“I somewhat stumbled my way into archaeology and paleoclimatology. When I was younger, I was a voracious reader. I especially loved reading any books I could find about world history. In high school I realized I had an interest in languages, which led me to temporarily pursue a degree in International Studies here at LSU; at least, until I took my first anthropology class.
In ANTH 1003, in the second semester of my freshman year, I had what some would call a “come to Jesus” moment. Here was a field of study I could embrace! Here was a way for me to study languages, people, and the past! I switched majors not long after. However, I was confused about which specialized subfield I should follow. Initial interest in linguistics gave way to forensic and biological anthropology, which led to archaeology. On my first dig, in Peru with Dr. David Chicoine, I fell in love. I knew that there was no other possibility for me. If I couldn’t be an archaeologist, life would be much less interesting.
I accompanied Dr. Rebecca Saunders and her students to a site on the coast of Louisiana, and broadened my understanding of the discipline. I still loved it. I applied to the Master’s program at LSU, and worked with both Drs. Saunders and Chicoine again. I developed and finished my thesis, and officially graduated August 2015. My thesis examines the movement of waste through the streets, plazas, and rooms of the ancient urban center of Caylán. Located on the north-central coast of Peru in the lower Nepeña Valley, Caylán was a thriving settlement over 2000 years ago. I presented some of my research at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting in Honolulu,Hawai’i in 2013.
While writing my thesis I worked as a car washer for a major rental company, and was lucky enough to have an opportunity to work with the US Forestry Service as well (which hires quite a few archaeologists). However, one of the most important events during those years (outside of my thesis) was a project that would eventually become my dissertation topic.
I began taking advantage of the joint nature of our department about two years into my Master’s program. I took classes on paleoclimate and sclerochronology, and developed class projects for both that involved research into El Niño and its effect on marine mollusk populations (in particular bivalves). I presented on this research at a conference in Wales in 2013, setting the course for my PhD project on human-environment interactions and climate science.
My PhD research takes advantage of the disciplinary breadth of Geography and Anthropology at LSU. On the paleoclimate side, I am using short-lived (<5 years) marine bivalves to examine fluctuations in El Niño intensity in the past. On the human side, I am researching how ancient Andean peoples collected and ate bivalves, as well as used their shells. I plan to bring these two approaches together to answer questions about ancient subsistence economies, climatic influences on human adaptations and vice versa, and the political decisions made in the exploitation of marine resources.