We all live on a pale, blue dot spinning in space. Blue. . . atmosphere. . . water. I explore the DNA and proteins of archaeological fish bones to understand what happened in the past under the blue surface of the water in order to better understand the lives of those in the past and the future of our present oceans. I also am starting up a holistic outreach project called Fish ‘n Ships which focuses on connecting modern fishing and food, historical fishing and food, and aquatic ecology (picture below from our opening event). Today though, I am at a conference: Marie Sktodowsha-Curie Actions (MSCA) ESOF satellite event ‘Research and Society’ because my funding for my job in BioArCh at the University of York comes from MSCA.
MSCA supports a wide range of early career science and humanities research both academic and industry related. This conference brings together a wide range of current and former MSCA funded individuals from around the globe for two days to talk about our projects and how we related to the public. Today we have had a panel on industry, how to deliver our research in 3 minute talks, and a poster session on different research, including the poster from my lovely colleague Laura Llorente-Rodriguez on archaeological fishing. This afternoon we will talk more about ethics and gender bias in academia and displaced or refugee researchers. We have been hosted by the lovely University of Manchester and we had the reception last night at the Museum which has some interesting archaeological material (picture below). You can follow my day more specifically on twitter (@dkkorzow), my research topics and academic thoughts on my blog (zalag.org), and my outreach event also on twitter (@FishnShipsUK – be patient it is just starting).
Here, I just wanted to say two things about the diversity of people who work in archaeology. First, I have never been on a dig. I don’t like dirt or mud or digging and I am really bad at drawing stratigraphy. Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of archaeologists who LOVE these things and they are necessary for the field. However, you don’t have to like them to work in archaeology. I spend my days working on a computer or in a lab. I am more likely to have a pipette and a lab coat then a trowel and raincoat – in fact I don’t own either a trowel or a raincoat. But what I share with all archaeologists is a deep and almost unrelenting interest in what the world looked like in the past and not just deep time. Some of us are interested in how people lived and how societies worked. Some of us are interested in human/animal/plant interactions. Some of us are interested in how humans adapted and changed the environment around them. Some of us are interested in the natural world and how it has changed through time. But we all share a love of the past and most of us believe that in better understanding the past we can learn things for the present and future. So don’t think that because you don’t like mud, you will never be able to work in archaeology. I do every day!
Second, not all of what any archaeologist does is just “archaeology”. A lot of what we do is interacting with other people – the public, researchers, administrators. Many places that fund archaeology research want to see applications to the present and future. This is particularly relevant when you work with biomolecules (DNA, lipids, proteins, isotopes). So we often interact with researchers from other disciplines. Most frequently these are people who are biologists, chemists, ecologists, environmental scientists, geologists, historians, and anthropologists; however, there are lots of interdisciplinary opportunities. My background is in biochemistry and while I use some of my background in my work on archaeological material, that is only a subset of what my education was in – actively living organisms. So I enjoy when I can talk to other researchers about interesting biochemistry research. Working in such a cross-disciplinary field as archaeology is amazing and we have the opportunity to answer some of the BIG questions together. But as a consequence, we often have different academic backgrounds and going to conferences that pull from lots of fields allows us to connect to those background fields both for our own personal interest and also to see if there is something new that we might be able to transfer over to our interdisciplinary archaeology work.
Well, the conference is serving lunch now, so I am off to have some food and chat about research. Have a great Day of Archaeology!