DIGTECH – APN – PCS – Codifi: The Adventure Continues

coda_logo_gray_800x8002015: #260 The Journey Continues

2014: More Companies, More Changes

2013: DayofArch2013 – Continuing Changes

2012: Day of Archaeology 2012

2011: Part 1 and Part 2

Thanks again to the organizers for putting this on year after year!

It seems like I’m always starting new companies and doing different things when the Day of Archaeology comes around. I think it’s important to keep things fresh and interesting. Before I talk about my day it’s become somewhat of a tradition with my posts to give an update of what I’m doing with my businesses. So, here it goes.

DIGTECH

For my 2015 post I mentioned working on a couple of big projects. The one I was on at the time wrapped up in February of this year. I employed nine people over the course of the project, paid out over $250,000 in pay and per diem, surveyed 30,000 acres, recorded 165 sites, and over 2,000 isolated finds. It was quite the project and quite the year. Since then, I’ve focused on a few other things in this list. On the Day of Archaeology this year, however, I was preparing for four small projects that I’m doing in Elko, Nevada next week.

I’m not saying I won’t do any more projects this year, but, I’m not trying very hard.

Archaeology Podcast Network

The APN has had AN AMAZING YEAR since last year’s Day of Archaeology. We’ve added new shows and over 11,000 new monthly subscribers! That brings us to 21,000 monthly subscribers as of July! All that means more work for the few of us that are running it, though. If I wasn’t so passionate about public archaeology I’d consider taking a break for a bit. EVERY SINGLE DAY there is APN stuff to do. I love it, though, so I’ll keep going. A little funding wouldn’t hurt, though!

Professional Certifications for Scientists

This new venture started at about the time of last year’s Day of Archaeology. I brought the idea to four of my employees at the time because I thought I’d finally found a group of people that could really help this take off. I was right!

We officially launched www.pcscourses.com in April and we’ve got a number of videos and resources up on the website. We also have a job posting site that isn’t getting much use yet, but, it will. Just need to spend more time promoting it.

Pivot Environmental

Also this year, I became a 1/3 owner in a new joint venture called Pivot Environmental. It’s intended to be a full-service environmental firm like the big ones out there. However, it’s owned by specialists – a biologist, an environmental planner, and me, the archaeologist. Between the three of us we figure we can get more projects than by ourselves. Still laying the ground work, but, it’s promising.

Non – Archaeological Stuff

Civil Air Patrol

To add to my stress load, I accepted the position of Squadron Commander for the Reno Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol. We have about 36 adult members and over 40 cadets that range in age from 12 to 21. The CAP has three missions – Cadet Programs, Aerospace Education, and Emergency Services. I particularly enjoy the last one. Getting the call and mobilizing an aircrew and base staff for a live search and rescue makes me feel like I’m doing something that is bigger than me and give back to my community. I recommend it for everyone!

Reno Freethinkers

Finally, for the past three years I’ve been on the executive board of the Reno Freethinkers. We’re a secular organization that attempts to bring science and rational thought to Northern Nevada. I haven’t been able to do much this year, but, we have some interesting things planned for the coming months. Always busy.

Codifi – The Big One

Codifi is my primary focus right now. It’s a company centered around project management software for environmental projects. We’re focusing on archaeology early on, but, the architecture can be adjusted for any environmental project. We believe that archaeologists shouldn’t do office work and that fieldwork can be more efficient. Codifi can reduce office work and help you record archaeological sites in a way that was not possible until now. Check out the website and check back often for some amazing updates coming in the next couple months. I traveling to Italy for the month of August to continue development with my partner that is there now. We’re going to crush it!

My ACTUAL Day of Archaeology

A couple weeks ago we had a DJI Inspire Pro drone shipped for some work we want to do. I’ve been testing it in a variety of conditions. On today’s DOA I went to the house of some friends of mine. They are an archaeological couple that has worked in Nevada for over 40 years! They have some amazing stories!

Well, on that day I helped them get some images of their property. They have been making some landscaping improvements and have tried to reduce fire fuel in critical areas. I used the Autopilot App to create transects across their property and let the drone fly the flight pattern. It automatically took pictures on an interval that gave the shots enough overlap to stitch together. Also took some amazing video.

That’s pretty much it. If anyone wants to donate time or money to the APN or PCS PLEASE DO! They are both organization that I think are important for the field and help make us all better scientists and citizens.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!

The Journey Continues – DayofArch2015

This is my Day of Archaeology 2015 post. Here are my past posts:

Thanks again to the organizers for putting this on. Hopefully CRM in the US will start to have a bigger presence as the years roll on. For now, though, it’s just a few of us.

2014

Last year I had been part of the formation of a new company, Field Tech Designs, that was set up to create a tablet application for CRM and beyond. We went quite far with the developers on that, but, in November my backer and business partner backed out. I guess the cost and pace of app development was a bit too much. Who knows. Either way, I’ve moved on and I have a new collaboration with the Center for Digital Archaeology and they are making something that will be great when it comes out! More on that later.

I also mentioned the podcast in last year’s post. Well, as of December, 2014, I started the Archaeology Podcast Network with a fellow podcaster, Tristan Boyle of the Anarchaeologist Podcast. Together, we’ve built the APN into quite the little network with a total of seven shows right now and more on the way. We’re getting around 7000 downloads a month across the network and that number keeps rising. Creating podcasts for people to learn from and enjoy has really been the highlight of my archaeology career. I have a real passion for teaching and outreach and this is my creative outlet for that. Go check out the APN if you’re interested and don’t forget to leave some feedback on our iTunes page.

Finally, I mentioned that my book had just come out from Left Coast Press. The Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide did better than I expected for the first year, given the price and the small size of this field. My first royalties check came just in June and I took my wife out for a nice McDonald’s dinner. Not super-sized, of course; I mean, it was no Harry Potter. All kidding aside, I knew I wouldn’t make back what I put into the book. Our field just isn’t big enough. That’s not why I wrote it or why I went with a publisher. I just wanted the info to be out there and I thought it was a book that could help some people. I’ve achieved that goal, I think.

2015

This year has been the year of DIGTECH! After two years of networking, proposal losing, small jobs, and living off the knitting income of my wife, I’ve got $400k in work this year and as of the Day of Archaeology I’ve paid out over $60,000 in payroll! That’s a big deal for me. Not only have I had the satisfaction of winning a few contracts and getting to work on them, more importantly, I’ve been able to hire and support a few friends of mine and some new friends. That’s the biggest satisfaction for me. When I think about my friends receiving a paycheck that says, “DIGTECH” on it and using that money to support and feed their families, I feel very honored and humbled. Being an employer is an awesome responsibility. I heard someone say once that you’ll know you’re a business owner when you go to sleep at night worrying about payroll. That’s certainly the truth!

For this year’s event I’m in the middle, well really the beginning, of a 30,000 acre survey. I’ve got four employees with three more coming in October. I just finished a proposal that I think this year’s jobs will get me, too. I haven’t really had the past performance to win much in the last few years, but, these two jobs should change everything.

We’re recording fully digitally in the field, too. There are some issues with the system I’m using, but, we’re adjusting and moving on. In fact, I talked about some of this at the San Diego Archaeological Society’s monthly meeting on July 25th. It’s the first time I’ve been invited to speak somewhere about these issues and it was a huge honor.

2016

I’m hoping that I’ll have something really interesting to write about in 2016. Just a few weeks ago I moved on a project I’ve been thinking about for several years now. I’ve got people here that want to help out with it, knowing that it won’t pay right now, but, will in the future, and they’re willing to put in the time. We’ll see. We’ve just started and I love the energy they have here in the beginning. I just hope that enthusiasm sticks around.

My Day

I guess I’ll briefly talk about my actual day for a minute. Since this is a small company, I’m usually out in the field with the crew. If we go to one part of the project area we leave at 0530. For the more distant part we leave at 0415. That’s to avoid much of the Mojave desert heat that we have to deal with. Leaving at 0415 gets us home by 1245. That’s not too bad. Of course, that means dinner at 2pm and bed at 8pm, but, it’s better than working in 105+ F. On the long drive days we spend 1:45 just getting to the project area. Then, we survey for two hours, take lunch around 0845, survey another two hours, and, go home. It feels like a really short day.

The survey on the long drives is working out, though. We have a certain number of acres we’re trying to hit every day and there isn’t much out there in that part of the project. So, we cover a lot of ground in that short four hours. Luckily, the dense parts of the project, for archaeology that is, are near town.

That’s it for this year. I hope to have an even better year next year and have a lot more to talk about.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!!

More Companies, More Changes


(Chris Webster – President and PI at DIGTECH, Co-Founder of Field Tech Designs, LLC, and host of the CRM Archaeology Podcast)

First, a big thanks again to the organizers of this event! It’s a lot to put on something like this. Go and buy something from their store to support this for many years to come!

Welcome to my fourth Day of Archaeology post! Hard to believe this has been going on for four years now. Every year, so far, I’ve been at a different stage in my life. Nothing stays the same around here, ever! Here are my last posts: 1st year here and here, 2nd Year, and 3rd Year.

Logo - No Back 900x400Last Year

When I wrote my 2013 Day of Archaeology post my new CRM company was just seven months old. I had done a few projects, but, I was mostly focused on the arduous task of business development (BD). I’ve never been good at BD. It seems that no one actually teaches you how to do it. So, I never really learned the ins and outs. I do have some networking skills, which helps, but that’s not all BD is about.

This Year

I’ve got a few more contracts down, but, I seem to have put the CRM side of DIGTECH on the back burner. That’s not to say I would turn down a contract if I were approached, I just don’t have time to go seek them out right now. What I’m really focusing on is my other company, Field Tech Designs.

FTD Banner SmallField Tech Designs

This is what I’ve been working on for much of today’s Day of Archaeology.

Excavation Forms

I’ve been subcontracted to do the excavation for a project in Lake County, CA and the fieldwork starts next week. It’s actually a pretty sweet gig. DIGTECH will do all the fieldwork, but, we aren’t doing any of the artifact analysis and report writing. While I do enjoy those phases of work, I don’t really have the time for it right now. So, this gets me out in the field, shovel in hand, and then allows me to get back to other tasks.

For the fieldwork, we’ll be using iPads rented from my other company, Field Tech Designs, to record the shovel tests and excavation units we’ll be digging. I’ve created custom forms for the shovel tests and spent a portion of today creating the excavation forms.

Working digitally will allow us to transmit the completed paperwork (should digital forms be called, electrowork? digiwork?) to the PI at his office 200 miles away every day. With cell service, we can transmit the forms as we finish them.

Tablet Rental Program

I’ve also spent some time coming up with the various pricing models we’re going to have for our tablet rental program. Over the last few months I’ve gotten the sense that some companies are a bit apprehensive about buying a fleet of tablets for their fieldwork. I don’t know if it’s the upfront cost of the tablets or the thought that they could easily break (which isn’t true). Either way, I thought that since they are used to renting things like Trimble GPS units anyway then a tablet rental would just make sense. Renting the tablets allows Field Tech Designs to assume the burden of keeping them maintained and updated while always giving the client the latest and greatest.

Video Tutorials

For the custom forms we are creating for our clients I always make a video detailing the use of the form and how to turn the digital data into a CSV file and then a Word Document. It’s pretty straight forward, but, if you’ve never done it there are a number of steps that just make more sense when you can see them.

Working on video editing this afternoon made me realize just how old my MacBook Pro is getting. I could really use an upgrade soon!

Podcast LogoPodcasting

I spent some time thinking about, and taking notes on, some things we’re going to talk about in the podcast we’re recording on Saturday. The CRM Archaeology Podcast is up to episode 38 and we’re still going strong. We’ve released an episode every other Monday for the last year and a half and we never lack for things to talk about. That’s why I’ve come up with another idea…

New Podcasts

I feel that the current podcast could really be split into a bunch of other shows. The shows would be essentially single topic shows that focus on really digging into whatever issue they are concerned with. I’m not going to go into too much detail right now, but, stay tuned for a lot more content about CRM Archaeology in the coming months.

Third Company

The last thing I did today was some research for a new company. This new entity will have something to do with aerial drones but I’m not going to go into it right now. We’re in the research phase right now. Since the FAA here in the U.S. is still up in arms about using drones for commercial purposes, we have some time. I’m a licensed pilot, though, and that might go well for me if the regulations go the direction I think they are going to go based on some information I recently received from an FAA official here in Reno. Interesting times are ahead in the world of Drones.

So, working on tablets with Field Tech Designs, researching a new drone company, and trying to, sort of, find more work for DIGTECH so I can test out all my ideas…busy day. Unfortunately, nothing I did today directly made me any money. One thing you learn while you’re indulging your passions and chasing your dreams is that money isn’t always the reason to do things in life. If you keep doing what you love and work hard at it then the money will come.

Oh, I also turned my popular series of blog posts, the Shovelbums Guide, into a helpful guidebook for CRM Archaeologists at any level. The book was published by Left Coast Press in April and is called the, “Field Archaeologist’s Survival Guide: Getting a Job and Working in Cultural Resource Management”. You can find it on Amazon and at the Left Coast Website.

Enjoy the other posts for the 2014 Day of Archaeology!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

 

CRM Archaeology Podcast – DayofArch Edition

CRM Archaeology PodcastEpisode 13 of the CRM Archaeology Podcast is all about the Day of Archaeology and includes discussions of some of the posts we read. Check out the show notes page here to listen to the show and for links to topics mentioned on the show. There are also links to the Day of Archaeology posts from the podcast panelists.

If you’d like to listen in iTunes then click here.

We’re also on Stitcher Radio.

Thanks for listening and have another great year of archaeology! See you next year!

Chris Webster, Podcast Host

DIGTECH LLC

Continuing Changes in my CRMArch Career

Nevada, United States, July 26, 2013

by Chris Webster, M.S., RPA

0515

Woke up and checked emails while having breakfast. Normally I do a workout too but today is just too busy. We’re recording episode 13 of the CRM Archaeology Podcast on Saturday and the topic is the Day of Archaeology. So, I have a lot of blogs to read.

On top of that, I’m finishing a draft of my first book, writing two proposals, and doing research for another project that I can’t talk about just yet. It’s going to be a busy day.

Before I really get into the day, though, I’d like to talk about my past “Days of Archaeology”. The first year this event happened was 2011. I was working for a company in the Great Basin and they had me monitoring on a seismic operation. So, that’s what my post was about. My wife was out there with me.

For 2012 I was working for a different company and had been made a Project Manager. My wife was no longer in CRM Archaeology and was pursuing other interests.

This year, I own my own CRM firm, I’m writing a book that will be published by Left Coast Press, and I’m hosting a fun and informative podcast. It’s amazing how life changes so quickly. Unfortunately, I think my income has experience an inverse relationship with my career path. I’ve been moving up in archaeology, but, since starting a company is a long and stressful process my finances have taken a serious hit. Don’t think that writing a book will make you rich, either. If I see any money from this writing it won’t be for another two years because of the payment schedule. So, back to my day!

0545 to 0800 Catching up on Blogs and News

I often spend time in the morning reading blogs and news articles. I post those to my Random Acts of Science Facebook page and they autopost to Twitter. Gotta keep the word informed about CRM goings on…

Today, though, I’m reading all the Day of Archaeology posts coming from the other side of the world. The U.S. hasn’t really started the day yet so there aren’t any posts. I’m reviewing posts that we’re going to talk about on the podcast.

0800 to 1145 Business Development and Proposal Writing

Most days I try to spend at least a few hours contacting potential clients and letting them know I exist. My business model is very different from most archaeology firms and I have to convince them that it’s a safe bet to go with me. That’s not an easy sell for some of these companies. I also run into the problem of not having any corporate experience. I have plenty of personal experience but my company is brand new. Some clients want to see past performance but I don’t know how to get past performance without performing. It’s all very circular.

1300 to 1630 Book Writing

As I mentioned above, I’m writing my first book. In case you ever thought about writing a book I’ll tell you how I came to this point. First, you have to have an idea. For me it was the idea that I wanted to tell people about things I wish I’d known when I started in archaeology. So, I started the Shovelbums Guide series of blog posts on my blog. It was well received over the two years I’ve been writing it so I decided that I’d compile all of the posts into an eBook.

When I was at the SAAs in Hawaii in April I showed the rough draft to the editors at Left Coast Press. I was really just wondering if there was anything like that out there. They said that there wasn’t and that I should send in a proposal. Their proposal guidelines are very straightforward and I did it easily. Within a few months I had a contract!

Now, I’m trying to finish up the draft of the book. It’s mostly done except for some little finishing touches. I also need to sort out the graphics. Since I’m doing this on my own dime I have to come up with everything on my own. I can’t really pay someone either since I won’t see any money from the book for two years. I think you have to write about two books a year to see consistent payments. Talk to Tom King. I think he does at least two books a year!

1900 to 2100

Finishing up my Day of Archaeology blog post and doing some reading. I haven’t read fiction in a long time. Archaeologists that want to stay at the top of their game are constantly reading. Sometimes it’s popular works on broad subjects and sometimes it’s papers and site reports. That part of the job is never done.

So, no fieldwork for my Day of Archaeology, but, a lot of CRM archaeology is done in the office. I’m trying to change that slightly with my business model but there will always be office time.

I hope I see a lot of CRM posts from the United States on the DayofArch this year. There was an increase between last year and the first year and I hope there are more this year. As far as I’m concerned, our job is only half done when the site report is turned in. They other half of our job is telling people about what we do. In many cases here in the west the projects are on public land. The public has a right to know what we found and what it means.

Happy Day of Archaeology and here’s to another great year of science!

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field!

As Yet, Untitled

Disclaimer: The thoughts, opinions, and outright genius, presented in this blog are solely the responsibility of the author and in no way represent any archaeology firm or company.  That should cover it.

June 29, 2012 is this year’s Day of Archaeology.  I was supposed to be in the field but as I’m not this post is going to be slightly different.  Last year (Part 1 and Part 2) I was monitoring for another company and I was in a very different place.  What a difference a year can make.  On to my day.

In most CRM (Cultural Resource Management) firms in the United States, well, the Great Basin anyway, there is a lot of time spent typing up site records.  We generate a mountain of paperwork when we record a site in the field.  Let’s break down a simple site.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) used to have a minimum four page form for filling out site records in several intermountain states.  It’s called the IMACS form and it stands for “InterMountain Antiquities Computer System”.  Odd name for a form, I know.  It was designed to have codes for each entry that could be entered into a database (using an encoding form) with the intent that the information could be recalled more efficiently.  Side note: people here sometimes refer to a single form as an “IMAC” form.  That, as you can see, is incorrect.  The “S” stands for system and is not a pluralizer (what?) of IMAC.  Back on track.

The form consisted of two pages of administrative and environmental data (i.e. Landform, location, sediments, vegetation, etc.) and then additional pages depending on the type of site you have.  There are two pages for prehistoric sites (Page 1 and Page 2) and two pages for historic sites (Page 1 and Page 2).  There are even more pages for things like rock art.  As you can see, I’ve mentioned all of this as being in the past.  The BLM came out with a new form, sort of, in October of last year.

The new form is one page.  All the data you were expected to collect on the old forms now goes on one page and if you forgot something because you are new then, I guess, you weren’t trained properly.  I like having one page because it’s less paper and I know how to fill out a form but I wonder about the next generation of users that are unsure of what to put on the form.  Everyone records a site by themselves at least once and, unless the training was really good, which it usually isn’t, then something will get missed.

What does this have to do with what I did today?  Well, I was typing up site forms from the field all day.  One site with few artifacts and over twenty features took me several hours.  I didn’t do any interpretation or research.  I simply typed up what was recorded and made the record digital.  This procedure is not unique to the company I currently work for by any means.  Most companies have armies of field techs typing up site records.  The process really slows the project down and is often the reason projects go over budget.

Instead of manually digitizing site information in the field we should be collecting it in a digital form to begin with.  I don’t know how long it took archaeologists to trust those newfangled GPS devices back in the day but I’m sure it was longer than the rest of the scientific community.  The same is true for digital site recording.  I feel that we are behind the curve on this one and need to catch up.  I’m attempting to do just that one step at a time.  A few weeks ago I finally convinced a field supervisor to let me record at least my portion of the sites on my iPad.  Since I’m a Crew Chief that means I do the bulk of the writing.  We figured that when calculated at the rate for office work I probably saved about $3-4000 during one 8-day session.  If all the crew chiefs were doing what I did we would have saved $9-12,000.  If the entire crew were doing that we would have saved at least $20,000.  That’s for one session.  I don’t know what the budget for that project was but I’m guessing we could have cut it in half.

There are naysayers out there that say tablets are too fragile and they are too expensive.  What if you drop it and break it?  What if you loose all of your data?  What if the battery dies?  Good questions, all.  And, they all have answers.

First, what if you drop it and break it?  Assuming the other questions are answered satisfactorily you are out a tablet.  Well, there is insurance that would replace the tablet.  Also, with as much money as you are saving you could just about afford to buy new ones every time you went out.  What about losing data?  When I used my iPad to record sites I tethered it to my iPhone periodically and uploaded the data, securely and encrypted, to my DropBox account.  The data was encrypted so even if the DropBox account were hacked it would take a super computer to break the code.  What’s that you say?  You don’t have cell service in the middle of no where?  No problem.  Get a rugged external hard drive that lives in your backpack.  Seagate makes one that is 250GB, has its own battery, generates a WiFI signal, and can be transferred to and from using any tablet or smartphone.  As far as the battery goes, it’s generally not an issue.  The iPad battery will more than last through a work day of any length, and generally longer.  If it does die there are external battery backs of different types (herehere, and here) that will provide a few charges should you need them.

So, what I did today was type up site records while fighting to stay alert and focused.  I also daydreamed about a day in the, hopefully, not to distant future, where we spend more time in the field than in the office.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field.

A Nevada CRM Archaeologist

This is my first post for the Day of Archaeology event.  I’d like to begin by thanking the organizers, advisors, and sponsors for conceiving of and making this event happen.  It’s important that we discuss archaeology across the world and get our work out to a broad audience.  All most people know about archaeology is what they see on the Discovery Channel or from Indiana Jones.

The road I took to get to a career in archaeology involved several u-turns and a few speed bumps.  Here is a quick history.  When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, an airline pilot, or an archaeologist.  Since my family didn’t have the money for me to realize any of those goals I did what I thought was the next best thing and joined the Navy right out of high school.  I spent the next four and a half years working on EA-6B Prowlers as an aviation electronics technician.  During that time I went on a cruise on the USS Enterprise for six months in the Mediterranean and in the Persian Gulf.  We saw some great cities with great archaeology and history.  At this time, archaeology was something you saw on TV and included crusty old PhDs working in universities.  I never considered it as a career.

Near the end of my time in the Navy a random phone call landed me in commercial flight training at the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  While there I received my private pilot’s license and finished the training for a few other licenses.  After a year and a half I transferred to the University of North Dakota to continue my flight training at the nations largest and most advanced collegiate flight training school.  UND Aerospace has an amazing program with state of the art aircraft and flight simulators.  It was a great experience.

While I was taking aviation classes I filled up my general education requirements with anthropology classes.  I still loved the science of archaeology, in particular paleoanthropology, but still didn’t see it as a career option.  I’m not sure why.  I think it was still just one of those fantasy fields that you never think you are capable of performing.

After a couple of years I started to lose my desire to fly commercially.  I just didn’t think I would get any satisfaction from shuttling people around the country for the rest of my life.  Sure the pay is good but there are a lot of things you can do that involve less stress if all you want is money.  I need a job that makes me feel good at the end of the day and that I look forward to going to everyday.  Since I still didn’t see archaeology as an option, even though I had taken most of the classes offered, I spent the next couple of years taking photography and math classes just for fun.  I know, I like math.  I’m probably the only CRM archaeologist that has used SOHCAHTOA to determine the exact angle for a transect.

During my penultimate year in college my professor, Dr. Melinda Leach, told me that I could graduate in one year with a degree in anthropology.  I just had to take all of the upper level classes and that would be it.  With no other direction I decided to go for it.  I had to take 18 credits during the fall and 15 credits during the spring and write, I think, five or six research papers during the year but in the end I graduated.  After graduation I went back to Seattle and worked with my brother’s father in law’s home remodeling company.  I hated it.

In the fall I went back to North Dakota to help with the big event that the department had planned the previous year.  We had Jane Goodall coming to speak to a packed house.  One day, while sitting in the student lounge, a former student, and friend, came up to me and said hi.  He was visiting because hurricane Katrina had destroyed his apartment in New Orleans and his company laid everyone off for a little while.  He asked what I was doing.  At the time I was getting ready to go on an Earthwatch expedition to dig in Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania.  After that I had no plans.  He asked if I had checked Shovelbums.  Shovel what?

I educated myself on shovelbums.org, prepared my CV, and started on a job in Minnesota a week after I returned from Africa.  That was in October of 2005 and I’ve been in CRM ever since.  I’ve worked at all times of the year, on all phases of field archaeology and in 13 states.

In August of 2009 I began a one year MS program at the University of Georgia.  The program was intense but I received my Master of Science in Archaeological Recourse Management in July of 2010.  I’m currently working in the Great Basin of Nevada and love every minute of it!

So, I guess that wasn’t too brief.  My fiancé will tell you that brevity is not a trait that I possess.  Hopefully someone will get out of this that it’s never too late and you are never too old to get into the dynamic field of anthropology.   There are many paths that you can take to get to anthropology and there are just as many that you can take along your career.

My Chief in the Navy once told me how he decides whether a job or a position is right for him.  He said to look around at the people that have been doing your job and are at the ends of their careers.  Are they happy?  Are they doing what you would want to do?  My favorite thing about archaeology is that you can’t really tell what the future will bring.  You could be running a company, teaching at a university, or hosting your own show on the Discovery Channel, if they ever get back to science and history shows and away from reality shows.  The possibilities are nearly endless.

In my next post I’ll talk about the project I’m on right now and the wonders of monitoring.

 

Written northeast of Winnemucca, NV.

A Day in the Life of a Nevada CRM Archaeologist: Monitoring

So, I spent the “Day of Archaeology” monitoring a seismic crew as they worked a few thousand acres near a mine northeast of Winnemucca, Nevada.  This was actually on July 26th since I didn’t work on the 29th.  Our schedule is 8-on, 6-off and.  I’ll start by describing, as best I can, what seismic is.

Then come in all sizes and styles for different types of terrain. This is similar to the ones we work with.

The seismic crew consists of about twenty ground workers, a few truck drivers, a recorder, and a geologist.  The ground people lay out cable that stretches from north to south across the project area, a distance of up to five kilometers.  The truck drivers drive east/west across the project area and vibrate the ground in prescribed intervals.  The vibrations cause shockwaves that penetrate the ground hundreds of meters deep which then bounce back to the geophones that are running north/south.  We are told that the goal is to determine the geological structures that exist beneath the ground so the mine can decide whether they want to excavate that area or use it for waste rock.  I spoke to someone this weekend that works in the business and he says they are looking for oil and that eastern Nevada is sitting on a huge, very deep, oil field.  I’m not too sure about that.

As monitors, we were assigned with the care and protection of the cultural resources across the project area.  The survey was recently completed and the report has not yet been approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO).  Since the sites remain unevaluated, none of them are cleared for construction.  As a consequence, no vehicle traffic whatsoever was allowed across the sites and all foot traffic had to be observed by an archaeologist.  We watched for disturbance of artifacts and features by foot traffic and by the electrical cords that the crews were laying out.  We also watched to make sure that the seismic crew didn’t disturb any artifacts.  People like projectile points (arrowheads) and usually don’t see anything wrong with putting them in their pockets.

Nevada High Desert

A lot of monitoring involves a lot of sitting around for hours waiting for something to happen and then working furiously for a little while.  This was no different.  When you are monitoring you are on the schedule and time frame of the construction crew you are working with.  That’s why we were putting in about 13 hours a day.  When you are sitting you tend to feel like you should be doing something.  I usually read or listen to podcasts.  For the seismic monitoring I couldn’t even be away from my truck for very long.  A call could come over the radio at any time and you have to be where you are supposed to be as quick a you can.

While monitoring, you have to get over the “high and mighty” feeling that some people tend to get.  You are typically working with people that, at most, graduated high school and went right into the construction field.  They usually see us as highly paid scientists.  It’s likely that they are getting paid more than you are!  They just don’t know it.  When I’m conversing with construction workers I certainly don’t try to minimize my field or the education requirements but I don’t try to make it sound like more than it is either.  No one responds well to that.

I wish I had something more exciting to talk about for the Day of Archaeology event but the reality of cultural resource management (CRM) archaeology is that many of your days will be like this.  Sometimes you go weeks or months without finding an artifact.  You may go an entire season without finding a feature.  This work needs to be done, however.  A project area that doesn’t turn up any artifacts or other interesting finds still tells us valuable information.

Follow more of my experiences as a CRM archaeologist at my blog, Random Acts of Science.  See you in the field!

Written in Monroe, Washington.