Teaching as Research

This semester, I – Laura Masur – conducted an educational research project as part of a Teaching as Research (TAR) fellowship, sponsored by the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL) at BU. The overarching goal over this program is to teach young academic professionals in STEM fields to be better teachers, using the scientific research process. While archaeology’s place in STEM is undoubtedly up for debate, this was a great opportunity for me to start thinking about the mechanics of teaching. The program provides excellent opportunities to explore recurring trends in classes, in order to improve student learning outcomes.

Masur TAR PosterView Poster: 2016.5.2_TAR_Poster_FINAL

Archaeology professors at BU have observed that students in 300-level classes have difficulty developing research questions and testable hypotheses. Students also encounter problems when connecting technical methods (e.g., the identification and analysis of animal bones) to their broader historical or cultural context in order to draw conclusions from research. This was particularly reflected in final written research reports in AR 308, Archaeological Research Design and Materials Analysis, taught by Catherine West. Others have observed that many archaeology students lack the necessary scientific background for reading primary literature and developing their own research projects (Agbe-Davies et al. 2013:839). Journal club workshops that providing students with the necessary skills for reading and analyzing journal articles have been shown as effective methods for teaching scientific literacy in a classroom setting (Robertson 2012).

For this project, I investigated whether teaching scientific literacy to students using journal articles would more effectively prepare them to develop and carry out independent research projects. Students completed pre-tests and post-tests in the form of journal worksheets (adapted from Robertson 2012), and submitted their own research design in a similar format. Students were also asked to complete an anonymous survey about their experiences learning about research design in the class. I hypothesized that if students are able to develop scientific literacy through reading and evaluating journal articles, they will be able to more readily generate their own research questions and hypotheses, and as a result, more effectively connect their data to broader research themes.

AR 308 worksheetSample worksheet completed by students as a pre-test and post-test for determining scientific literacy (View Worksheet: 308_Worksheet_1 ).

The results of the project surprised me. Post-test values were slightly higher than pre-test values, meaning that students’ ability to read and gather key information from articles increased after related lessons, and the difference between these values was statistically significant (p < .05) when using a paired t-test. Nonetheless, the results of the post-test and the research design were not well correlated (r = .43), suggesting that students who did well on journal article assignments did not always succeed to the same degree when creating their research design. This suggests that learning about research design through related reading (e.g., Booth et al. 2008), primary literature, and class discussion is not sufficient to prepare all students to generate their own research questions and hypotheses.

2016.5.2_Graph_for_blogLine graph showing pre-test, post-test, and research design scores, with slight correlation (n = 7, max score = 24).

Students had neutral to positive reactions to the article worksheet, suggesting that it may serve as a useful learning tool in future classes. Students also agreed that reading primary literature prepared them to develop their own research design, which indicates the importance of this exercise. Additional in-class activities may provide an avenue for students to improve their ability to develop scientific research designs. Future research may establish whether in-class activities, which would guide a student through the process of developing a research design, would help students by simulating the research process. Students could be provided with a research scenario, and work in groups to develop a research design, which they would then present to the class.

References cited

Agbe-Davies, Anna S., Jillian E. Galle, Mark W. Hauser, and Fraser D. Neiman. 2013. “Teaching with Digital Archaeological Data: A Research Archive in the University Classroom.” Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 21 (4): 837–61.

Booth, Wayne C, Gregory G Colomb, and Joseph M Williams. 2008. The Craft of Research. Third edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Robertson, Katherine. 2012. “A Journal Club Workshop That Teaches Undergraduates a Systematic Method for Reading, Interpreting, and Presenting Primary Literature.” Journal of College Science Teaching 41 (6): 25–31.

BU archaeology students in the news

Students in Professor Catherine West's spring course - Archaeology 308: Archaeological Research Design and Materials Analysis - learned to do hands-on archaeological research using collections on loan from the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. The goal of the course is to give students real archaeological experience as they move on to field school, lab-based research, or employment in archaeology, and to have them think about the application of their data to contemporary people and descendant communities. As a result, our class will be featured in the next newsletter from the Alutiiq Museum, which is seen by museum members around the world!

Ellie #1BU undergraduate Ellie Jordan analyzed the treatment and conservation of prehistoric pottery from Olga Bay, Alaska through consultation with conservators at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Photo by Michael Hamilton.

In the spring semester 2016, students worked in lab groups to generate research questions and hypotheses, to analyze archaeological material, and to present this material in a group presentation and individual, formal lab reports. Students focused on understanding parts of the changing Alutiiq identity and history, prehistoric people's use of the environment, and their food ways in both the historic and prehistoric periods. From analyzing lithic and pottery assemblages, faunal material, historic sources and oral histories, and legal issues, students generated a variety of creative and thoughtful research projects.

IMG_2034AR308 students learn to flintknap and grind stone with BU graduate student Justin Holcomb. Photo by Peri Tur.

Building Collections at the Zooarchaeology Lab

My name is Laura Masur and I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Archaeology at Boston University. This year I am managing the Zooarchaeology Lab for my graduate fellowship. I work closely with Professor Catherine West to keep the lab running: this involves working with students who are sorting fauna or researching class projects, facilitating communication among lab members, and making sure collections and archaeological samples stay organized.

Blog1_Photo1Since fall of 2015, we’ve been working on building the Zooarchaeology Lab’s comparative and teaching collections. This process involves sorting older collections housed in the department, and adding new specimens to the collection.

We first had to sort the old collections. Some boxes contained complete skeletons that were identified to species. We were able to incorporate these specimens into our comparative collection, in order to identify faunal samples from archaeological sites. Other boxes contained skeletons or crania with missing or non-specific taxonomic identification. Still more boxes contained old archaeological samples without context information. Because we don’t know the provenience or taxonomic identification of these bones, they are most suitable for our teaching collection.

Blog1_Photo2We also found some pretty wild things in the old collections. Some of our favorites were owl pellets, a mummified mouse, tiny bones stored in cigarette, cream cheese, and Laughing Cow cheese boxes, and a vial labeled “flamingo tongue.” (Never fear: this was not a flamingo’s tongue, but a species of sea snail!) Professor West was partial to the desiccated Sturgeon, wrapped in 1980s newspaper in a gift box.

Over the past few years, we have been working with Professor Jonathan Bethard and Dr. Tom French of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to acquire and process new specimens for our comparative collections. These animals met their unfortunate ends of natural causes or under veterinary care, and ended up at the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife in Westborough, Massachusetts. We let nature “render skeletons” for us, and bring the bones back to the lab. Our students and volunteers diligently wash these skeletons, and label them with a zooarchaeology lab or “ZL” number.

Blog1_Photo3While each specimen in the comparative collection is housed in its own box, the teaching collections are organized by element. This way, students learning a specific element will be able to examine inter-species variations in that element.

Blog_1_Photo4We plan to continue this process until we have a good selection of animal species, useful for both research and teaching purposes. Please be in touch if you have animals we could use!


Kashaveroff: A Month in Review

Rachel Gill checking in for one final time, this time from the comfort of home. This post sums up the end of the dig and my reflections.


The last time we chatted, pits in Block B were on the mind. We finally reached the bottom of those pits in some areas, mostly along the north wall of Block B. It was getting down to the wire, the last few days of our excavation season, and we needed to see the profile.

Quick digression: a profile is the view of the wall and all the layers that we have dug out. Typically, we measure and draw these on the last day in order to get a picture of how all the layers in the stratigraphy come together and how they looked before we took it all out of the ground.


Profile example: the north wall of Block B - The Pit! Note the thick orange ash (Level 2) on the left, which dates to 3800 years ago. The black charcoal is the fill of the pit.

This profile allowed us to see the pit as it would have been if we hadn't dug everything out. A thick black layer curved in the shape of a 'U' dominated the right of the north wall, and the orange ash of L2 was virtually absent in that portion of the wall, as if the previous residents had dug out the ash and tossed it somewhere else to make their smoke pit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStudents Ryan, Kate, Alexandria, Rachel, and Professor
West, mapping and drawing the features and profile in Block B

While we uncovered the majority of the charcoal and rock pit fill, we did not have time to dig out the walls of the pit. The plan for next year is to remove the walls and the base of the pit to see what lies beneath.

What else was happening at the Kashevaroff Site?

To determine the extent of the site, the last week was not only filled with frantic digging in the two main excavations, but a few test pits scattered around the site. A test pit is just what it sounds like: a 1 meter by 1 meter hole in the ground used to see if 1) there was any kind of human activity and 2) how the stratigraphy compares to the rest of the site. We ultimately decided on three test pits, one far to the north past the main grid, another far to the south on a small knoll past Block B and the smoke pits, and one right in the middle of the two. For the sake of simplicity, we will call these 201, 301, and 401 respectively.

Students Sami Kassel and Hannah Wellman
after completing test pit 301

201 and 301 suggested the site stretches a long way. 201 looked similar to the 2X2 grid completed much earlier in the season next to Block A: very shallow with defined layers but nothing much underneath L3. 301 was much deeper, but the layers were less well defined. In fact, everything below the orange ash of L2 was muddled and confused, a heterogeneous mixture of sediments that weren't identifiable as any specific layer. We expected to find glacial till at the bottom, but we found glacial outwash instead. This is basically slate sand that was deposited by glacial runoff.

401 looks like a HOUSE! This test pit is right between the two main grids, and was by far the most interesting. Below the L2 orange ash, we found what appeared to be the partial floor of a house. This indicates that not only were people smoking their food, but perhaps they were living nearby. Next season, we hope to open up the house entirely to see its features and perhaps date is specifically.

Sod quarrying might explain the discrepancies in the stratigraphy and depths to glacial material among the pits -- in order to built their houses, smoke pits, other structures, and what have you, the residents were digging up sod from one part of the site and moving it to other parts. This would account for the very shallow dirt and complete absence of some layers in areas and the incredible depth in others. Hopefully we can test this hypothesis with further excavation.


Over all, we did find some incredible artifacts and incredible potential for this site to hold answers to questions not yet discovered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStudent Rachel Gill mid-excavation

On a personal level, I just want to thank all of the amazing people that made this possible. I learned more than I thought possible about the Alutiiq people, their past and present, and myself as a student, a person, and a future archaeologist.

Island Otters and Ancient People

Hello there! My name is Hannah, and I am a graduate student at the University of Oregon, and your guest blogger for the week!

Hannah excavating at the Kashevaroff Site, summer 2015

My study focus is on zooarchaeology, which is the study of animal remains, like bones and teeth. I'm especially interested in how humans and mammals interacted in coastal environments over time and how archaeology might intersect with understanding wildlife conservation. My recent research has been about sea otter populations in the past in the state of Oregon. I'm interested in understanding how Oregon sea otter populations have differed from those in California and Washington over thousands of years so we can understand how to best manage them today.


Even though I study sea otter bones, I have never seen a wild sea otter before this Saturday, when we had a bonfire on a beach at Chiniak here on Kodiak. This is because sea otters were nearly extirpated (or basically rendered extinct) along the Northwest Coast by the 1900s, except for a few groups in Alaska and California. Attempts to reintroduce the species to Oregon failed, so it wasn't until I left the state I could see one in the wild! Thankfully the sea otter is doing better in some areas, and has been reintroduced in British Columbia and Washington.

Measuring an archaeological sea otter humerus!

However, it is interesting for me to think about sea otters in Alaska specifically, because sea otters were extirpated largely due to Russian hunting - the incoming Russian traders pressured and forced the Alutiiq and other Native peoples along the Pacific coast to obtain sea otters for the 18th and 19th century fur trade. So while sea otters had been hunted before, it was hunted to an unprecedented degree for its furs in this era. Based on the artifact types recovered from the site of Karluk on Kodiak, dug and housed at the Alutiiq Museum, a recent publication suggests sea otters were not intensively hunted until Russian fur traders arrived  (Steffian et al. 2015).

The history of sea otters in Alaska from prehistory to the modern day is about conservation, discussions of colonialism, indigenous rights, and environmental and human exploitation. Being on this beautiful island has reminded me of the interdisciplinary nature of archaeology - it is complicated and messy beyond the mud and dust.

Check out the newest book from the Alutiiq Museum: Steffian, Amy, Marnie Leist, Sven Haakanson, and Patrick Saltonstall. 2015. Kal'unek: From Karluk. University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks.


We have finally made it. Stars were born. Our celebrity is on the rise.

We are proud to announce that the Community Archaeology project - including the fabulous BU crew - was featured on Anchorage's KTVA Frontiers program this past weekend. We were interviewed about the archaeological site and the museum work we have been doing, and we got our University's participation a little press!

Click here to enjoy the show.

UAA grad student Alexandria made the cut!

It’s the Pits


Rachel Gill back again to talk more about our site specifically and the journey into forming and testing a hypothesis. Science at work!

For the past two weeks, the Community Archaeology team has been agonizing over what the heck is going on in the vast 5x5 grid excavation affectionately named "Block B". Patrick and Catherine, our intrepid co-leaders, have toyed with a series of hypotheses, which culminated in the complicated excavation of a series of smoking pits.

But that conclusion was hard-won; let me take you through our two-week journey into the pits of Block B.

Initially, maybe a year or two ago when the study was in its infancy, a geologist used ground penetrating radar (GPR) to see if the main excavation extended past a series of trees. They found a depression beneath the sods, so naturally, the archaeologists thought house. And that's exactly the mindset we had when we stuck our shovels into the sod. The sheer amount of the first layer of ash, called Katmai, and how deep it was in some areas, was encouraging. It got deeper in the middle and was shallow on the outsides and all of that basically screamed house.

At least for the first three hours.

11222308_867149070020694_1765579128855250353_nBlock B just after the sod and Katmai ash was removed
and before the real excavation started

As we dug deeper into the ash, a series of mounds started to take form. So, people started to change their hypotheses; someone said it was a house with multiple rooms while others thought it may even be more than one house. One boy even joked that they were some kind of burial mounds, eliciting a cry of dissent from the crew. We left the first day all speculating.

In the days to come, a few things started to take shape. In two opposite corners of the excavation, our team found two rock features. (Another brief vocab lesson: a feature carries evidence of human activity like a hearth or a wall.) The one on the east end was larger than the other, with a series of rock piles in the middle of a pit of charcoal-stained soil. The west end had smaller rocks and less charcoal, so it seemed that the two-house theory might have support. We called this gravel layer Level 1A g (creatively, for gravel!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlutiiq Museum intern Jesse kneeling next to
the smaller rock feature

It turned out that this thick, gravelly layer of charcoal-stained earth (L1Ag) actually seeped beneath other layers. Level 2A, the thick orange ash that dates to 3800 years ago, was actually on top of our L1Ag. This bizarre shift in stratigraphy forced us to reevaluate our "hearth" theory.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStudents Alexandria and Jeannine excavate the
larger rock and charcoal feature

That was when Patrick thought about a smoke pit; according to him, they are some of the most common sites around Kodiak. The 3800 year-old ash that covers the L1Ag gravel-charcoal layer is mixed with darker brown soil, which made him think that perhaps there was one very large smoke pit covered with a roof made out of sod and ash. At one point or another the roof collapsed inward, possibly in a fire, covering the charcoal and rock underneath. For this to be true, we would eventually find a soil basically the color of bright orange Cheeto dust, which would indicate this severe burning.

The charcoal layer kept expanding, but no Cheeto dust.

Finally, the bizarre stratigraphy started to make sense when Patrick suggested that some of the ash layer may have been dug up and redeposited. Eventually, after a massive discussion, we came the conclusion that it's possible that one very large pit had been dug, used, covered when the ash fell, and then more smoke pits were dug after the ash fell. It's possible that these smoke pits were dug in contemporary periods or two entirely different sets of people used the same place for a smoking pit. (This is very much still up in the air and undecided amongst the crew.)

tumblr_ns8djaCak91roi5j1o1_540Student Rachel crouches in the extended smoke pit - note the charcoal-rich L1Ag at her feet, and the 3800-year old ash fall (L2) that covered the pit.

Still, we have one more week to excavate and perhaps our hypothesis will change or alter once more. Because that's the nature of this kind of investigation: as your evidence changes, your hypothesis is tested and may be challenged. And absolute certainty is a difficult thing to achieve, but the possibility is always there.

Sometimes archaeology is the pits. But it's the pits that always make it interesting.

A Satirical Ethnography of the Archaeols of Kodiak

Sami Kassel, who just graduated with a degree in Anthropology from Boston University and joins us at the Kashevaroff excavation, takes us deeper into the Ethnography of an Archaeologist.


After edging around a scurrying river, traipsing through a marshy field, and nimbly avoiding any bears that may be lurking in the bushes, one may stumble across the Archaeol tribe, a small yet vibrant community nestled on the side of Kashevaroff mountain in a remote region of Kodiak, Alaska.

The Archaeols can be easily identified by their traditional garb: sturdy, dark boots, which allow them to easily scale mountains of dirt or wade through streams; soft fabrics layered close to their bodies, which can be rearranged in response to changing weather; and thick overalls made from a slick material, brightly colored under layers of mud and ash. This discoloration marks the experience and status of the wearer; the more caked-on the dirt and wrinkled the fabric of one’s overalls, the more deference they are accorded. Clean garments are disdained, and newcomers to the community will quickly scramble to sully their clothes. This grime spreads to the Archaeols’ faces and hands—any exposed skin—and dirt settles in their hair and fills the creases around their eyes. They seem not to notice, or mind, when the soil finds its way to their food, or to the mouths of their water containers. In fact, so contrary to the expectations of any visitor who may be arriving from the neighboring town, where native households contain shrines dedicated to the ritual cleansing and purification of their bodies [see Miner, Body Rituals among the Nacirema], dirt seems to be the absolute and sole focus of the Archaeols’ lives.

Every man and woman above the age of fourteen spends nearly every waking hour immersed in the soil. With crude and often broken tools, they burrow into the earth, slowly and carefully creating massive pits. These trenches are called sayts, and are created so that the Archaeols may be truly surrounded by the earth. Centimeter by centimeter they scrape away the ground below their knees, taking care to interact with and honor each small layer. Even when the sayts are so deep that an Archaeol may sit on the bottom and no longer feel the breeze as it passes through the air, they continue to dig. It is clear that for the Archaeols, there is no greater joy than working with the dirt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArchaeols working with dirt, the most prized pastime

When an Archaeol comes across a stone, they usually toss it aside, disgruntled that their connection to the dirt has been interrupted. They may even lick the stone before it is discarded, so that not a single grain of precious soil may be squandered. Occasionally, an Archaeol will encounter a particularly offensive rock, which they refer to as an artufakt. In a fit of rage, the Archaeol will shout and scream to call the attention of the rest of the group. Other Archaeols will inspect the intrusive stone, and shriek to express their disgust. With great care to avoid extensive contact with the artufakt, an Archaeol will place it in a sealed bag, which has been marked with symbols indicating the area of dirt which was contaminated by the stone. The artufakt is then taken far away from the sayt, to be kept in a sealed drawer or behind thick glass, so as to prevent any chance of future contamination between the offending rock and the Archaeols' cherished dirt.

Despite my many observations, the significance of the dirt still remains unclear. I hope to gain more insight on my next field project.

A Brief History of Time (and Stratigraphy): Kodiak Edition

Rachel Gill back with you again for just a glimpse into the vast Alutiiq history and how our small site fits into that enormous block of time...Okay, so maybe this won't be a history of all time, but archaeologists have literally dug into almost 8,000 years of obvious human occupation on Kodiak using both stratigraphy and artifact recovery.

A (brief) vocabulary lesson:

The recovery of certain types of artifacts can tell a seasoned investigator what time period they come from and can lead to certain conclusions about household behavior, hunting techniques, or even diet. The word stratigraphy may only be familiar to you if you are an archaeologist or a geologist. At its most basic, it refers to the order and position of the layers of dirt we dig through. These layers can indicate certain time periods of occupation, can offer a way to date artifacts above or below a certain date-able layer, or they can even indicate specific activities.

Picture1Example of the stratigraphy found at Salonie Creek, Kodiak Island - note the thick 1912 Katmai volcanic ash at the top, covering the archaeological layers below.

Some layers can be easily distinguished from one another, but sometimes it takes much more skill and practice to be able to tell the two thinly divided sediments apart. In Women's Bay on Kodiak, each layer has its own name and defining characteristics, and many of these layers are common across nearly all sites. For example, the Katmai ash that blanketed the region in 1912 after the eruption of Novarupta. Those layers that are unique to the site itself would be the floor of a house or a fire pit. During our excavation, each layers has received a designation - L1, L2, L3, etc. (The 'L' in this case stands for, you guessed it, "level". Please hold in your surprise!)

Alutiiq culture history:

The Kashevaroff site is just one of many around Women's Bay on Kodiak Island, and we hope it will shed light on what life was like around the Bay. At the Kashevaroff Site, we uncovered the sod and the Katmai ash, and found L1 below. The top of L1 is dark brown sediment, and seems to contain Koniag-era artifacts. The Koniag period is thought to be from around 200 to 650 years ago. Typically, houses are multi-roomed and are frequently found on salmon streams, and they yield salmon harpoons carved from bone and ground slate ulus, or fish knives. Very few of the artifacts we have found at our site have been from this period, so the occupation must have been brief.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABayonet shaft used for hunting sea mammals - this is made of ground slate, which is common in the area around the Kashevaroff site.

Deeper in the site, into the bottom of L1, we are finding evidence of the earlier Kachemak phase. This phase is much broader, from 650 to nearly 4000 years ago. Circular houses were built from sod (bricks of soil, grass, ash, and roots dug up from the ground’s surface), making their walls easy to spot and excavate. On the floor of the house, archaeologists will typically find a central hearth for cooking, ground slate for making sharp projectile points, and stone net-sinkers...and we have begun to find evidence of these artifacts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGround slate point - the lines may be the hunter's identifying mark!

Though we have not found any, in sites with better organic preservation archaeologists might find carved bone tools for hunting sea mammals and wooden artifacts used for decoration. Unfortunately, these poorly preserved artifacts are only found where the acidity of the volcanic ash falls (like the dark brown, weathered ash we found in L2) is balanced with basic materials, like decomposing clam shells. So far in our excavation, the Kachemak period has yielded red chert (a kind of stone that comes from the west side of Kodiak Island and is good for making chipped stone tools) and ground slate for making points. We’ve also uncovered a few beautiful points and tools themselves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARed chert stone tool from the Kachemak period - this is probably a small knife that would have been hafted into a bone handle.

As we move further down in the stratigraphy, L2 is what we like to call a "dead zone" because it is incredibly rare to find artifacts in this reddish brown ash fall. This is because it is just that: an ash fall that has been dated to about 3800 years ago and must have smothered the site when it fell. We can use this ash to help date the occupation at our site.

The really old stuff is in L3. This level contains artifacts dating anywhere from 3800 years ago (before the ash fell) to 7,500 BP, when the Ocean Bay period started. Ocean Bay I and II are the earliest occupations of Kodiak, and are characterized by slate and chipped stone tools and evidence of more ephemeral housing: rock rings to hold down tent covers and small post holes. We may find stone oil lamps for light and the house floors are often marked by red ochre stains, a pigment ground from naturally occurring mineral. These earliest occupants hunted a vast array of marine life and most times, Ocean Bay sites are located very near to the coast line. The most distinctive tool type found in this time period is called a microblade, so once you find of these small hunting tools, you know exactly where you stand in the timeline. These microblades were inserted into a wooden lance and used for hunting. As of now, we haven’t uncovered any obvious Ocean Bay artifacts, but the dig is still young and we have our fingers crossed.

microbladeExample of a microblade from the Ocean Bay I period

Hopefully our small site will shed a little more light on this complex and involved history by offering information about the earlier periods of the Alutiiq world.

Happy as a clam! Falling in love with Kodiak Island.

Christine Bassett joins us from the University of Alabama’s Department of Geological Sciences, where she is a graduate student. Check out the Aleutian Islands Working Group feature on her research here.

Christine with her clam harvest

As a geologist, I am studying how butter clam (Saxidomus gigantea) shell chemistry and growth might help archaeologists to take a peek at past environmental conditions in the North Pacific Ocean. Clams are sensitive to changes in water conditions, and they record these changes in their shells – so the shells in archaeological sites around Kodiak may be the key to understanding ancient environments! I came to Kodiak, Alaska to collect live butter clams from several sites, and I will look for differences in how the shells are growing in each location.

Archaeological butter clam from the Uyak Site on Kodiak Island.

I grew up in central Georgia, so before coming to Kodiak I had never been clamming. I knew the types of environments where butter clams are most likely to grow and I knew how to identify butter clams, but finding them was a challenge. During my week on Kodiak, I learned by making connections and working with clamming veterans from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and the University of Alaska. At low tide, they showed me how to dig and then rake back the sand and gravel to uncover groups of clams…and eventually I collected more than 120 clams in just three beach visits! I also took temperature and salinity measures at each site so I can connect the shell growth to the environmental conditions.

DSCN3468I will take these clams back to the University of Alabama, where I’ll analyze them over the next year. My fieldwork on Kodiak has been a huge success, and I can’t wait to come back to this spectacular place.