Cum Laude with High Honors) Brandeis University, 1984.


    Li, M. and Tracer, D.P.  (co-principal editors.)  2017. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fairness, Equity and Justice.  New York: Springer.

    Refereed Journal Articles and Book Chapters:

    Tracer, D.P. and Wyckoff, S.L.  2020.  Determinants of infant carrying behavior in rural Papua New Guinea. American Journal of Human Biology e23429.

    Farewell, C.V., Thayer, Z.M., Tracer, D.P., and Morton, S.  2018.  Prenatal stress exposure and early childhood BMI: exploring associations in a New Zealand context   American Journal of Human Biology e23116:1-11.

    Tracer, D.P. and Li, M.  2017.  Fairness, Equity and Justice: an introduction and guide to the volume. Chap. 1 in M. Li and D.P. Tracer (eds.),  Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fairness, Equity and Justice.  New York: Springer.

    Tracer, D.P.   2017.  Justice preferences: an experimental economic study in Papua New Guinea.  Chap. 9 in M. Li and D.P. Tracer (eds.),  Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Fairness, Equity and Justice.  New York: Springer.

    Grimalda, G., Pondorfer, A. and Tracer, D.P. 2016.  Social image concerns promote cooperation more than altruistic punishment.

    Tracer, D.P., Mueller, I. and Morse, J. 2014. Cruel to be kind: Effects of sanctions and enforcers on generosity in Papua New Guinea).  Chapter 7 in J. Ensminger and J. Henrich (eds.), Experimenting with Social Norms: Fairness and Punishment in Cross-Cultural Perspective.Sage Foundation Publishers. pp. 177-196.

    Introduction to Public Health

    Introduction to Biological Anthropology

    Human Ecology in the Health & Behavioral Sciences

    Human Reproductive Ecology