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.