Faculty Profile

Cara Wall-Scheffler

Cara Wall-Scheffler

Professor and Co-Chair of Biology

Email: cwallsch@spu.edu
Phone: 206-281-2201
Office: Eaton 107

Education: BA, Seattle Pacific University, 2000; MPhil, University of Cambridge, 2001; PhD, University of Cambridge, 2005. At SPU since 2007.

Cara Wall-Scheffler’s research focuses on the evolution of human sexual dimorphism, particularly in the context of balancing the pressures of thermoregulation and long-distance locomotion. She has been working on this problem for over 10 years and has published numerous papers along with her students.

Her work shows very clearly that different selection pressures have acted on men and women, and that women in particular have a rare (among mammals) ability to work both efficiently (energy per unit mass) and economically (total energy) when carrying loads. Women’s abilities are due in part to their relatively small body size, relatively high surface area, relatively broader pelves, and unique methods of thermoregulating.

In addition to her research, Dr. Wall-Scheffler teaches courses in human physiology and evolutionary mechanisms, both on campus and on the Blakely Island Field Station.

Selected Publications

  • Selinger, J.C., Jackson, R.W., Hicks, J.L., Wall-Scheffler, C.M., Chang, D., & Delp, S.L. (submitted). Running in the wild: Energetics explain ecological running speeds. Nature.
  • Hora, M., Pontzer, H., Wall-Scheffler, C.M., & Sladek, V. (2020). Dehydration was not a limit for persistence hunting in Homo ergaster. Journal of Human Evolution 138: 102682. Article link.
  • Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2019). The seasonality of site use at Taforalt. In R.N.E. Barton, A. Bouzouggar, S.N. Colcutt, L. Humphrey (Eds.), Cemeteries and Sedentism in the Later Stone Age of NW Africa: Excavations at Grotte Des Pigeons, Taforalt, Morocco. Mainz: Schnell & Steiner, pp 309-312.
  • Long, E.S., Courtney, K.L.*, Lippert, J.C.*, & Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2019). Reduced body size of insular black-tailed deer is caused by slowed development. Oecologia 189(3): 675-685. Article link.
  • Bouterse, L.* & Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2018). Children are not like other loads: A cross-cultural perspective on the influence of burdens and companionship on human walking. PeerJ 6: e5547. Article link.
  • Alcantara, R.* & Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2017). Stroller running: Energetic and kinematic changes across pushing methods. PLOS ONE 12(7): e0180575. Article link.
  • Rathkey, J.* & Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2017). Do people choose to run at their optimal running speed? American Journal of Physical Anthropology 163(1): 85-93. Article link.
  • Wall-Scheffler, C.M. & Myers, M.J. (2017). The biomechanical and energetic advantages of a mediolaterally wide pelvis in women. The Anatomical Record 300(4): 764-775. Article link.
  • Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2015). Optimal movement speeds in human locomotion. Integrative and Comparative Biology 55(6): 1155-1165. Article link.
  • Wall-Scheffler, C.M., Wagnild, J.M.*, & Wagler, E.* (2015). Accounting for human footprint variation while performing a load-bearing task. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0118619. Article link.
  • Wall-Scheffler, C.M. (2014). The balance between burden carrying, variable terrain and thermoregulatory pressures in assessing morphological variation. In K. Carlson & D. Marchi (Eds), Reconstructing Mobility: Environmental, Behavioral and Morphological Determinants. New York: Springer Life Sciences, pp. 173-192. Book link.

* denotes undergraduate student author

Please see Dr. Wall-Scheffler’s CV (PDF) for additional publications.

Cara Wall-Scheffler

Meet Cara Wall-Scheffler

Learn more about Dr. Wall-Scheffler's teaching and research interests, and hear her advice for Biology students.

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Why I Teach at SPU

Cara Wall-Scheffler, Professor of Biology

“I teach at SPU because it is a place that values academic freedom and the love of learning. We have extremely talented students and colleagues who all ask wonderful questions. It is a place that enlivens the mind and pushes ideas into new contexts.”