Intern at Edwards-Pitman Environmental Inc.

Claire Carden

First coming to college and learning about everything I would have to do along the way was pretty daunting. I went into school not knowing what to expect from an internship, let alone an internship in Anthropology or Archaeology. When I was presented with the option to either participate in a practicum or an internship, I had to do my research to figure out which would work better for me. Both would provide me with the chance to learn more and grow in my field, but ultimately, I decided an internship would give me the best chance possible to build connections outside of academia. I think what had helped me decide was the words of my professors over the years. It is important to have a minimum of three professors you who know and trust, and are in contact with, that can be included in your resume as references and who can help you when you are looking for either a practicum or an internship. I had heard one of my professors, Dr. Powis, talk pretty often about careers in Cultural Resource Management, but I wasn’t sure how to go about looking into internships for that field. I reached out to Dr. Powis soon after and he gave me all the tips he could about getting started in CRM and even helped me get into contact with Edwards-Pitman, the company I would later intern for. Without his help I may not have ended up where I am right now, and I am absolutely thankful to him for all his help getting started. When I initially decided I wanted to intern with Edwards-Pitman, I reached out, but the pandemic had just begun to impact school and work so in the end, I had to wait a full semester to intern with them because of the pandemic. But I remained at the top of their list for potential interns by staying in contact and letting them know that I was still interested in interning the following semester. When the time came, I emailed my contact again to make another pitch for myself and I finally landed an interview and a few weeks later I was the newest Edwards-Pitman archaeology intern.

Edwards-Pitman is an environmental company that carries out archaeological surveys and excavations as part of their long list of services for their clients. As an intern in their archaeology department, I was able to assist with and participate in some of the many projects and surveys that come through. No project is the same as the next, but some can definitely be similar to others. Many of the survey projects are limited to Phase I and Phase II, which includes shovel tests, soil assessment, and a lot of walking around in different environments. Some survey areas can be in heavily developed urban or suburban areas and are easy to traverse, but others can be wooded areas and hillsides. There are certainly more difficult surveys, for example there was a survey that some of the field techs that I worked with were preparing for that was going to be completely in swampland and would mean the techs needed to update a lot of their gear and shoes to work with that environment. With CRM, you need to be prepared for any kind of environment, weather, and wildlife encounters (especially snakes). When working in the field, you should always bring more water than you expect to need, snacks, bug-spray, sunscreen, and a hat. It’s also smart to have everything you need in a backpack that you can bring with you around the survey area. Every trip out to a project location involves reviewing the provided map, splitting up the work for the team, and setting up your field notebook for the specific project being worked on that day. Field notes include the transect and shovel test number, the depth of the shovel test, the different soil layers per depth, and a general description of the vegetation and the surrounding environment for every shovel test. As long as you include all of that information in legible handwriting and in a way that is organized and easy to understand, that is really all that matters. When you go out in the field, you will be teamed up with other field techs, and getting paired with the right team can easily keep spirits high and can make the whole day more enjoyable for everyone.

            Working in the lab, I was able to participate in several different aspects of the job. Much of my time was spent labeling photos and labeling artifact bags, but I also had the chance to wash new artifacts and sort the bag tags for different projects. A lot of the work was tedious and time consuming, but I learned quickly that bringing some headphones and listening to music or a podcast made the time pass much quicker. Labeling photos requires small and steady handwriting that can still be easily read, and because the ink from the pen takes some time to dry it definitely requires patience. At the end of every day, whether I started in the field and ended in the lab or spent the whole day in the lab, I always felt accomplished having finished labeling bags and just one project’s worth of photos (which could be anywhere from 50 to 250 photos). One of the best things about completing lab work is seeing the progress I’ve made since the start of the day laid out in front of me and seeing the table slowly become clearer as the day goes on. Being an intern in the lab gave me more opportunities to interact with the different employees at Edwards-Pitman outside of the archaeology department, but I found that I tended to enjoy working in the field with the other field techs more than sitting at a table all day. The amount of field work compared to the amount of lab work that I completed over the course of my time at Edwards-Pitman was really evenly divided, but there were weeks at a time where the only work available was in the lab meaning I had no time in the field. With the pandemic, many of the bigger projects that had more funding attached were cut down and thus allowed fewer people to work on them. This is unfortunately the case for many of the newer projects for Edwards-Pitman and this made my work only slightly more difficult to accomplish. I quickly noticed that everyone at the company is so warm and welcoming to not just interns but new employees as well, which was wonderful to see as someone who maintains an interest in continuing in the CRM field.

CRM fits into Anthropology under the subfield of Archaeology. It is generally described as the practice of surveying and conserving cultural resources, which can be anything from physical artifacts to full sites within a survey area. Many of the first anthropology courses that I took at KSU were archaeology related, so I learned pretty early into my major about CRM and the work that it involves. However, learning about CRM and participating in CRM are very different things. Being able to go out in the field and figure out for yourself what the work is and what kind of cultural resources are out there is an experience I think any student of anthropology should have. Anthropology is the study of humans and human cultures, each of the subfields covers a different area of study, but everything comes down to human beings. CRM is no different in that every interaction, be it with a client or with the environment, deals with humans and their effect on the past and present. My time at Edwards-Pitman definitely opened my eyes to the different aspects of CRM and archaeology and helped me to build a better understanding of how anthropology can fit into my own daily life. Any anthropology internship like one at Edwards-Pitman can help a student to gain a more in-depth awareness of why anthropology is so important in today’s world and will also allow them to help others in their lives to understand what it is that makes the work so interesting. Personally, being able to explain what I have spent my semester working on to my friends and family has been rewarding, especially seeing the realization of “oh that’s actually really cool” spread across their faces. It has been a genuine pleasure to be able to work with Edwards-Pitman and to meet all the wonderful people who work there.

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