Dr Clare McFadden

Bachelors of Arts (Hons), PhD
Honorary Lecturer, Biological Anthropology
ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences and ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
T: +61 2 6125 5331

Areas of expertise

  • Biological (Physical) Anthropology 160102
  • Fertility 160302
  • Mortality 160304
  • Epidemiology 111706

Research interests

Palaeodemography and biocultural histories

My research has previously focussed on refining and expanding palaeodemographic tools, with an emphasis on application to bioarchaeological samples from Southeast Asia and the Pacific region. The palaeodemographic measures which I have developeduse age-at-death data to estimate fertility and the rate of natural population increase. These methods are suitable for application to archaeologically-derived data, such as skeletal age-at-death estimates, and historical period data, such as parish records and other mortality reports.

The application of these tools has reinforced overarching regional trends in population responses to major changes in Southeast Asia (the intensification of agriculture) and the Pacific (the first wave of human migration through the region). I also developed a new measure of maternal mortality from the age-at-death distribution, which I believe will provide new insights into the causes and consequences of maternal deaths in the past, as well as the female experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

My current research seeks to incorporate palaeodemography into multidisciplinary approaches to human diversity, both biological and cultural. I am building new theoretical and statistical models to explore relationships between population dynamics and sociocultural, biological and environmental variables in the past. To inform and operationalise these models, I am engaging in strongly contextualised, high resolution case studies of population processes in the past. I am interested in creating continuous biocultural histories of fertility, mortality and disease from archaeological to historical data. I am particularly interested in the interplay of disease, fertility and mortality in the context of depopulation and subsequent population recovery in the Pacific Islands.

Skeletal markers of pregnancy and forensic anthropology

In addition to my palaeodemographic research, I am interested in the impacts of pregnancy and childbirth on the skeleton. I have undertaken research on existing indicators, finding these to be associated with female sex but not number of children. I am involved in several forensic anthropology research projects, which seek to clarify the relationship between skeletal fractures (patterns, frequencies) and manners of death (suicide, interpersonal violence).

Supporting those facing infertility

I am a passionate advocate for people facing infertility. I have personal experience with infertility and assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and seek to provide a voice and community to others experiencing these challenges. Collaborator Associate Prof Alison Behie and I have published in Nature Careers on our experiences and we are undertaking a research project to better understand how academia can support people through the immense challenges of infertility and ART



I have a Bachelor of Arts (Hons, 2015) and a PhD in Biological Anthropology (2019) from the Australian National University. I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (AFHEA). In 2019 I was appointed Lecturer in Biological Anthropology in the School of Archaeology and Anthropology and in 2020 I took up a postdoctoral research position in the same school. Through supervised research, masters and honours students, I am developing a palaeodemography and palaeoepidemiology working group.

I have undertaken consulting work in osteology for local archaeology consultancies and have provided training and workshops in human osteology to therapeutic service providers.


Available student projects

I am no longer supervising students

Current student projects

PhD Projects

Sam Sammut. Bioarchaeology of Roman Imperialism.

Past student projects

Honours Projects

Loren Hughes. Male-Female Health Survival Paradox in Medieval Europe.

Rachel Wilson. Meta-analysis of fracture patterns associated with suicidal hanging. (Co-supervision with Dr Samantha Rowbotham at VIFM).

Gina Basile. Re-evaluating the Neolithic Demographic Transition.

Liv Beatty. Meta-analysis of skeletal lesions associated with tuberculosis.

Keelan Goodisson. Dental wear and age estimation techniques.

Britta Van Tiel. Palaeodemography of Viking era homeland and frontier populations.

Alex Wulff. Linear enamel hypoplasia of the primary canine as a means of evaluating the DOHaD model

Bonnie Taylor. The Wisdom of Teeth: Using Dental Anthropology to analyse the Demography and Health of a Philippines Metal Period Population.

Masters Projects

Emma Spencer. Palaeodemography and population health in post-Medieval London.

Tianyi Wang. Palaeoepidemiology of cribra orbitalia in an ancient Southeast Asian sample.




Projects and Grants

Grants information is drawn from ARIES. To add or update Projects or Grants information please contact your College Research Office.

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Updated:  12 April 2024 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers