April 16, 2016

Digitizing ROGeR: Creating a Recommended Osteology Guide for e-Readers

Today at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists conference in Atlanta, three of my grad students are presenting the work they've been doing for nearly a year -- Digitizing ROGeR: Creating a Recommended Osteology Guide for e-Readers.

When I started teaching Human Osteology at UWF, I quickly realized that students weren't coming to lab during the hours it was open to study.  Sure, some of it could be chalked up to study habits, but most of our students are also commuters who don't live near campus.  To help with this, I put a plastic skeleton on reserve at the campus library that they could check out for two hours at a time.  (Yes, you too can do this if you ask your librarian!)  The library staff decided to call it Roger, and the name stuck over the years. Having a plastic skeleton at the library might help students on weekends, for example, when the osteology lab is closed.  But again, since many are commuters, accessing the library can also be problematic.

Over the past year, Mariana Zechini, Jane Holmstrom, and Madde Voas have been digitizing a number of real bones from our teaching collection, with the idea to make the models available online for students.  Most of the bones come from the same individual, and they've also scanned some pathological bone as well.  Mariana and Jane figured out how to import the 3D models into Sketchfab and annotate them -- they put in all the major features of the bone that I quiz students on in Human Osteology.  You can browse the models in Sketchfab on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. The models are downloadable as .STL (so you can print them).  Do note, however, that we're releasing them under a CC-BY-NC 4.0 license.  Use them for teaching, but please credit us if possible.

Here's their poster on how and why they created this resource.  If you're still at the AAPAs, please stop by to see them and their 3D prints!

April 15, 2016

Forensics in the Media - Online Class Fall 2016 at UWF

This is a quick plug for my Fall online course that will be about skeletons and forensics in the media.  It's ANT3015 at UWF -- currently called Forensics in the Media.  The way the Florida university system works, pretty much anyone enrolled at a university in the state can take it through the Florida Shines program. So I'm encouraging anyone who's interested to please sign up!

We'll take a tour through the TV shows Bones and the Forensic Files, through the news media such as my Forbes and mental_floss posts, through podcasts like Sawbones, and more!  I envision this as a fun way to learn more about forensic anthropology while consuming a wide range of media.

Here's the fancy flyer for the class:

April 12, 2016

How to Blog in Bioarchaeology and Palaeopathology - #PPA2016

This morning in a workshop on media and outreach in palaeopathology (organized by Piers Mitchell of Cambridge) at the Paleopathology Association meeting, I presented a snazzy Prezi on writing at the intersection of science, journalism, and new media.  It includes what I hope are some useful, practical tips, as well as links to learn more, but I also said a lot of stuff that isn't in the Prezi.

In the interest of openness that permeates really everything that I do, here's the Prezi for your enjoyment (and if the embedded Prezi doesn't work, try this link)... and if you want to see my notes, they're in a Google doc here:

As always, don't hesitate to contact me if you have some interesting research that you want me to write about for any of my various public-facing outlets. My goal is always to make you and your work look good... and, of course, to get as many clicks as possible from as many diverse people as possible.

April 9, 2016

What I wrote last month at Forbes -- Warlord with malaria, cultural infanticide, shackled Greek skeletons, archaeo casualties of Trump's wall, and more!

Here's what I wrote over at Forbes in the month of March:

  • 21 March - How Trump's Wall Would Trample Hundreds of Archaeological Sites.  I did some back-of-the-envelope calculations about the number of sites the proposed border wall would run into.  There's a good comment on the post from an archaeologist who gives a much larger figure than I did.  And if I use his data, we come out to about the same number -- close to 3,000.  While he doesn't seem to think this is a problem, I don't like the history of the government waiving archaeological mitigation and am pretty sure it'd happen in the case of a border wall.

April 8, 2016

Ethics Bowl Full of Teeth

Nope, not the latest "Before and After" question from Jeopardy.  I think next year's Society for American Archaeology conference Ethics Bowl needs to be just this one picture:

Here's the tweet I got it from:

And my smart-ass reply:
But seriously, what the...?

March 24, 2016

8 Amazing Anthropologists Advancing Science Outreach

Anthropology is not known as a discipline with key public figures as well-known as Bill Nye or Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Chances are, the anthropologist most people have heard of is Margaret Mead, who was well-known for her research, museum work, policy creation, and public outreach in the first half of the 20th century. But I suspect that, looking back, 2016 will be seen as a watershed year for women anthropologists using blogs and media outlets to bring anthropology back into the public eye the way Mead did. In alphabetical order, here are the eight anthropologists that I read on a regular basis for their insights into humanity, past and present:

1. Krystal D’Costa writes the blog Anthropology in Practice for Scientific American, primarily showing our own society through the lens of a cultural researcher. Many of her posts tackle 21st century technology issues, such as “We’ve Modified Our Behavior So We Can Text and Walk,” but her four-part series on rice and beans showcases what food means in different contexts, and herdeconstruction of the ubiquitous red Solo cup is among my favorite pieces of online writing ever.

2. Dr. Holly Dunsworth (University of Rhode Island) is a biological anthropologist who teaches and researches human origins and evolution, and she’s just launched her blog Origins on the newSapiens platform, run by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. Just three posts in, and Dunsworth is already a pro at writing eye-catching headlines like, “Surprise! Semen Is Required!

3. Dr. Siân Halcrow (University of Otago) is a bioarchaeologist who works in Southeast Asia and has started a blog called The Bioarchaeology of Childhood. Here, Halcrow covers the latest research on children in the past, summarizing articles and news stories from around the world. One piece that sticks out for me is Halcrow’s volley into the always contentious discussion of infanticide in antiquity, which she writes about in “Infanticide in the Archaeological Record: Sense or Sensationalism?” She also writes about her own research, as well as her challenges and successes with bringing her own children into the field for research, as in “ My Work with Babies – Today and in Prehistory.” Halcrow’s candor in writing about work-life balance as an academic and a mother makes her blog an important read for early-career anthropologists like me.

4. Dr. Carie Hersh (Northeastern University) also recently launched a blog called Relevanth, where she tries to make anthropological ideas and knowledge relevant to day-to-day life. Dipping primarily into linguistics and cultural anthropology, Hersh’s recent posts have tackled differences between regional ways of talking (“Your Accent Is We-ahd“) and similarities between “The Hidden Cultural Values of Massholes and Y’all Qaeda.”

5. Dr. Rosemary Joyce (University of California, Berkeley) writes two blogs: one at Psychology Today called What Makes Us Human, and another called Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives. Joyce is an archaeologist who has led the field of archaeology in understanding gender, sex, sexuality, and inequality from both artifacts and graves. Her blogging is sometimes reflective (“Grand Challenges for the Archaeology of Gender and Sexuality“) and sometimes political (“Aztec Marriage: a Lesson for Chief Justice Roberts“), but always fascinating.

6. Dr. Barbara King (College of William & Mary) contributes to the NPR blog 13.7: Cosmos & Culture. Through this platform, Dr. King, a biological anthropologist who has worked for years with primates, writes thought-provoking pieces about animal cognition, animal rights, climate change, evolution, and current political touchstones. Among my favorite of her pieces are “What Is the Psychic Toll of Gun Violence?“, “Should a Monkey Own a Copyright?“, and “Famous Gorilla ‘Gives’ a Climate Change Speech.”

7. Katy Meyers Emery (Michigan State University) is a PhD candidate with a specialty in bioarchaeology and mortuary archaeology. For several years, she has written Bones Don’t Lie, a blog about the dead and what their bodies and graves can tell us about life in the past. Meyers Emery posts a lot of summaries of breaking research, and also discusses her own research and academic activities in the field of bioarchaeology. I love her ongoing series called “Morbid Terminology,” where she demystifies jargon. The latest in the series, “New Morbid Terminology: Phossy Jaw, the Occupational Disease of Matchstick Makers” is particularly fascinating. She and I have even collaborated a few times on articles about blogging in bioarchaeology.

8. Dr. Jennifer Raff (University of Kansas) is both an anthropologist and a geneticist. She writes a blog called Violent Metaphors about her research, evolution in general, and her teaching (see, “Why There Are Still Monkeys: Lessons Learned from Teaching Evolution in Kansas“). Raff alsocontributes articles to the Huffington Post about vaccines and the anti-vax movement (see “Fighting the Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric with Science“), the application of new information in genetics, and scientific literacy.

This is not a comprehensive list by any means, and there are plenty more anthro bloggers out there doing excellent work whom you can find with a quick google search.

Do check out one or more of the above blogs, though, if you’re looking for new takes on anthropology. It’s important to click through, read, and share anthropology blogs because, if my own experience is a reflection of the current state of academia, most of these anthropologists get few direct benefits for blogging. It is often seen as a distraction from the “real” work of publishing research articles — and yet, many scholars choose to advance public outreach of anthropology anyway, in addition to their research and teaching obligations.

Give ‘em a read and find out more about how anthropology is relevant to the present as well as the past.

This post is syndicated from my blog at Forbes. By syndicating content, I'll be able to bring you stories to read without ads and without dealing with the Forbes ad-blocker-blocker. Not all content will be syndicated, and there is at least a week delay between the original post and the syndicated one. Do click through the link in the first sentence, though, to keep up to date on the latest news items in the field of bioarchaeology -- you'll read it first on my Forbes blog.

March 19, 2016

What I Wrote This Month @Mental_Floss - Roman Skeletons, Roman Poo, and Badgers!

Since I've been posting collections of my Forbes work on a monthly basis, I figured I would post my mental_floss writing as well.  Here are the three things that have come out so far...

  • 14 March -- 6 Practical Ways the Romans Used Human Urine and Feces in Daily Life.  Who doesn't like Roman pee and poo? This was fun to write, as I got to talk to two awesome historians (Sarah Bond and Miko Flohr) about their research into the topic. I particularly love the poo-emoji-plus-Colosseum that the graphics folks cooked up.  It makes me laugh.
  • 17 March -- 6 Archaeological Finds Made by Badgers.  I actually set out to find more examples of badger-archaeology, but this is all I came across.  Now it looks like I am obsessed with listicles and the number 6, but it's honestly a coincidence.  This was also fun to write, mostly because I got to make a "honey badger" reference.
Mental_floss isn't terribly consistent yet about how they classify my pieces, but if you click here, you should be able to see my stories that are classified correctly.

So for those of you who hate Forbes' adblocker-blocker and find it hard to read my stuff there, please do check out the pieces I'm writing for mental_floss, which isn't as obnoxious with ads.  As always, please share widely if you like these articles and want me to write more.  If you have suggestions for mental_floss pieces I could write (explainers, listicles, and "today I learned..." type pieces work best there), do let me know!

March 15, 2016

My Personal Bioarch Wayback Machine

Sometimes, I have occasion to sift through my old files -- digital, mind you; I haven't had paper files in years -- to see what I thought one, five, even twenty years ago.  Since I'm starting the roughly year-long process of preparing my tenure packet, I dipped into some of my early files when my interest in bioarchaeology was coalescing.

Here's the penultimate paragraph from the statement of purpose that I submitted to East Carolina University in 1999, in my application for admission to their MA program:

I have several specific goals for my graduate education. First, I would like to take classes in human anatomy and evolution, both of which I feel provide a basis for the study of bioarchaeology. Second, I hope that I will be able to participate in archaeological digs involving human remains so that I can learn correct excavation, recording, and documentation procedures involved in the treatment of these delicate archaeological artifacts. Third, I hope to accomplish several research goals. My immediate research goals are in the realms of biodistance and palaeopathology. I would like to look at the effects of the conquests of the Roman Empire on other native European populations, specifically in regard to the new diseases that Roman soldiers brought and the non-metric traits they passed down by procreating with the people they subjugated. Another research goal involves computer imaging. I would like to examine the benefits of three-dimensional graphics of specimens as a supplement to a textbook, as a conservation technique, or as a way to share information with bioarchaeologists and anatomists around the world. Finally, my long-range goal for my graduate education is to become a professor. I often think about the curriculum I would use if I were teaching osteology and about how to integrate new and developing technology to the study of bioarchaeology. For instance, I collaborated with my fiancé to produce a computer program that would quiz me on attributes of bones in order to prepare me for weekly bone quizzes for my osteology class at UVa. Taken to the next level, this program could include scanned photographs or even 3-D imaging of anything from a tooth to a tibia suffering from periosteal inflammation, with the goal that a student can learn to identify fragments and conditions of bone that might not be available in the teaching collection. Most of all, however, I would enjoy doing research as a professor and contributing to the growing body of literature in bioarchaeology.
How'd I do 15 years on?  First -- take a bunch of interesting classes: Check.  Second -- participate in digs overseas (even though it turns out I'm not great at field archaeology): Check.  Third -- do research on the Romans involving biodistance and palaeopathology: Check. Fourth -- become a professor: Check.

What delights me most about this statement, though, is that I proposed 3D imaging of pathological human remains as a teaching tool, and as a way to make human skeletons available to people without access to them.  This was pretty far-reaching in 1999.  I mean, there were 3D scanners and printers -- and they cost a ton of money -- but they weren't in widespread use in social science or digital humanities because, well, digital humanities didn't really exist yet. To put into starker perspective, in 1999, I still had dial-up internet. There was no such thing as Craigslist (my husband and I bought a car through an ad in Usenet!). It would be another couple years until I got a cell phone.  When we were shopping for houses that year, my husband and I borrowed a digital camera, because it was expensive and neither of us had one. And it could only store like two dozen pictures.

We now have sites like Digitised Diseases, which was officially launched in 2013, and I'm just now working with students to create more digital teaching resources with our 3D scanners and printers. This recent uptick in the democratization of information access, though, comes directly out of the open access movement, which I was actually aware of -- in its open source programming form -- two decades ago.

Oof, and now I feel old.

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