How did you get started in Anthropology?
In high school I was always interested in the hard sciences, but I also took a lot of history and psychology and other humanities courses. I did really well in them, but I never really thought of it as a career path. Then, after I got to Iowa state, in Physics, I did an undergraduate research program that got me immediately into the Physics program to see what it was like, and I just didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t do it, so I decided to change. I didn’t really know what Anthropology was at the time, I just knew that I liked people and philosophy and that sort of thing, so I decided to change over to Anthropology. I took a few courses, and I was fortunate enough to have Matthew Hill– the archaeologist here. His interests and the way that he studies archaeology align very well with my own.
Did you work with Dr. Hill, or did you just have him for your intro class?
I had him for my intro class, and then afterward, I went to him and asked if there was anything that I could do to get that same experience that I had with Physics to make sure that this wasn’t the wrong choice as well. He immediately had a hundred different things I could do just looking at bones, helping Kurt Wilson, the archaeology grad student here with his Peccary Cave stuff. I also helped Dr. Hill with some of his Dewulf stuff this year. Then, I asked him about field work, and he recommended Larry Todd who was one of his graduate advisors. I didn’t know this at the time, but he’s a very prominent archaeologist, very well-known. We actually talked about him in class. So I got to go to Wyoming and do field work with him this summer.
Can you tell me a little more about your time in Wyoming?
The field work was in a ten day session, then there was a ten-day break and then a twenty-day session. I was there from the end of June through two days before classes started this Fall. The first session was at Anderson Lodge, right in the middle of the Shoshone National Forest which is a big area for archaeological material. The ten-day session was spent there, doing some basic, systematic surveys- walking around looking for new sites. We found a few little ones and one big one. Then, the second session was at Cougar Pass which is over by Hidden Basin, an immense site. I mean there’s just tons of chipped stone up there and teepee circles and hunting blinds. This one, they’ve been going back to for a long time, so we were just going back and continuing the work up there. [editor’s note: check out more info on Dr. Todd’s research here.]
I heard that you were presenting at a conference recently in Nebraska (which is really cool as an undergrad, by the way) – was that about what you did in Wyoming?
Yeah, so I was analyzing a lot of statistics. I took the data that Larry has been collecting from walking around the ice patches up there with GPS units to trace the outside and record that data. Then, we plug it into GIS, and I took his data and added a few digitized data sets. I was able to see the changes in the ice patch sizes, relative to changes in average temperature, precipitation and snow-water equivalents. I then created a program in Python where someone could input that data and it would make an estimate of how the ice patch would change, given these environmental changes.
That’s so cool! Do you think that, as a kid, there were any indicators of your Anthropology career and interests that, looking back, were very evident?
When I was really young, I really liked dinosaurs. Paleontology, that sort of deal- I considered it here, but I just wasn’t as interested in that as I was with Archaeology.
But definitely a connection there, though! What are you thinking for long-term then? Grad school?
I’m looking at The University of Iowa, Colorado State University and Texas A&M right now [for graduate school]. After that, I’d like to continue my research at a university somewhere and teach.
Maybe we’ll have our very own Dr. Hill! So, for you, how has this merger with the Department of World Languages and Cultures worked with what you study? Archaeology is a bit more of a “hard science” than some other aspects of Anthropology, right?
Well, my interest in Archaeology (as opposed to Cultural Anthropology) has always been because I was more interested in the sciences because we can quantify the information. I like being able to say “we know this to be true”, whereas with Cultural Anthropology, it’s left to a certain amount of subjectivity. But, that being said, I’m still very interested in the cultural aspects that come with Archaeology. It’s still what we’re fundamentally looking for because it is Anthropology.