Thursday, June 26, 2014

Nicaragua captured me in a way I never imagined

I was looking up at the steep, treacherous hill in a series of uphill ledges that lead us up to the waterfall, a tourist attraction on Ometepe, remembering how on the first day when we hiked up the same path to see the capuchins, I felt like crying and keeling over while simultaneously wondering what I had gotten myself into.

I was looking up at that same trail on my last day, wondering if I would be able to make it up all the way this time.

Spoiler alert: I did, and with an ease that still surprises me to this very moment. That trail is an extraordinary representation of this entire trip — I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but with perseverance and a little bit of hope, I found a stronger version of myself at the end of an incredible journey.

That was how we spent our last day on the island of Ometepe, hiking up to the waterfall that we were only able to make it half way up the trail on our first day. Earlier that morning, we presented the research of our final projects in the format of a 10 minute long presentation for the rest of the class. One thing I can honestly say I thank my undergrad experience at Bloomsburg for was the practice I've gained in giving presentations.

Last semester I had four presentations in a period of two weeks, and while I was wondering to myself how I could've possibly managed that type of luck as a second semester senior, I'm also thrilled to have been able to go through my findings with ease in a new setting.

I had mentioned previously that I was interested in the ecological role of the prehensile tail in mantled howler monkeys, or Alouatta palliata, if you're into taxonomy, and after collecting 25 hours worth of data for my final paper I was happy to say that I was able to support my hypothesis.

Out of all the behaviors the primates used their tails for, feeding/foraging was the highest percentage. It's definitely possible that their tails evolved due to high feeding competition, and in the future adding on to that 25 hours of data would help strengthen that hypothesis.

At the beginning of the course my professor, Dr. Bolt, said by the end of this experience we would all be skilled field workers in her eyes. I don't know how much credit I'm allowed to give myself here, but me and the field had some ups and downs for sure.

I've been bitten by mosquitoes to the point where I'm sure I was one, single itchy lump, been pelted with giant grasshoppers that fall out of the trees when the wind blows, nearly assassinated by a scorpion, ran into the barbed wire fence that surrounds the forest on multiple occasions, sweated through all my deodorant (didn't think that was humanly possible) sun burned close to the equator with no aloe vera (yikes) and after hiking six miles up hill everyday just to get to and from the forest, I was sure my calves were going to commit mutiny on me.

But I wouldn't take back a single second of it. This experience showed me everything I was capable of and more, because I think myself and every other student with me surpassed all of our expectations of how this trip would better us for the future.

Fast forward to my last day in the country of Nicaragua. One by one as we all began to dwindle to make our different flights, I watched each of my classmates leave with a big hug, and a pang of sadness in my chest. Just a few hours earlier we were all together, as we had been 24/7 for the past month, and I looked around the airport in Managua alone realizing I was right back where I started.

Physically speaking that is, because the person I was when I landed weeks before is nowhere close to the person I am now.

There was a moment I looked around and realized that I don't know what force brought me to this place, but there's a piece of my heart that will always be tucked away on the island of Ometepe.

So cliche right?

But it's cliche for a reason — it's true. Nicaragua has captured me in a way I never imagined, and as my first home away from home, I think I'll always have the urge to better the country in any way I can. I knew I'd probably enjoy my time abroad in Nicaragua, but I never expected to feel the strong sense of desire I have to return.

Thinking about going abroad? Do it. You'll never regret it, that much I can promise you. I hope anyone who took the time to read this takes away that much from me.

Sometimes in life places will call your name and you'll have no idea why, and memories and moments will capture your heart in a way you never imagined possible. It may be far from home, and it'll be scary, and so much will be unexpected up until the moment everything materializes. You'll be nervous and excited all at the same time, and you'll have to make the decision of whether or not you want to answer that call that's desperately trying to reach you.

From me to you, I sincerely hope you do. All the best,
#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed

Friday, June 20, 2014

Snake Den Group Earthwork … and Goodbyes

The last few days in Ohio were possibly my favorites among the entire field experience. A few of the fieldschool students were relocated and assigned to work at Snake Den (and I was among that group), while the remaining students stayed to complete excavations at our main site – the Balthaser Home Site.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - The Snake Den earthwork which is located a few miles north of the Balthaser site and sits on a high plateau overlooking the valley may have been the ceremonial center for our people who had lived at the Balthaser site homestead some 1,800 years ago. The earthwork includes an embankment and ditch outlining the plateau with mounds and other traces of ceremonial activities inside the embankment.

In 1907 a few "archaeologists" excavated the Snake Den Mounds without real proper care of the site. Techniques for digging were not as precise as they are today. In this year, silver nuggets were discovered within one of the mounds and taken off the property without notifying the landowner. To shorten a long historical background surrounding Snake Den, there is only one piece left of silver remaining at the state museum in Columbus, Ohio.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - It looks like this was the only officially noted early exploration of this earthwork and it has remained virtually untouched since that time – protected and cared for by a great local family – the Barrs.

One can only imagine the excitement to be assigned to work at this site. It's been many years since the site has been excavated, properly at that, and to be one of the first students to work on it was a good feeling. The last few days during our time in Ohio we were split into groups to “open units” at this earthwork site to ‘groundtruth’ the results of a new technique now used to ‘see’ below the ground before excavation.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - Dr. Jarrod Burks is the third archaeologist who works with Dr. Pacheco and Bloomsburg’s Dr. Wymer on these Hopewell moundbuilder sites. Dr. Burk’s uses magnetometry which senses slight changes in the magnetic field just below the soil, creating a map of potential features (pits, earthovens, etc.) for us to explore – any disturbed or burned soil, for example, will have a higher magnetic reading.

Our groups were placed in 1m x 1m test pits that showed high readings on Jarrod Burks' magnetometry results. Within 20 centimeters and less than an hour of digging we found a few bladelets and flint ridge flakes typical of the Hopewell culture of 100 B.C. to A.D. 400. This was good news for us as it meant that we were definitely coming across something good.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - This unit had been placed over a mysterious circular ‘blob’ revealed by the new sensing equipment that showed two long rows of large (3 foot in diameter) circular features, lined up almost like an avenue, that went from the center of the earthwork to the south outside the area that had been surveyed for magnetic readings.

After a while of digging we found charcoal and we immediately thought it meant it was a ceremonial fire because of its location and the amount of items we had come across. After we exposed the feature more and more and plan mapped it, it was time to cut into it and see what we could find.

Properly cutting into the feature meant leaving one half untouched so we could see what the feature would look like as a whole (the profile reveals the interior/internal ‘shape’ of the ground disturbance made by these ancient peoples). After much digging (around 60 centimeters into the dirt) we finally realized that we had come across a giant post mold that measured around 90 cm. (nearly 3 feet) in diameter.

What was even more exciting was that it was the biggest one ever found! We were all pretty happy, as by the time the feature had been fully exposed it was our last day out at Snake Den. It felt like we were really part of history because the site remained untouched for so many years. It was truly an honor to be a part of the first team to really have worked on such a site even if it was just for a few days.

(DeeAnne Wymer) - But what also made this special is that the landowners were so interested and so pleased by our work that they want next year’s fieldschool to come back to the site for further exploration.

I cannot think of a better way to have ended my experience in this field school. The last day was backfill day and we all worked together to close down the units and refill our units created by our hard work. It was a bittersweet feeling to leave but I feel as if my time spent in this field school was truly wonderful and worthwhile. I have never felt more confident that Anthropology is what I was meant to do.

Being in a site of around 2,000 years old can be a truly humbling experience. The way people lead their lives, how they function as a society and what is important to them, past or present, is something that I feel will always be important. We are different, and we are alike, and truly understanding the diversities of people and what it is to be human is truly stimulating to me. I learned so much about myself, as well as understanding the field of archaeology and that's all I could have asked of it.

    — Jasmin Velez, is a junior anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

Monday, June 16, 2014

When a positive reaction has double benefit

Carbon dioxide is often considered a by-product of fossil fuel consumption — and not a useful one, either. But what if carbon dioxide could be turned into something useful or even an energy source? Jocelyn Legere, a Bloomsburg University student, is working on a project at Yale University this summer to do just that.

Monday, June 9 - Today was the first group meeting. I had to present what I did in the lab last week, which wasn’t much. Mine was pretty much the only reaction that works! That’s not saying much since the two reactions that I did work almost all the time.
Tuesday, June 10 - I had a meeting with the director of the program to check in with how my project is working out. It went really well.

That evening a big group of us went to the planetarium to see a show, and it was really cool! It was a nice break from being in the lab.

Wednesday, June 11 - I learned how to set up the catalyst I will be running for the rest of my time here. It all went well. Fairly uneventful day.

Thursday, June 12 - Came into the lab this morning to find out that the lab was flooded over night! The water from my condenser had flooded the drain, my hood, our lab and the lab below us! NOT GOOD!

But it all cleaned up quickly and no damage was done to anyone’s reactions or equipment.
Did find out later that day that the reaction that I set up worked! Good news! I set up two more reactions to go over night.

Friday, June 13 - Thankfully this morning the lab was not flooded and the problem fixed! Also found out that my reactions worked again! Got to go home early since my reactions worked!

Saturday, June 15 - My boyfriend came to visit me this weekend, so we went to East Rock and saw an aerial view of New Haven.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

Friday, June 13, 2014

When they're not sleeping, they're eating ... a relatable mentality

The days have begun swiftly molding together as more and more time flies here on the island of Ometepe. Literally, by 6 p.m. it's dark.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m. is no longer as tiring, and sitting in a pile of dirt and leaves for hours whilst staring up and into the lives of our primate friends has become second nature.

Today, it rained on all of us as we attempted to go about our fieldwork, and we made the best of it like the good sports that we are.

As a group, we've become closer than I'd ever imagined, and I already know that these girls will be my friends for life. Our adventures as we explore both the island, as well as our academic pursuits within primatology, have become a truly unique experience all around.

One of the unique aspects of Ometepe is that it is home to ancient petroglyphs, symbolic rock carvings by the island natives which can be seen at various places around the island, one of them being the White Tree Forest. Also home to mantled howlers, the White Tree Forest is about an hour walk from the conservancy, so after a morning of observation we took a trip to see the petroglyphs.

It was a truly humbling experience to not only see, but touch with our own hands rock carvings that are around 3,000 years old. But first, we were able to witness the extraordinary sight of a group of around 25 howlers in one tree all interacting with one another. Between being enveloped in their booming howls and watching them hang, swing, grab, and fight one another, it was hard not to be overwhelmed.

But it was a truly breathtaking insight to what life is like for non-human primates. Throughout the course of our observations we begin to become more personal with the howlers, and although some of our references to them are jokingly anthropomorphic, a lot of what we observe does bear a true resemblance to aspects of human life.

We also got a chance to kayak out to a place called Monkey Island one morning, a home to habituated white-faced capuchin monkeys. It was important to see the behavioral and morphological differences between capuchins and howlers. Howlers are very sedentary and have a very specific behavioral pattern, and by that I mean they sleep, a lot, 65% of the time as a matter of fact.

Capuchins however are much more active and expressive. It was interesting to see the parallel from an evolutionary perspective, not to mention kayaking while throwing bread and fruit at the capuchins was pretty cool, too.

These past few days have consisted of us collecting data for our final projects which has been increasingly more rewarding - being able to employ everything we've learned thus far and conduct real scientific research in all its fulfillment. I can hardly believe how much my time here is quickly dwindling down, mostly because I never thought a unique, foreign place could begin to feel so much like home.

Who knew cold showers could be so refreshing?

I may never be able to look at rice, beans, or plantains the same way again, but that's a small price to pay for the extraordinary experiences I've been afforded by being here. Besides, the coffee is phenomenal. And so are the people, and the places, and primates, even the bugs. Okay, maybe not the bugs. Finding a scorpion in our room one evening wasn't a part of this trip I want to put on the highlight reel, but I could still gush about it forever.

I'm anticipating finishing my data collection over the next few days - my hypothesis for my research is whether or not the use of the prehensile tail in mantled howler monkeys is used primarily in foraging or not and whether it is more frequently used by adult males or females.

Since the presumption is that the evolution of the prehensile tail occurred due to competition and availability of food resources, I'm anxious to see the role it plays in the life of the howlers. When they're not sleeping, they're eating, and I think many people, myself included, can certainly relate to that mentality!

Until next time,
#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Finally an awesome find!

My group and I had been working on exposing a brick kiln for a week before we finally completed it. It was a special project Dr. Pacheco, “Paco”, had chosen to do as a favor to Don, the landowner of our site. The brick kiln that we were excavating actually made the bricks that were used to build Don’s home and he was very excited to also see the project come to a close.

At the closure of our unit, which was now large enough that most of us can sit in it; we were moved over to a new unit that Don claimed to always find bladelets, flakes and flint in large amounts.

That very day we went through the 20 centimeters and uncovered a large amount of flakes and flint pieces. While that was exciting the following day proved to be much more worthwhile.

As my group and I dug our unit the next day we were constantly stopping and running for cover as scattered storms started and ended periodically throughout the day. By noon my group and I covered as much ground as possible completing the goal of 40 centimeters.

While we were cleaning the walls that caved in the deeper we went into the ground it just so happened that a pretty cool find would soon pop out. The minute the trowel scraped against the walls of our unit, a beautiful, pretty intact spear point fell right out.

What was cool about it was how great of a condition it was in. Our group who had been used to seeing mostly brick for the past week jumped up and down screaming from delight.

As we were furthest from most of the group (we nicknamed our unit The Sahara for the lack of people and large amount of heat) no one knew why we were jumping around. The sun really does do crazy things to the mind.

I screamed out towards Doc and Paco who were pretty far away but walked over expecting to see just a small blade or arrowhead. When they saw the find they too seemed impressed by its condition.

It turned out that the spear point was a middle woodland Hopewell Snyder point, and it was the best one in Don’s collection thus far. That day really made it all worthwhile. Sometimes when you find yourselves digging for hours and having nothing to show for it, it can be discouraging.

However I cannot even begin to describe the feeling that one has when they finally do find something as beautiful as a spear point. To know that what you are holding in your hands was once used for the survival of a native tribe is pretty exciting…not the mention that it was almost 2,000 years old!
    — Jasmin Velez, is a senior anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave

After 10 long hard days under the sun of digging we finally reached our day off! It doesn’t seem like 10 days is a very long time but working eight hours a day in the scorching hot field does take a toll on ones physical body…and let’s not fail to mention the things the sun can do to ones mind. Needless to say, when we were came to end of our tenth day and were awarded with a day off everyone was more than excited.

The next day we all awoke gratefully at 9 a.m., a considerable amount of sleeping in as we had been waking up everyday at 6 in the morning since our arrival. We reached dressed and packed up our lunches and rode in our school vans from Canal Winchester (the location of our camp base) about an hour to Hocking Hills State Park where we were to visit both Ash Cave and Old Man’s Cave.

Our first stop was Ash Cave, named as so because large piles of ashes believed to be remains of Indian Campfires were found by the first settlers to arrive. It didn’t take too long to be captivated by the beautiful scenery.

Within the first five minutes of walking down a man-made path we were greeted by a small waterfall that can be seen by standing under a larger cave looking up.

If one chose to keep walking, which you would’ve been crazy not to, you would soon after follow another man-made path this one of stone stairs which led to a higher point where you can overlook the entire cave and it’s surroundings.

It was large enough to make anyone feel small. Like most people would, a few of us decided it would be a great idea to sit by the very edges of the cliffs to take some cool photographs.

After an hour lunch at Ash Cave we drove the five miles to our second destination for the day at Old Man’s Cave. If one thought Ash Cave was large they would have quickly rethought that previous statement, as the caves here felt almost never ending.

The paths led you up and down, over and under, and back around so many times that if there weren’t any signs telling the directions towards the next sections you would have definitely have gotten lost.

Just like our last genius idea of sitting near the edges of cliffs at Ash Cave, this time we decided to climb up the highest of rocks and into enclosed spaces to explore.

The paths took longer to explore, but the sights were just, if not more beautiful, than they were at Ash Cave. The best part was when a group of us ran into an old man sitting on a rock wearing a robe. Whether it was for show, or it genuinely was just an old man sitting on a rock we all found amusement in the sight. The cave was named after a hermit man who lived there in the 1800’s and the old man only added to the excitement our of explorations.

With a quick visit to the gift shops to buy promised souvenirs for parents, siblings and friends most of us bought snow cones to end the day before we headed back to camp to return to our routine the next day.
    — Jasmin Velez, is a senior anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

A record Hopewell discovery?

Lately at the Balthaser Home Site there have been some really exciting things happening with the feature I was working on (feature 14). About a week and a half ago we discovered a significant amount of pottery sticking out of the north wall of the south-west quarter of our feature.

When we were finally able to begin excavating the north-west quarter, we discovered that this pottery was so large, that Doc and Paco both think it to be one of the largest most complete pots ever found from the Hopewell during this time period.

At the same time we added two new people to our feature and began excavating the south-east quarter at the same time. In that area we discovered some more pieces of mica and some larger fragments of bone.

Finally with only 10 cm of Feature 14 in the north-west quarter left to expose it was time to get the pottery out of the ground. The morning of the extraction we learned that it was going to rain a mere 5 hours from the time of arriving at the site, which meant we had that amount of time to micro-excavate the pottery and remove it from the ground.

Two Geneseo Students and I working very closely, calmly and quickly to remove all pieces inside of the larger portion of the pot got the task done just in time before the rain. All together we took out over 70 pieces inside of the larger piece of pot! Towards the end we used the help of several other students, teaching-assistants, and professors to help extract the large portion from the feature. We were able to get everything done just minutes before the rain started to fall!

Today I was able to assist in the soil sample flotation of a bunch of different samples from all over the Balthaser Home Site. Fortunately I was able to also process some samples from feature 14. We were able to perform the wet lab outside at Mound City in Chillicothe, Ohio. In some of the feature 14 samples we were able to recover a lot of organic material, some pottery fragments, flakes, and even saw some flakes of mica!

The experience at mound city today gave me time to reflect upon myself and upon what I have been a part of for the last 18 days. Truly, I have solidified my passion in anthropology and I don’t think I would have had such an amazing experience at any other university or with any other professors leading the students to such great knowledge and giving us the tools to use to become truly successful one day.

I am so thankful to be a part of such an amazing archaeological dig!
    — Stevie Spishock, is an anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

Researching new uses for CO2 at Yale University

Carbon dioxide is often considered a by-product of fossil fuel consumption — and not a useful one, either. But what if carbon dioxide could be turned into something useful or even an energy source? Jocelyn Legere, a Bloomsburg University, is working on a project at Yale University this summer to do just that.

Monday, June 2 – moved into Yale graduate housing. A much bigger room than I expected. Met a few other students in the program; one was a chemistry major and the other an anthropology major. Explored the building we would be living in and walked around New Haven.

Tuesday, June 3 - The SURF orientation was in the morning. This was where we received our ID cards and food stipend. Sadly, most of the people in the program are not from the east coast, so depositing this money was an issue for the majority of us, but we seemed to get it taken care of.

I met my principle investigator, Nilay Hazari, for the summer, and the graduate student that was going to help me through the first couple days in the lab until my graduate student advisor returned. I also met the rest of the research group and everyone seemed very nice and helpful.

Wednesday, June 4 - Today was a day full of safety training. Most of training was not relevant to my project but it was to others. The training took place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Lunch was included so that was great! During the radiation training session, the intern who was helping the safety instructor graduated from Bloomsburg University last spring! She graduated from the physics department and was at Yale for an internship before she headed off to graduate school!

Thursday, June 5 - This was my first day in the Lab! I was making the precursor for the ligand that I will be using for the rest of the summer. We had some issues with solubility but got it all worked out. The reaction took 3.5 hours! I got into the lab around 9 a.m. and then left at 6 a.m.! It was a long first day but it was good to be back in a chemistry lab.

Friday, June 6 - Second day in the lab and much of the same techniques repeated from the previous day’s events just with different starting materials. Another long day in the lab, but the first week was over!

Saturday, June 7 - A few of us walked down to the shore to sit and read and enjoy the beautiful day. It was a 2 mile walk down and back, a total of 4 miles! Once we got back, we found out that there was a bus that takes you right down there!

A group of us went to an Ethiopian restaurant! That was a very new experience. It is family style eating where you unroll the bread that you are given and lay it on top of the different dishes and pinch and scoop up the food.

Sunday, June 8 - I went on a run with a friend and we found a community water park! It was pretty hot and humid so it was nice to know that it's available!
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Bewildering beauty surrounded by bellowing howls

I can hardly believe it's only been three days so far that I've been here on the truly engaging and mesmerizing island of Ometepe, because my first few days here have become entirely unforgettable already.

It was only a few days ago that I somewhat apprehensively boarded my first flight alone, and an international one at that, to begin my journey to Nicaragua. My advice coming out of that experience is to try your best to learn a basic understanding of the language of the places you're traveling to.

I was lucky to already have some understanding of Spanish, because I changed gates at an airport in Panama on my way here and all the signs were in Spanish and the people there spoke it fluently and almost exclusively.

It makes traveling and interacting with the people who live in the area to which you were traveling a little bit easier, although its not necessary. Once I actually made it to the airport in Managua, the capitol of Nicaragua, I was met by my other group members at a hotel nearby the airport where we spent the night, then boarded our ferry ride out to the island.

As we approached the view of the volcano in the distance all of our excitement grew about what the next few weeks would have in store for us. We shared stories of where we all came from, our schools, our majors, and came to the realization that without this experience none of us would have ever met in life.

Going abroad is an excellent way to not only continue your education in a foreign place, but meet new people who you never would have come across otherwise. After being together with these six other girls in my class for the past few days, I'm already incredibly humbled by them and all the aspects of their lives they've shared with me.

When we finally did arrive on the island and at the conservancy, we were all bewildered by how beautiful it all was, but we weren't allowed to revel in it for too long. Our first order of business was to hike up and see if we could get a view of the white faced capuchin monkeys that lived in a nearby forest.

Unfortunately, the capuchins are a little shy, so we didn't get a chance to see them but we did get to see the monkeys we are studying - mantled howler monkeys. I knew by their name they were vocal primates, but there is nothing like hearing that deep, menacing vocalization in person.

Male howler monkeys have an enlarged hyoid bone in their throats that allow them to make that noise, and it is truly inexplicable.

After getting a first glimpse at them our first day there, we woke up the next morning at 4:30 a.m. to walk out to the Coffee Forest, where we are primarily studying howlers, which is about 6 miles from where the conservancy is.

Nicaragua is close to the equator and therefore very warm, so we leave early in the morning to beat the heat as well as observe the howlers at a time of the day where they'll be active. Howler monkeys are sedentary and arboreal (tree dwelling) so it's important to pick a time where there's more observable behavior to study.

Seeing them in their natural habitat is undeniably fascinating, and our first few days we're being taught basic methods of primatological observation and what to look for as we're studying them. With our binoculars, waterproof notebooks and ambition it's been a tiring although entirely rewarding experience watching these incredible primates leap from tree to tree right in front of our own eyes.

So far we've been able to pick our their genders, approximate ages, some identifying features including scars, limb injuries and coat colorings. After our mornings out in the field, we come back for lunch and then lecture is usually sometime shortly after.

Today on our way back to the conservancy, we were able to see a group of howlers that made their way into one of the local mango trees, and as we looked around to see where their bellowing howl was coming from, watched as half eaten mangoes were being pelted from the trees.

It was not only humorous to see but being able to enjoy the fresh mangoes that fell from the tree was another added bonus. They're delicious, thank you howlers!

And as the sun sets another day on the island of Ometepe, I can only hope for more wonder and excitement as we delve into studying these fascinating primates. I've always been attracted to the idea of primatology because non-human primates are like us, and studying them is not only important to their species but provides us important insight about our own humanity. I hope to make more important observations about not only humankind as a whole, but myself as well as I let this wonderful experience further unfold.

#BUAbroad #HuskyUnleashed

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hard work and plenty of dirt

The site we are working at is in Ohio near Canal Winchester, called the Balthaser Home Site. The site is on land that is currently in use for farming, so this area is pretty rural.

Accompanying a group of Bloomsburg anthropology majors is a group of students from the Geneseo University in New York, who are also anthropology majors. We are excavating what we believe to be a site where the Ohio Hopewell Indians once lived.

We are all living in tents at a local campground for a month. So far it is clear that some students are more cut-out for the tenting life than others. It seems to be a common thing between students that they do not really deal well with insects.

The First few days we spent digging test pits and learning some techniques for our archaeology. During this time it also became clear to some students that archaeology may not be as glamorous as they had once conceived.

The hard lesson also became clear that sunscreen is not optional when working in a field for 8 hours a day with no shade.

Currently I am in a group of three students and we are excavating Feature-14 of the Balthaser Home Site. It currently is a 2-by-2 meter pit divided into four quadrants. The first quadrant below the plow zone we began was the north-east quarter. In this section I and two team members, discovered mica.

The piece we found was relatively large and in good condition. Mica was typically used for ceremonial purposes. The next day we discovered some of the largest pottery that both my advisor and the Geneseo Professor had ever discovered or even seen in their careers.

So far archaeology is everything I thought it would be: hard work, and always being covered in dirt.
    — Stevie Spishock, is an anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.

Getting into the groove of things

The week has passed by much faster than I think most of us anticipated. It feels like just yesterday most of us were getting down the basics on how to learn to scale sites to grid paper as well as changing our minds from the Standard System to the Metric System.

A week later we have now become pros at understanding how to convert our paces to a simple mathematical equation that converts them to meters.

However besides the technological processes it feels as if we have grown close to all the members in the field school in such a short matter of time.

Perhaps it's our mutual feelings towards getting up at six in the morning, or becoming accustomed to working in such hot climates that we have a mutual hatred of the sun and a newfound appreciation of shade and the wind; whatever the reason it can be rest assured that everyone surrounding you in every minute of the day is willing to take a few minutes to help you apply a bit of sunscreen so you don't burn to a crisp.

We have become experts at digging up pits and understanding the importance of keeping our units leveled as well as keeping note of every detail from soil color changes to noting the little rocks sticking out of the walls of your unit.

Compared to the first day to now day seven of working on the field I feel as if we've finally gotten into the groove of things and are only going to become much more efficient in our digs.

Even cooler to me is how quickly my group and I have been able to identify the differences between natural rocks and flint compared to Hopewell worked items.

While I can say we've found mostly a ton of fire-cracked rock and a few couple items here and there of bladelet pieces I am hopeful that our search and hard work will only lead to a great find. We've had a couple so far, one pit even found Mica!

My group that has been assigned to a historic feature picked up by Doc and Paco's friend Jared's magnetometry, has been pretty lucky to have been able to expose the feature and identify that what we thought was an old sugar mill is actually a brick kiln…and boy is there a LOT of brick. For now though we will continue on our digs in the morning and enjoying the campfire bonding at night.
    — Jasmin Velez, is a senior anthropology major.
#CollaborativeLearning #HuskyUnleashed

DeeAnne Wymer, professor of anthropology, and a group of Bloomsburg University students hit the road each spring in mid-May to spend four weeks in southern Ohio digging at a Hopewell habitation site. The archeological field school experience enables student teams to rely on new imaging technologies to uncover another living site of the Mound Builders from 2,000 years ago.