As a human biologist, Dr. Teresa Horton is an interdisciplinary scientist. She uses the theories and techniques of anthropology, behavioral endocrinology, ecology, evolution, physiology, and psychology to investigate the mechanisms by which organisms, including humans, adapt to their environment. Her early work focused on the neural and endocrine mechanisms by which rodents adapt to seasonal changes in day length, temperature, and energy availability; mechanisms that enable animals to be flexible in the face of environmental change. This work contributed to the rapidly expanding body of literature demonstrating the evolutionary significance of early life experiences (including pre- and peri-natal) and the developmental origins of health and disease.
Since joining the Laboratory for Human Biology Research in the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Horton has been able to use her knowledge and skills to conduct studies that speak directly to the question of how the environment influences human health and well-being. Just as wild species show impaired physical and mental health when removed from their optimal environments, so do humans. While much necessary and important research has documented the negative effects of the environment on health (e.g., brownfields, air pollution, lead contamination), researchers have only relatively recently focused on documenting the salutary effects of high quality green and blue spaces. Her current research uses biomarkers and psychological assessments to test the hypothesis that access to natural landscapes contributes to improved health, wellbeing, and resilience of humans by offering an escape from the stressors of urban life.