Welcome to my fieldwork blog! My name is Colleen, and I am a Postdoc at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (also referred to by the “insiders” as NSIDC, welcome to the club!). I graduated from Arizona State University last August with my PhD in Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology (commence the jokes about moving from the steamy desert to the land of snow and ice!). I am trained as an anthropological archaeologist, and my dissertation focused on how people living in hot, arid environments (my case studies were centered on the deserts of southern Arizona and the north coast of Peru) sustainably or unsustainably farmed the soils in their agricultural fields with large-scale irrigation systems. As you might imagine, my work at the National Snow and Ice Data Center is refocusing my research areas quite a bit, which is very exciting!


From the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona…

researcher on icy landscape holding massive crab

To the north coast of Norway!

My work at NSIDC is jointly funded by both the Council for Library and Information Resources (clir.org) and the National Science Foundation (nsf.gov), and my job is to increase NSIDC’s capacity to manage and preserve data from social science research in the Arctic. All kinds of interesting social science research is being conducted in the Arctic (for some cool examples, see my colleague Shari Gearheard’s page http://nsidc.org/research/bios/gearheard.html and the Institute of Social and Economic Research http://www.iser.uaa.alaska.edu), and I am one of those social scientists! My research focus has been shifting over the past couple of years from my dissertation research on agriculture and soils to how people in the past mediated risk to climate change in their environment (something we humans are actively dealing with today, too…). The ability to ask this question requires a lot of data over a big region, even though archaeologists typically focus on a single site or habitation during a field season (usually due to time and financial restrictions). Thus, having access to good quality archaeological data collected by other archaeologists over the past decades (and analyzed in my own and unique way) is essential to address large-scale questions like mediating risk to changes in our climate. So, data management, while tedious and annoying at times, is essential for researchers in the future to ask question over the long term and large scale.



Investing in data management is totally worth it for this landscape!akureyri_small Iceland_small


Building on collaborations that I developed in graduate school, I am currently leading a project to develop a system to effectively manage and visualize data collected by researchers with the North Atlantic Biocultural Organization (once again, the “insider” acronym is NABO – find out more on their cool archaeology and beyond projects here – Nabohome.org), which is a collaboration between archaeologists, climate scientists, geographers, and humanists to reconstruct the long-term relationship between humans and the environment in the North Atlantic. We have been funded by the National Science Foundation to hold a few “geek weeks” to brainstorm and create a solution to manage data collected by dozens of researchers over a few decades. Not an easy task!

But now, for the more interesting stuff – the fieldwork! To figure out how to manage the data from NABO, I need to know how the data are collected in the field – something essential to good quality archaeological data. So, I am heading to Iceland for three weeks in August to do archaeological fieldwork to learn how different it is from archaeologist in equatorial deserts (I’m going to go out on the limb, and say… very different). While I am not actively leading my own archaeological project yet (a break after my dissertation project to recharge the brain cells and fieldwork muscles was necessary!), I am hoping this project will both help to inform our data management pursuits for NABO and give me some inspiration for future archaeological project ideas (feel free to throw some ideas out in the comments!) in the North Atlantic.

So, stay tuned for some epically fun field stories (there is always an expensive car getting stuck in deep sand, a person getting lost in the middle of nowhere, and/or a very cool artifact being unexpectedly found) and some beautiful pictures. Enjoy the ride!

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