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Students to present results from KidCarry II project

Study participant Melvina Kpanquoi ’11, who was also a research collaborator in the first study (KidCarry I).
Study participant Melvina Kpanquoi ’11, who was also a research collaborator in the first study (KidCarry I).
Photo courtesy of Marcie Myers.

So, how much can you carry on your back before your walking slows down?

Marcie Myers could give you an answer. The professor of biology at St. Catherine University is studying different ways women carry loads, including children, on their bodies and how that extra weight affects their movement.

Or you could travel to Knoxville, Tennessee, on April 10 (6-8:30 p.m.) to hear findings from her latest study.

Myers’ research collaborators Alex Kennedy ’15 and Molly Lovstad ’13 will be presenting results from last summer’s KidCarry II project at the 3rd Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium, which kicks off the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) meeting. Their presentation, “Self-selected walking speed as a function of load in reproductive age women carrying an indigenous pack basket,” is among 45 on the docket. Topics range from ancient DNA analysis to orangutans in Borneo.

“This symposium, which a colleague and I started three years ago, is attracting a very strong field of undergraduates working with some of the country’s top anthropologists,” says Myers, “and it has become the ‘place to be’ before the annual meeting.”

KidCarry II, funded by a 3M Faculty/Student Collaborative Grant through St. Kate’s, builds on work Myers and four students conducted two summers ago. This current study involves 14 women (ages 18 to 30) who took turns walking around the perimeter of a gym while carrying three different load amounts — empty pack, 22 pounds and 44 pounds — in an indigenous-style pack basket. The women were measured at four different walking speeds: “slow walk,” “walk all day,” “brisk walk” and “fast walk.”

Lovstad and Lindsey Barton ’12 worked with Myers to collect the data from the study. Kennedy has been helping to analyze it. 

“Working with Dr. Myers has been a great experience,” says Kennedy, a biology major. “I met her during my senior year of high school when I came to tour St. Kate’s, and we ended up talking for a while about my future biology plans.”

Kennedy was sold on St. Kate’s when Myers spoke about her KidCarry research project — and that she was looking for students to collaborate with on the study.

“I knew this was a very rare opportunity to work with a biology professor as an undergrad and as a first-year student,” Kennedy explains.

Her responsibilities, since joining the study in fall 2012, have also included researching indigenous tribes that have women who carry heavy loads on a daily basis and testing a variety of carrying devices that could be part of their research.

One finding Kennedy and Lovstad will share in Tennessee, according to their abstract: “Load-related modulation of walking speed could limit daily foraging range, as well as increase the frequency of camp moves, potentially influencing the mobility of the entire population.”

“I’m not too nervous about presenting,” Kennedy says. “I did a lot of public speaking in high school and St. Kate’s biology classes, and other classes as well, have helped to prepare me for scientific presentations.”

Learn more about the KidCarry II project and results.

For the list of other projects at the AAPA event, see 2013 Undergraduate Research Symposium.

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April 8, 2013 by Pauline Oo

See also: Faculty, Liberal Arts, STEM, Students