Dispatches from the field with Dr. Funk and Ariel
Authored By: Shannon Clark ’18 Zooarchaeology Lab Social Media Intern
The success of this trip is attributed not only to the hard work of Dr. Funk and Ariel but to all of the students who have worked in the lab and made it possible to do this extensive bone analysis. The background lab work they accomplished in the 8 months prior to the trip provided a strong basis of fundamental knowledge and research.
The trip to the Smithsonian was incredibly successful for the NSF project as well as for mentoring; because of this experience, Ariel is poised to do her dissertation research. From this experience she has gained ‘how to’ knowledge and capabilities, contacts within the museum, knowledge of the available reference skeletons, and navigational bearings through the dense maze of rooms, libraries, and hallways.
During the four short weeks we were graciously hosted by the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History Birds Division, ZooArch Lab researchers analyzed over 5,000 bones. “We had aggressive goals for the analysis,” said Dr. Funk, “and because the collections of the Birds Division are so well suited to Aleutian avifauna research we were able to analyze specimens from all of the bird families we brought with us.”
Taking full advantage of their opportunity, our researchers were able to attend to some additional projects during their stay. Ariel was able to give attention to her bird bone pathology study and both researchers think they may have identified an extinct cormorant in the prehistoric bird bone collection!
During this research Ariel and Dr. Funk have identified many species that are rare today but were evidently abundant during the occupation of the Margaret Bay site (UNL-048) at about 4700 years ago. Our researchers rented an apartment on Capitol Hill, and they walked to work every day past the Capitol, the Senate offices, and down the Mall. Working on research about environmental change and actually seeing shifts in avifauna species over time in a place where environmental decisions are being legislated renews our researchers’ motivation for this project and reminds us that what we are doing is critically important.