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Department of Anthropology: Parent-Infant Sleep Lab

Sleep Lab Staff

Dr Charlotte Russell, BA, PhD

Sleep Lab Manager & Impact Evidence Manager in the Department of Anthropology
Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Sleep Lab

Contact Dr Charlotte Russell

Charlotte's research interests focus on the practical and theoretical application of evolutionary medicine to issues relating to childbirth and childhood, with special focus on the consequences of parent-infant separation. She also focusses on the translation of research evidence for public consumption, its role in influencing public behaviour, and in effecting change in policy and practice. 


Charlotte received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Durham in 2007, following a BA in Human Sciences in 2001. Her doctoral thesis focused on a craniometric analysis of British and Danish archaeological populations, while her undergraduate dissertation addressed issues relating to the use and knowledge of traditional (folk) and complementary medicines in a North Yorkshire village.

Having spent 3 months working as a research assistant in the Sleep Lab in the summer of 2001, Charlotte returned in 2007 as NECOT (North-East Cot Trial) project manager.

In 2011 Charlotte and Professor Helen Ball obtained ESRC follow-on funding to set up the Infant Sleep Information Source (ISIS) website. This website provides a means by which up-to-date, evidence-based information about infant sleep can be disseminated to parents and health-care professionals. We also have also developed an app to complement the website; educational materials; contribute widely to policy development; and provide training sessions for HCPs and volunteers working with parents.

Charlotte now holds a full-time research position in the Department of Anthropology, running ISIS and overseeing Sleep Lab projects; supervising student projects and lab staff; and pursuing her own lines of research which complement the Sleep Lab's core themes of investigation.

Ms Cassandra Yuill, BA, MSc

Research Associate in Anthropology

Cassandra completed her undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology at the University of Maryland and received her MSc in Medical Anthropology from Durham University in 2013. Her Master's dissertations focused on the nutritional and physical activity knowledge and behaviour of secondary school students in County Durham. She joined the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab in late 2013 as a part-time Research Assistant before becoming a full-time staff member in 2015.

Since joining the Sleep Lab Team, Cassandra has worked on a number of projects operated out of the lab, particularly Let's Talk About Sleep!, which she project manages. She also assists in the management of the Infant Sleep Information Source, helping to launch the Co-sleeping Image Archive, and runs the infant sleep training workshops with Prof Ball and Dr Russell.

Dr Catherine Taylor, BSc, MA, PhD

Research Associate in the Department of Anthropology

Fellow of the Wolfson Research Institute for Health and Wellbeing

(email at


In 2007 Catherine graduated from Durham University with a BSc in Medical Anthropology (Health and Human Sciences). Catherine was awarded an ESRC/MRC 1+3 postgraduate studentship and continued to study at Durham completing an MA in Research Methods in Anthropology in 2008 and a PhD in Medical Anthropology in 2014. During her postgraduate study she was supervised by Prof. Helen Ball and became a member of the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab ( Catherine’s PhD research was a qualitative follow-up of a large randomised trial known as the North-East Cot Trial (NECOT) which investigated the impact of cot type (stand-alone v’s side-car crib) on breastfeeding outcomes among mother-infant dyads in North-East England.

Since completing her PhD, Catherine has continued to work with the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab team on projects including the Risk and Reality Project exploring the effects of infant safe sleep education on parental bedsharing behavior, infant nighttime care and understanding of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) risk factors. She is currently the project manager for the Let’s talk About Sleep! Project (Fife, Scotland), a collaborative project between Durham University Parent-Infant Sleep Lab, University of Bristol School of Social and Community Medicine, The Scottish Government, Scottish Cot Death Trust and NHS Fife. The aim of the study is to test the feasibility of an intervention designed to improve parental awareness about baby sleep safety and SIDS.


C.E. Taylor, H.L. Ball & K. Tully. 2015. ‘Using video observations to understand night-time experiences of mothers and babies on a UK post-natal ward.’ Ch. 5 in Ethnographic Research in Maternal and Child Health, edited by Dr Fiona Dykes and Dr Renée Flacking.

Taylor, C.E. 2013. Post-natal care and breastfeeding experiences: A qualitative investigation following a randomised trial of side-car crib use (NECOT Trial). PhD Thesis, Durham University.

Research Projects

Department of Anthropology

Let’s Talk About Sleep! Project

Dr Alanna E.F. Rudzik, BA (Hons), MSc, PhD


Alanna obtained her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2010 (Prof. Lynnette Sievert, Chair).  Her doctoral research with women from São Paulo, Brazil, focused on the effects of stressful life circumstances on breastfeeding duration in the early post-partum period, employing both biological and ethnographic research methods. Alanna was awarded a doctoral fellowship from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to fund her PhD research. Before coming to Durham, she held a SSHRC post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Toronto, working with Prof. Daniel Sellen, in which she investigated cultural norms of infant feeding and mothering among Torontonian women. Alanna joined the Parent/Infant Sleep Lab in January 2012 upon being awarded a Durham University International Junior Research Fellowship.  Her current research focuses on the influence of breast- versus formula feeding on the development of sleeping patterns in infants through the first year of life. Other research interests include women's experiences of breastfeeding, determinants of breastfeeding duration, food security and maternal mental health, and biomarkers of stress.

Ms Denise Crane, MA, BSc

PhD Candidate in Anthropology

Denise entered higher education as a mature student in 2004 completing the Foundation Programme based at Durham University Queen's Campus. Denise progressed onto her degree at Durham University and graduated  in 2008 with a BSc in Human Sciences (Biological Anthropology). In 2008 Denise received a 1+3 MRC/ESRC Interdisciplinary Studentship award  and in September 2009 completed her MA in Anthropological Research Methods. Denise is currently undertaking her PhD on the BradICS project which is researching  infant care practices and unexpected infant death in the multi-cultural urban population of Bradford.

Sleep Lab Associates

Dr Anna Cronin-de-Chavez

PhD in Anthropology completed Nov 2011

Dr Lane Volpe, BA, MA, PhD

Honorary Research Fellow, Medical Anthropology

Lane received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of Durham in 2010, working with supervisor Professor Helen Ball in the Parent-Infant Sleep Lab. She previously served as the Project Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, USA. As Project Director, Lane directed part of an interdisciplinary research project entitled "Predicting and Preventing Child Neglect in Teen Mothers" with Principal Investigators Dr. John Borkowski and Dr. James McKenna. Having trained and worked at the only two anthropology-based behavioural infant sleep labs in the world, she is well-versed in the theories and contemporary research findings surrounding infant sleep, including such topics as breastfeeding, bedsharing, SIDS, nighttime parenting, and public health policy. Lane's doctoral thesis examines the nighttime parenting styles of adolescent and adult first-time mothers and their 4-month old infants. Her research also explores how mothers receive and apply medical and public health recommendations, and how their personal experiences affect the decisions they make regarding infant care. She previously completed both her Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude (1998) and Master of Arts (2002) degrees in Anthropology at the University of Colorado, in Boulder, Colorado, USA. Lane has been a Durham Doctoral Fellow, a member of the Medical Anthropology Research Group, and has tutored for the Medicine in the Community module, a component of undergraduate education in the School of Medicine and Health at Durham University.

Dr Caroline Jones, MA, MSc, BSc

PhD in Anthropology completed May 2011

Caroline Jones graduated with a 1st in Natural Sciences at Durham (2005) before completing a taught Msc (with Distinction) in Biological Anthropology in 2006. She was awarded an ESRC/MRC 1+3 scholarship to work with Prof. Helen Ball, Prof. Carolyn Summerbell and Dr. Tessa Pollard, for which she investigated sleep in preschool children in Stockton-on-Tees, and the associations of sleep with child health. Caroline also spent 3 months conducting research at Hasbro Children's Hospital Pediatric Sleep Clinic in the USA, and the Children's Museum of Manhattan, in 2010. She submitted her PhD thesis in Feb 2011 and passed her viva in April 2011. She now has an MRC-funded postdoctoral position at Cambridge and continues her collaboration with the Sleep Lab and producing papers for publication on her PhD research.