Anthropologist Cara Ocobock talks about human performance in extreme conditions on With a Side of Knowledge podcast

Author: Ted Fox

cover art for With a Side of Knowledge podcast, featuring a Notre Dame waffle in the background

With a Side of Knowledge is a podcast produced by the Office of the Provost at the University of Notre Dame. It brings listeners informal interviews with fascinating scholars and professionals from both Notre Dame and elsewhere that take place over brunch.

The 17th episode of the show’s third season, “On Reindeer Herders and Powerlifting,” was released Thursday, April 16, and features Cara Ocobock, assistant professor of anthropology at Notre Dame.

A biological anthropologist, Ocobock is the director of the Human Energetics Laboratory and explores the physiological and behavioral mechanisms necessary to cope with and adapt to extreme climate and physical activity. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Geographic Foundation, and the American-Scandinavian Foundation.

Ocobock and host Ted Fox recorded the interview for this episode in early March, starting with the work that’s taken her to the Arctic Circle to study the characteristics of a population whose experience in the extreme cold could hold valuable lessons for all of us. From there, they talked about potential insights into the adaptations of a past cold-climate population, the Neanderthals, before changing gears to discuss her research at the intersection of anthropology and sports, which has grown out of a challenging personal journey as a powerlifter.

You can visit to learn more about With a Side of Knowledge, which is available through Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, LyceumSpotify, Stitcher, or by searching “With a Side of Knowledge” in your favorite podcast app.

You can also listen to the episode with Ocobock using the player below.