Building a Literature Bank in Forensic Anthropology Builds Team-Based Skills for Graduate School

Lauren Mitchell, Annaleise Schneider, and Caitlin Hobbs

While the summer semester came with additional challenges because of the coronavirus, these challenges did not put a damper on academic curiosity and endeavors. Throughout the summer I had the opportunity to take a directed applied research course with Dr. Gooding. Through this course I was able to establish a deeper appreciation for the research process. I conducted literature searches and paraphrased research studies and books. Additionally, I learned new methods behind age estimation techniques in forensic anthropology using various skeletal markers. All the while, care was taken to ensure that academic rigor was on par with what we as students would experience in person. Dr. Gooding had online team meetings with us every few weeks to discuss our progress and was always available on our team chat. I also worked on an outreach project for the anthropology open house in order to introduce students to opportunities in biological anthropology within the department. All in all, I learned many valuable new skills with my experience as a research assistant with Dr. Gooding for the summer. From gathering information to aid in the research process and collecting information to synthesizing the information from the source articles concisely. These things will be valuable for my future in graduate school. – Mitchell

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our group research work was shifted to a virtual classroom. While a virtual classroom might seem like a difficult place to conduct group research, our group found we were able to communicate and cooperate from a distance, both effectively and efficiently. Our group conducted meetings intermittently via MS teams, allowing us to chat and collaborate on our research while also providing the unique opportunity to get to know each other and meet one another’s pets. We gained experience in graduate level applications of research skills through intensive research and review, and we were each able to focus on our personal areas of interest. Personally, I was able to explore methods and practices used in the field of forensic anthropology, and to take a detailed look into trauma interpretation, pathological conditions and anomalies, forensic scene recovery, taphonomy, and methods used to estimate the postmortem interval. Towards the end of the semester, we were able to return to campus for a few days for in-person teamwork, cultivating and organizing the skeletal collection for the Department of Geography and Anthropology. Throughout the semester, I gained valuable insight into methods and applications relevant to my field of interest, experience compiling and succinctly annotating articles, and an understanding of team research. This knowledge proved to be exceedingly valuable for my current and future academic endeavors, and subsequently, for my career aspirations. – Schneider

Moving online during the COVID-19 pandemic was definitely a challenge, and with a different group of people it would have posed an issue. Fortunately, everyone involved with our project were the kind of people who could make sure they got their part done with just a few Microsoft Team meetings or reaching out for help if needed in the team chat. The occasional guest appearance of everyone’s pets was just an added bonus. The subject field was wide enough that all of us were able to choose specific topics within the field of forensics. For instance, I don’t have much interest in the medico-legal side of the field and don’t plan on going into the law enforcement field, but I have interest in ancient cultures and grave retrievals so I chose topics relevant to identification of sex, ancestry, and age in skeletons, personal identification, and comingling issues. Unfortunately, unlike the others in my group, I was unable to make it to campus for any extra in-person projects. Regardless, I was still able to gain valuable experience and knowledge working at a graduate level through collecting the necessary studies and annotating them. This experience will be incredibly important moving forward with attending graduate school and later, a career in the field of anthropology. – Hobbs

Exploring Introductions to Biological Anthropology Before College Using Textbook Content Analysis

Abby Hill

            I wanted to do this project for my Directed Applied Research because I had never even heard of anthropology before coming to college. I chose to do Anthropology 1101 to satisfy a core requirement and immediately fell in love with the discipline. I changed my major to anthropology in the same semester.

            Starting this project, I identified key concepts of biological anthropology and created three main categories: primatology, paleoanthropology, and microevolution. I created more subcategories for each larger category by further identifying specific themes and topics like primate adaptations, Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, and misconceptions. By using these, it allowed me to “code” and to analyze qualitative data. I gathered high school biology textbooks from the Teacher Resource and Activity Center in the education building. I only ended up getting five, but I transcribed each section (microevolution, primates, and human evolution) into an Excel spreadsheet. I also took pictures of each figure or diagram in the sections to compare information. Then I used NVivo software to code all of the text and to analyze the themes and concepts that were most commonly used.

Bar graph representing some of the primate species included in the textbooks.

            After doing this project, I found that neither Cobb County nor the Georgia Department of Education require schools to teach biological anthropology in high school. The concepts of microevolution, primatology, and paleoanthropology were available in the high school textbooks, but the primate and human evolution sections were not required to be taught. Four out of the five textbooks were co-authored by the same person which made the content and pictures similar, if not identical. Finding out that anthropology in general wasn’t taught at any level before collegiate, but psychology and sociology are, was a little frustrating because anthropology seems to not get enough attention as a social science. But I’m hopeful that as more disciplines emerge and gain popularity, it will raise more awareness for younger students looking for paths in life that may not be introduced in the public-school system.

Bones on the Road

Marcus Pettiford

For my practicum, I was given the opportunity to work with Dr. Gooding on public outreach and the expansion of Forensic Anthropology within community schools. My overall goal was to create a Forensic Anthropology Traveling Trunk designed to teach grades K-5. While the thought of this creation may have sounded it easy, it was rather challenging creating each activity based on the State of Georgia’s standards.  My goals were easily accomplished by working with teachers from different schools when it came to designing my Traveling Trunk. With the help of public educators, I wanted to create activities that would promote forensic anthropology but also in a fun way that students would be interested in participating.

Throughout the semester, I was also taking Lab in Forensic Anthropology which helped guided me when it came to preparing my activities.  My finished product was a mobile traveling case that public educators can use to teach students about Forensic Anthropology. The trunk consisted of four different activities, Sex estimation, Human vs. Animal Identification, Trauma Analysis, and Long Bones Identification. Lastly, if given the opportunity I would like to expand more on my research and see how other public educators and students across America enjoy the use of Traveling Trunks.

Zooarchaeology on Display

Christie Eades

This semester I had to opportunity to create a comparative collection of animal bones for Investigators and students to study. This involved collecting animals remains and processing them to be able to see the anatomical and morphological differences between human bone and non-human. Another aspect of the project was collecting animal bones from local butcher shops to show what domesticated animal bones look like compared to other native wildlife species.

During the Spring of 2019 over 700 animal bones were analyzed, collected and cataloged. I created an Excel spreadsheet of the species of animals I collected along with number of bones and type. Animal bones in the collection featured: American Black Bear, Armadillo, Beaver, Bobcat, Cougar, Cow Coyote, Domestic Cat, Domestic Dog, domestic Ferret, Domestic Pig, Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, Easter Gray Squirrel, Grey, Fox, Horse, Raccoon, Red Wolf, Striped Skunk, Virginia Opossum, White Tailed Deer, and Wild Juvenile Boar.

Another aspect of the project was creating a display case of animal skulls to show the differences between cranial and dental features along with how it changes along species.  Finally, I took photos of comparing the morphological differences of the animals listed above compared to human. The photos were compiled into a manual that compared each bone to human. The manual can be used in the field or even classroom setting to identify animal vs. human bone.

KSU Anthro Goes to the Georgia Academy of Science

March, 2019- KSU Anthropology gave five presentations this year at the annual Georgia Academy of Science meeting at the University of North Georgia, Gainesville. This conference is a great opportunity for students to present their research in a low-stress environment. Students can also submit manuscripts for publication to the Georgia Journal of Science. This is a fantastic way to build your CV and get started on your academic journey. Congratulations to all!

EVALUATION OF MISSISSIPPIAN PERIOD HUNTING PRACTICES IN GEORGIA**, Bryant C. Long*

PATTERNS OF SWIFT CREEK INTERACTION IN THE CHATTAHOOCHEE RIVER VALLEY, Gary Owenby*

ENERGY EXPENDITURE ACROSS THE ETOWAH CHEIFDOM: TESTING A HUMAN MODEL AGAINST ESTABLISHED ALGORITHMS**, Alice F. Gooding, Joseph Eleam*, and Patrick Wilborn*

TESTING ANCESTRAL HOMOGENEITY OF ANATOMICAL TEACHING CRANIA**, Christopher M. Goden, Alice F. Gooding

ENGAGING WITH THE PUBLIC: AN EXAMINATION OF AN ANTHROPOLOGY OUTREACH PROGRAM, Hannah D. Bauguess*

End of Anthropology section presentations on Saturday- what a great group!
KSU Anthro student Hannah gave a strong presentation about her efforts to engage Atlanta area communities with anthropology.
KSU Anthro senior, Chris, won the award for Best Undergraduate Anthropology Paper!

A Sweet Tooth for Dental Anthropology

Ashleigh Freeman

For my last semester, I chose to do a practicum with Dr. Gooding. I was lucky enough to get a practicum that was aligned with research I had done previously in an osteology field school in Greece and that I found interesting. My overall goal was to create a collection of teeth that can be used to teach various classes in the department. Also, I wanted to create a couple of extra sets for Dr. Smith to take with her to Greece. For classes like the Human Skeleton and Lab in Physical Anthropology, having hands-on access to teeth can help students gain a deeper understanding of the importance of teeth.

I worked throughout the semester, learning as much as I could about human dentition through books and articles. I then used that knowledge to create collections of wear patterns in each type of teeth. I created displays of show teeth (which is the perfect example of that tooth) and funky teeth (which contained caries, fillings, and grills). Writing the final paper at the end of the project shows how much you learn over the semester, conferring a sense of expertise in that area of anthropology. After sorting through approximately 1,700 teeth, I had all the sets ready, so I built little displays for the classroom. I hope my practicum can help someone down the road feel more confident when they learn about teeth!

Project Chimps, Morgantown, GA

Taylor Dockery

My internship at Project Chimps changed my entire perspective on what I could pursue with a career in anthropology. I am highly interested in biological anthropology and fully intend to obtain my Masters in biological anthropology, but when it came to choosing an internship, I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and try something new. Fortunately for me, working as a chimpanzee caregiver at Project Chimps was the once in a lifetime internship that I was lucky enough to experience. As an intern, I was assigned to an experienced chimpanzee caregiver, who was my mentor and taught me everything I needed to know in terms of chimp behavior and safety. Each day, I would arrive at the sanctuary at 8 a.m. and the chimps would be waiting in the ‘villa’ (housing area for the chimps) for us to begin our daily routine of feeding them and cleaning their bedroom area and porches, which required extensive scrubbing daily.

Spending time with the chimps in the afternoon after the day’s final rush truly kept me on my toes because their interactions, from an anthropological perspective, are very similar to our human interactions. Meal time, in particular, allowed my interpretive mind to see the complex social interactions at play and understand chimpanzee social hierarchy. I began to see that some chimps never had their food stolen but other chimps, always had their food stolen because they were little.

Apart from beginning to understand the complexity of chimp social relationships and actions, I found myself beginning to see the characters of each chimp come through the more time I spent with them. Within three days of working at the sanctuary, I knew the names and faces of all 11 chimps that were housed in my ‘villa’. A couple of weeks in, I began to fall in love and truly know each chimp on a personal level. Before I knew it, I found myself remembering that this one absolutely loves peaches or that another one would soon steal my heart and always want me to blow bubbles for him (as can be seen in the photo). Ultimately, the internship required hard work, lots of sweat and dedication, but mostly it required love and the desire to make a change. Helping better the lives of these retired medical research chimpanzees was the first and foremost reason I chose the sanctuary as my internship, but the chimps ultimately ended up giving me so much more than I ever could have offered them. I truly do not believe I could have picked a more wonderful facility and group of people to intern with because they gave me more than I had ever expected. It took no time at all for me to realize that anthropology has so many more doors to open than I knew that it could, and I am excited for a lifetime of being able to pursue so many wonderful career paths thanks to anthropology. Who knows… the next time you see me I might just be the next Jane Goodall.