scuba diving

  • justDIGine: The Early Years

    There are two questions that I usually get asked:


    “How did you become an archaeologist?” (which I love talking about!)
    and
    “Do you ever find buried treasure?”…Slow clap. Off the bat, I’ll tell you that archaeologists don’t like that question. Archaeologists care about context (i.e. an artifact’s association to its environment), not whether it’s sparkly or made of gold. So with that logic, all of it is buried treasure.

    As for the first question, it started from a youthful passion fostered by Indiana Jones (of course), because who isn’t charmed by Harrison Ford?

    However, the most influential memories I have are actually exploring the American Southwest for fossils with my Dad. This was in the ‘golden days’ of air travel, pre-2001, when you could take anything you wanted on a plane—which in my case, included bringing trilobites and brachiopods to decorate my bedroom. I was too young to realize that archaeology wasn’t the same as paleontology, nor that taking fossils wasn’t good practice (remember the context part above! Although I did occasionally donate my finds to local children’s museums), but nevertheless, I was hooked.

    I knew early on that I was destined to work in their environment

    Years later, before I was sure I was going to attend The George Washington University, I had to attend an orientation day. Luckily for me, Dr. Eric Cline, who would soon become my mentor, was speaking about the archaeology program. He was so enthusiastic about his subject that I signed up for Archaeology 101 in the fall, reigniting my long forgotten dream. 

    Two weeks into my first semester of university, I declared my major and I have never second-guessed that decision.

    to be continued….

    For a full rundown of my experience, education and skills, please visit my LinkedIn profile.

    All thoughts and opinions on my blog, social media, etc… are my own and are not representative of any group or organization.

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  • Ocean Threats from Underwater Cultural Heritage? WWII Shipwrecks

         World War II was the bloodiest, deadliest and most destructive war in human history. The National WWII Museum puts battle deaths at 15 million, battle wounded at 25 million, and civilian deaths at 45 million- all unfathomable numbers to comprehend. Memories and reminders of that war are all around us, from politics to economies to cultural institutions and more. However, lying in wait on the bottom of the ocean floor are about 7800 wrecks that were involved in World War II, with 3800 of them in the Pacific Theater alone. Wrecks from WWII are significant because it was the first time where petroleum ships were specifically targeted for attack- some even say that America’s biggest contribution to winning the war was petroleum. Although oil pollution is the most noted risk from these vessels, it can also include threats from munitions, chemical wastes, radioactive materials and others. Damaging activities, both environmental and manmade, that can release these hazardous materials include dragging anchors over wrecks, dynamite fishing, shipwreck looting, more substantial/invasive archaeological methods, storms, earthquakes, and the list goes on. The amount of oil contained in these ships could be anywhere from 757 million to 6 billion gallons according to a 2005 assessment prepared by Environmental Research Consulting and others. (It should be noted that when the term ‘wreck’ is used here, it includes not only shipwrecks but also aircrafts and submarines.)


         The President of the Ocean Foundation, Mark Spalding, recently wrote a piece for National Geographic about the hazards of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) towards a healthy ocean environment. Many articles over the last two or three years have debated the issues around the potential for oil pollution from these UCH sites, as these are sites of cultural significance, and in many cases, grave sites. One of the more well known examples of oil pollution is the 1953 wreck SS Jacob Luckenbach, a supply freighter headed to Korea during the Korean War. Scientists were able to pinpoint the shipwreck after decades of questioning why sea life were being killed from oil spills with no apparent source. The cleanup from this wreck alone cost between $18-22 million. The USS Arizona, which has been leaking oil since it was attacked at Pearl Harbor in 1941, is another prominent example where multidisciplinary teams are still working to solve the same catastrophic issue.
    A gun on the deck of the sunken U-166 German submarine
         There is much debate about how to go forward, despite the simplest solution being to pump out the oil before the tanks are destroyed. No one organization controls, let alone has the ability, to survey and intervene on every potentially threatening wreck in the Ocean- a feat that is nearly impossible at the present moment, even if every organization were to intervene. In 2013, NOAA, as part of their Remediation of Underwater Legacy Environmental Threats (RULET) project, released a report that narrowed down the estimated 20K vessels in US waters down to close to 600, of which they completed 87 individual assessments. This report contained several vessels from WWII, amongst others, and found that only 36 of those posed a significant oil pollution threat and 17 are recommended for further investigation. So if you look at the number 7800 wrecks vs 36 or even 600 wrecks, there is room for debate for how imminent the problem might actually be. Although, certainly no one is arguing that these threats shouldn’t be mitigated for the more hazardous wrecks. And yet, despite all the problems highlighted here, many of these vessels have become artificial reefs where sea life and algae thrive. Plans for solving this global crisis must include measures for minimal disturbance of the sea life and their habitats. Because these UCH sites are by definition ‘underwater’, interested parties must work even harder to keep the public and ruling agencies apprised of the problems, but also these wrecks’ importance to our humanity and history. Conservationists, environmentalists, archaeologists, and others must create mediation plans for the coming years when oil pollution and other, potentially worse issues, arise from these wrecks so that history doesn’t become catastrophe. 
    USS Abraham Lincoln manning rails for USS Arizona

  • justDIGine: The Professional Years

    …Continued from “The Early Years”

    My professional career as an archaeologist began by receiving my Archaeology B.A. and Anthropology M.A. in a five-year program at The George Washington University in 2010. By the time I graduated, I had my fair share of global expeditions and excavations, ranging from biblical archaeological projects in Israel to working on a former slave plantation in Virginia to working at the British Museum’s Egyptian department to searching for 11th century structures in the nomadic wilderness of Eastern Mongolia. All of these adventures taught me that I needed to pursue archaeology in a way that would continue to allow me to travel internationally, while expanding my academic and digging skills.

    Shortly before I graduated with my Master’s, I was hired as a contract researcher for the Slave Wrecks Project (SWP) by a former graduate professor Dr. Stephen Lubkemann, whom I can now call a dear colleague, mentor, and friend. To continue with this project, he suggested that I get PADI scuba diver certified (and I blame him because now I want to dive everywhere!). Based at GWU, the Slave Wrecks Project is currently co-sponsored by the National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Diving With a Purpose, IZIKO Museums of South Africa, South African Heritage Resources Agency, and African Centre for Heritage Activities.

    As a result of this project, I was able to live in South Africa and work at IZIKO and SAHRA in 2011, and discover my real passion for archaeology ‘with a purpose’. As I look back to my first archaeological excavation at Tel Megiddo in Israel in 2006 (the sight of would-be Biblical Armageddon), it made me realize that I wasn’t cut out for bucket lines and the hot desert. Therefore, I am so grateful for being introduced to maritime archaeology in South Africa, where I realized one could dive and dig. While I was gathering my wits as an underwater archaeologist focusing on shipwrecks of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade with the SWP, I became aware of the lack of several things, including diversity within this particular discipline, outreach towards the general public, and capacity-building initiatives by other archaeologists working in the developing world.

    When I was hired as the first full-time Associate Researcher for the Slave Wrecks Project in April 2012, my activism as an archaeologist flourished. The SWP not only pursues an archival and archaeological field research program to locate, document, and preserve shipwrecks engaged in the international slave trade (in both the Transatlantic-post 1400 and in the Indian Ocean-post 800), but we have come to develop a cultural management program that will preserve and protect this irreplaceable—and increasingly threatened—underwater heritage. We assist developing-country partners in the expansion of heritage management programs that can preserve and protect threatened heritage and looted cultural antiquities, while also fostering a unique niche for regional cultural tourism with tangible economic benefits, and promoting a new model of self-sustaining research for national educational and scientific institutions. In the countries that we are active (South Africa, Virgin Islands, Mozambique, Senegal, Liberia, Southeastern USA) or are pursing projects (Angola, Cuba, Cape Verde, São Tomé), we have gained an even greater understanding of the cultural issues at stake beyond the proverbial ‘hole in the ground’ that many archaeologists seem stuck in.

    Since I have become a maritime archaeologist, I have expanded beyond my excavating resume (turns out, it’s much harder to conduct an archaeological excavation underwater!), and become a part of several other organizations that I am deeply humbled by and proud to be associated with. The first is the Capitol Archaeological Institute (CAI), which holds a special place in my heart because the people there have truly shaped my life. CAI was created by Dr. Eric Cline, my mentor mentioned earlier, by Ms. Deborah Lehr, a beloved mentor and friend, and by Ms. Katie Paul, my fellow ArchaeoVenturer and partner in crime! At CAI, I remain their maritime heritage consultant and Historical Beer event organizer (ok, just once).

    These same colleagues mentioned above expanded upon our collective initiatives to form The Antiquities Coalition (TAC). It is an organization that works to safeguard global heritage, empower local communities to be stewards and not looters, and to combat cultural racketeering (the systematic theft of art and antiquities by organized crime syndicates) in an ever threatened world. At TAC, as their maritime research analyst, my aim is to work in/with these nations in crisis to focus on the submerged cultural resources that are being relentlessly plundered under the radar and with no end in sight.

    My last mention is a program called Youth Diving With a Purpose, a week long course designed to supply high school age lay-diver with knowledge to become underwater advocates for conservation and preservation through the pursuit of maritime archaeology in the National Parks in Florida and in Africa. While working on a boat in Cape Town, South Africa, I met Ken Stewart, whom I instantly knew was a kindred spirit. He and I helped create YDWP, a subgroup of Ken’s adult Diving With a Purpose. The kids come from all over the US and as far as Mozambique! I am the Mentor for the young women in YDWP, and amongst all my other projects, this might mean the most to me personally. Even if they pursue other career paths, they will always remain patrons and stewards of submerged cultural resources and environments. It gives me hope to watch them thrive and become successful young adults in our society, as they truly make me proud, and I only hope that our program had an influence on that.


    In sum, I want to be a maritime archaeologist that makes a real and tangible impact on the world, both locally and globally. I won’t work to promote the unforgiving inner circle of academics, but instead seek to promote an archaeology that is publicly accessible, supports the next generation, and is culturally aware. I am truly living the LIFE AQUATIC!



    …Now that you know more than enough about me, I can move on to writing substantive posts about culture, heritage, tracking and preventing looting, maritime archaeology, global women’s issues, travel, and other relevant topics in the news.



    For a full rundown of my experience, education and skills, check out my LinkedIn profile.

    All thoughts and opinions on my blog, social media, etc… are my own and are not representative of any group or organization.

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  • Grandiose Archaeological Claims: Do they Help or Hurt the Discipline?

    The media has always thrived on the next ‘big’ archaeological discovery- whether the claims are made by amateurs or professionals, the media circus remains the same. We as the public, crave a connection to our history and heritage, regardless of initial authenticity. Some dubious examples that come to mind are the Etruscan terracotta warriors, the James Ossuary, the Kensington Runestone, or more recently a British maritime archaeologist claiming to have found missing flight MH370 thousands of miles from the search zone.

    One particular story that has recently grabbed media attention is the purported ‘discovery’ of the Santa Maria, the largest of three ships sailed to the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492. The discovery was announced by Barry Clifford, who in several articles, is classified as a maritime archaeologist, while in others, as an underwater explorer. Make no mistake, Mr. Clifford is not an archaeologist. He may certainly claim to be one, but his career has been built upon the salvaging of shipwrecks around the globe. The practice of shipwreck salvage is not applicable to the protection and recovery of evidence relating to submerged landscapes and resources, and is by no means, archaeology (not to be confused with rescue archaeology which is legit). However, with all of these mainstream news outlets describing him as an archaeologist, it gives a level of recognition and legitimization to his claim that he wouldn’t have otherwise, regardless of how the archaeological community feels.

    With several historians and scholars already refuting his claim, I am not concerned with whether it is or it isn’t the Santa Maria. Most certainly, a shipwreck has been found, and has been investigated since 2003, but whether it is indeed the Santa Maria is certainly too early to determine, if at all possible. Although, UNESCO and the Haitian Government are taking the claim very seriously. As a maritime archaeologist, I know firsthand how long it can take to identify submerged remains, if one can ever say for certain.

    What worries me about this trend with fantastical archaeological claims, is that it seems to be intended more as a PR campaign vs. grounded in scientific reality. Clifford isn’t sure whether this is Columbus’ ship, but now, he will never run out of funding sources. As a business strategy, follows the typical commercial salvage investor model (Kleeberg 2013), but as a pseudoscientist, it seems fraudulent.

    When the Santa Maria first was in the news, friends and family bombarded me with queries about whether or not it is true, and why I hadn’t hopped on the first flight to Haiti to dive on the excavation. The reason I have held back, as I imagine many of us have, is because these types of discoveries only hinder our mission when justifiable claims are in fact proven. There is too much crossover between pseudo and legitimate archaeology, and as referred to in my first post, the public needs to know that an archaeologist’s priority is not buried treasure or to intentionally mislead, but instead as the Society for American Archaeology says, “is to expand understanding and appreciation of humanity’s past as achieved through systematic investigation of the archaeological record.”

    – Do you think these unsubstantiated discoveries that capture the public’s attention help or hurt the archaeological discipline?

  • International Archaeology Day 2014

         International Archaeology Day is the perfect way for archaeological and cultural heritage academics to give back to their respective local communities. I have become a huge supporter over the last few years of archaeologists taking the time to become involved in public archaeology, community archaeology, local capacity building, and investing in young kids who love exploration and history/science. Education and public engagement are in most, if not all, professional archaeological societies’ ethical or standard professional codes (examples include AIA, SHA, SAA) and it is high time that professionals in the field, make more of a concerted effort to incorporate these principles into their fieldwork and research practices.

         Started in 2011, International Archaeology Day is described by the Archaeological Institute of America as:

    “International Archaeology Day is a celebration of archaeology and the thrill of discovery. Every October the AIA and archaeological organizations across the United States, Canada, and abroad present archaeological programs and activities for people of all ages and interests. Whether it is a family-friendly archaeology fair, a guided tour of a local archaeological site, a simulated dig, a lecture or a classroom visit from an archaeologist, the interactive, hands-on International Archaeology Day programs provide the chance to indulge your inner Indiana Jones.”

         This year, ArchaeoVenturers and Youth Diving With a Purpose co-participated with Archaeology in the Community for their IAD event at the Georgetown Library. Run by Dr. Alexandra Jones, Archaeology in the Community organizes events and activities all year round in the DC/MD/VA region (for anyone reading who might be interested in participating or volunteering). We had several interested children from the neighborhood join us for the activities, such as reconstructing broken ceramics (courtesy of DC SHPO office, organized by Ruth Trucolli) or rolling clay pots with Sara Ayers-Rigsby (all the way up from CRM work in FL) to trying on scuba equipment (which is always a favorite as kids love playing dress up). The number one question, behind the inevitable shark questions, is ‘when can I learn to dive?’ which always makes me quite giddy knowing that, in a few years (you can technically start with PADI at only 10 years old!), we could have a new crop of intelligent and inquisitive young kids becoming divers and scientists one day!

       Also on IAD, I was fortunate enough to be extended an invitation to participate in “History, Heroes, and Treasures” organized by the National Archives and Records Administration- which is literally “Night at the Museum”- I wish I had these kinds of opportunities available when I was a kid! The #ArchivesSleepover is described by the Archives Foundation as:

    “Throughout the night, young explorers investigate – through music, chats with historical figures, games, and more – some of the greatest adventures of all time. Campers will discover mysterious shipwrecks, venture into outer space, explore the wild West, and trek through the rugged Arctic as they explore the National Archives Museum’s treasured records.”

         All the while, these lucky kids and their parents get to SLEEP NEXT TO THE ORIGINAL CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA- a truly once in a lifetime opportunity-they will hopefully be regaling tales of this night to their children and grandchildren!

         I worked with David Gadsby of NPS to teach the young explorers how to document artifacts on a shipwreck map (the sitemap of the shipwreck America)- to which they exceeded all expectations. Following that, I was asked to play the part of the Underwater Explorer/Archaeologist (modern day) alongside historical characters Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark exploration fame) and Matthew Hensen (1st African American polar explorer). I donned my full scuba kit for my costume- luckily, I wore a child’s size tank, since we were standing up there under those bright lights for an hour! We were set up on stage, in tv interview format, so that all 100 kids in the audience were allowed to ask us questions. I assume I can speak for my fellow explorers when I say that being on stage answering their queries and helping to educate them about archaeology (not Indiana Jones archaeology), was an inspirational moment for me, knowing how genuinely interested these students and parents were in science and history.

         Overall, it was an outstanding year for International Archaeology Day and for getting young kids interested in maritime archaeology – I cannot wait to be invited back next year!


  • Treasure Hunter Barry Clifford: ‘Santa Maria’ Access Denied

    Here is an update to my post about Barry Clifford, the treasure hunter who discovered the Whydah and ‘discoverer‘ of what he believes to be Christopher Columbus’ flagship, the Santa Maria.


    This post is also featured on The Antiquities Coalition blog posted on Monday, July 14th 2014.


    Barry Clifford’s photograph of the alleged Santa Maria
    wreck. Credit: CNN

    On July 7, the Haitian Minister of Culture, Monique Rocourt, publicly stated that the Haitian Government has revoked the permit of famed treasure hunter Barry Clifford’s on the alleged Santa Maria site. When the discovery news first went public back in May 2014, UNESCO was asked for Minister Rocourt also pointed out that although Clifford had announced to the public that he had discovered this site, it had actually previously been studied by the University of Florida back in the 1970s-80s. Maritime archaeologists – trained academics and scientists – who don’t harbor the same focus on profit and fame over proper research, would have done their due diligence by conducting a full research analysis and likely have left Christopher Columbus out of the equation, until there was concrete proof of this allegation.

    As to the ‘state of emergency’ invoked by Clifford concerning this site, the Haitian Government and UNESCO have also rejected this claim, as the wreck remains protected by the natural elements and sediments, meaning immediate danger is not imminent. Doing a full excavation would do more harm than good in both the short and long term. The Council has cautiously recommended that some archaeological fieldwork will continue on this site but only under the auspices of UNESCO’s technical assistance. Their team will likely survey the site in August of this year.

    This is an example of what many maritime archaeologists face – their efforts are not only focused on research but on struggling to counteract the claims and extensive financial flows of treasure hunters worldwide. It is governments in the developing world that need to recognize the difference between claims of grandeur and hard scientific fact. Even small decisions to restrict actions by alleged archaeologists; help foster a scientific and knowledgeable environment.

    Treasure Hunter Barry Clifford discussing his ‘discovery’
    on CNN. Credit: World News

    This situation becomes even more interesting beyond the Santa Maria discovery. A simple news search shows that media coverage of this decision has only been covered by Haitian or foreign language media outlets. Once the initial announcement via the mass media was released in May to the American press, there has been little to no coverage of these developments since May in English-language outlets.

    This illustrates a trend in American sensationalist media where only the exciting or provoking news is made public, while the follow-up stories that are grounded in reality, are forgotten or dismissed. If the American public were able to know about why Clifford’s permit was revoked or why treasure hunters and archaeologists are ethically at odds, it would foster a new thoughtful perspective on cultural resources management and site preservation. The media is an integral part in spreading awareness of issues surrounding our cultural resources.  

     their technical assistance to determine the validity of Clifford’s claims and assess his permit and archaeological methods. UNESCO has since determined that the methodology and diver team employed by Clifford does not comply with the standards set by the Scientific Council of the UNESCO Convention.


  • An Opinion on Ocean Threats

    image via trashmanian devil

    In the New York Times ‘Swimming Through Garbage‘, ocean advocate and maritime lawyer, Lewis Pugh, comments that no matter where he swims on our globe, he is swimming through piles of trash- plastic, tires, diapers, bottles- you name it. As a United Nations Patron for the Oceans, he clearly illustrates the idyllic picture of how abundant oceanic wildlife used to be at Columbus’ time (no coincidence that today is Columbus Day), where the sea was ‘thick’ with turtles. When compared to present day, we must reference the Endangered Species Act (1973), which lists approximately 2,195 species on the endangered list. He is rightfully worried that in the next half-life, as more nations become developed and non-renewable resources are in higher demand, we will lose what little this Earth has left. If “an estimated 100 million sharks are fished out of the world’s oceans every year,” and we examine from now until 2030 – approx. ~15 years from now- that is One Billion Five Hundred Million sharks! In his view, the only way we will be able to limit this expansion, and perhaps reverse this alarming process, is through the creation of more marine protected areas (like NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries or PERSGA areas in Red Sea and Gulf of Aden). His ‘Seven Seas Expedition’ is “urging policy makers to protect at least 10% of our seas in a network of well managed and well designed Marine Protected Areas that represent the full range of marine life in our oceans.” I couldn’t agree more…

    As a relatively young diver myself, I have never scuba dived on a healthy reef, either for work or for play. One of my greatest laments as a diver has been that I cannot share in the same experiences of yesteryear with my colleagues who have been diving for decades, who constantly regale me with stories of healthy ecosystems and picturesque reefs. Also, my greatest marine animal experience has been at the Georgia Aquarium, a completely artificial environment, where I dove amongst four whale sharks. This was a fantastic experience, but not compared to diving off the coast of Mozambique or Indonesia and encountering the gentle giants in their natural habitat!  I remember my aquarium dive buddy commenting, ‘thank god we’ve had this opportunity- imagine flying half way across the world to maybe see something this spectacular’. She made that comment because there is no more guarantee that divers or anyone else trying to admire submerged natural beauty, will actually encounter these marine treasures- with fewer chances as time goes on. In fact, we dedicate a whole program as part of Youth Diving With a Purpose, to the Coral Restoration Foundation which “leads the development of offshore nursery and restoration methods to preserve unique genetic lineages of staghorn and elkhorn coral for research and restoration purposes,” which are both endangered.

    It’s small outlets of hope like CRF or Ocean Conservancy, that foster innovation and strategic planning for the possibility that our generation can reverse this unstoppable process. I concur with Pugh’s conclusion, and urge the public to get behind initiatives like those mentioned here, and to help create more global MPAs.  If we want our children to experience the same jaw-dropping moments in the water that we have had the privileges to engage, then we must advocate for more marine protected environments.
  • Youth Diving With a Purpose: Maritime Archaeology Camp with National Park Service

    These past two weeks have been what I commonly refer to as a ‘fieldwork bubble’ where the rest of the world falls out of my purview and my only focus is the project at hand. I have been down in the Florida Keys with a group called Diving With a Purpose (DWP) (referred to in this post) and the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center

    In 2011, I met the Founder of DWP, Ken Stewart, on a boat in the Atlantic Ocean side of Cape Town, looking for a shipwreck with the Slave Wrecks Project. DWP is a maritime archaeological advocacy course. We annually take a team of lay divers to document shipwrecks for the National Park Service (usually in Florida) where I am a DWP Maritime Archaeologist and Head of the DWP Research team. When Ken and I met, we immediately discovered our mutual goals of bringing the knowledge and preservation of underwater cultural resources to young people, so we helped create Youth Diving With a Purpose (YDWP), and had our inaugural session last July 2013. 

    Biscayne National Park, 2013

    YDWP is aimed at students who come from diverse communities but have been fortunate enough to learn how to scuba dive (either in school or from the help of some of our mentors). Our students represent an array of diverse communities from around the States and globally. The program is constructed to supply the young lay-diver (high school age) with knowledge to become underwater advocates for conservation and preservation through the pursuit of maritime archaeology. YDWP is a weeklong program teaching the basic skills of maritime archaeology in the Biscayne National Park, with the option for three-year renewal to become a DWP instructor in the adult course (two sessions in Florida and third session in Mozambique, Africa). The development of our youth component is a way for DWP to inspire the next generation of youth divers and give them solid maritime leads for their higher education and career goals.

    YDWP offers what other similar youth outreach programs cannot- that is a chance to take diving youth from diverse communities and actually get them in the water consecutively for years to come. Not only have our students fine-tuned their scuba skills, but they have been immersed in the fairly new scholarly pursuit of maritime archaeology. Maritime archaeology is only just becoming well known amongst the broader community of terrestrial archaeologists. As such, diversity is under-represented in this professional sphere, and YDWP aims to change those figures by teaching our students the necessary skills to become successful candidates for university programs and professional fellowships in maritime archaeology or similar subjects. Already our older students are off to pursue marine majors at universities around the United States this coming fall (Texas A&M, University of Miami, PennState, etc..). Our record of accomplishment as professionals, divers and mentors, all of whom are unpaid dedicated volunteers, are helping inspire the next generation of divers and scientists and giving them concrete ways to get there. Through YDWP mentorship, the students will develop their goals for their futures, gain a greater appreciation for the oceanic environment and the cultural heritage that is threatened on a daily basis. They will take this knowledge with them into their communities at home, at school, and when they enter the workforce.

    So for the last few weeks, I have been spending my time with this fantastic and successful group of high school and young college students. The course is divided up by different teaching focuses on the tenets of maritime archaeology. The first day is full day of presentations about the NPS, the Slave Wrecks Project, and the skills/wreck that we will be working on for the project. This is followed by an intensive afternoon of setting up a mock shipwreck and working on the skills we have just gone over. The next two days are typically boat days, where we are on the wreck doing a full survey, setting up the baseline, doing offset points, doing trilateration mapping, and in-situ drawings of artifacts/features on the site. Then we normally have a day back on land to reflect and discover any measurements or drawings that need to be retaken/redrawn. This year we had the boat three days in a row however, so we didn’t get to do as much on land mapping to create a composite site map (usually the final product), because we had a community service project up in Delray Beach, Fl. The community service aspect is an important part of our YDWP outreach, to engage local kids to becoming more interested in underwater cultural resources but also in the big blue ocean that is in their backyards. 

    Every time I see our group of students, which for some is often throughout the year, I become more proud and in awe of their accomplishments and motivations to overcome their individual challenges. It sounds incredibly cliché to say all of these things but I have become all the more motivated for my own professional and personal goals, just by spending time with them. The connection that the mentors and mentees have at YDWP is one that I find unmatched in most other situations that I find myself working, and I am sure that can be said for most in the program. In my experience, it isn’t typical for an archaeological project to have such a real world impact on young people’s lives, so for me, this goes far and above typical fieldwork experience and I greatly look forward to many years as a YDWP mentor and friend. 

  • The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist

    The ArchaeoVenturers Project: Advocating for the 21st Century Scientist
    ArchaeoVenturers are more than just archaeologists and anthropologists.  They are scientists and advocates who use activism, academia, and innovation for the advancement of society and culture.  These renaissance (wo)men venture beyond the boundaries of the excavation and explore science across disciplines in the constantly changing global environment.

    Jumping right into the big questions:

    What exactly is The ArchaeoVenturers Project and why are we doing it?

    The ArchaeoVenturers Project started as an idea to bring more attention to women who are breaking the glass ceiling in science, and in particular in our own favorite field – archaeology. As we sought ways to reach out to the next generation – the key to the future of science – the project blossomed into a web series and social media platform to bring attention to the individuals and the work that is inspiring to us.

    Why ArchaeoVenturers?

    – Thoughts from ‘The Digger’

    guess who the dinosaur is??

    So why am I doing this? That’s a story that starts a long long time ago…

    As a kid growing up in Ohio, I didn’t own a single Barbie, and for my 8th birthday, running around in dirt-smeared dinosaur t-shirts, I was ecstatic to receive a rock tumbler as a gift from my parents. All in all, I wasn’t a typical little girl – archaeology has been called “the peeping tom of the sciences” so yeah, you could call me a tomboy.

    Growing up before the days of DVR and Dish, there were few to no female archaeologists or scientists represented on popular television. Today, there are literally a thousand channels and still women remain under-represented in the public sphere. There are so many individuals out there who are not only doing incredible work that pushes boundaries in their fields both professionally and socially, but often they are overcoming obstacles to do so.

    I have been fortunate to be surrounded by strong women my whole life – no one in my family ever told me I couldn’t do something, and that left my world open to anything, it helped make me who I am today. I wanted to help create a venue that reached out to young people – and especially all of the other dirt covered, Barbie-less little girls out there – to show that science is awesome, and no matter who you are or what your gender is, that you can do things that change the world. There are incredible people doing innovative work every day, those are the people our girls should have available to them to look up to – not the reality stars of the world that dominate the social media sphere.

    – Thoughts from ‘The Diver’

    I was destined to swim amongst them..

    I, on the other hand, had too many Barbie dolls to count, and some very likely ended up in the dirt with me…in a sandbox…in Brooklyn.

    There is one incident however, devoid of archaeology, that sticks with me even until this day, and highlights the very reason ArchaeoVenturers is important to me: I went to elementary school with a very small class, and I was a very ‘girly’ girl until the 4th grade- I am talking pink and ribbons, you name it, I wore it, but I did this all while playing sports and running around with ‘the boys’. Then in the middle of that year, one of my girl friends said “you wear a dress to school every single day, can’t you dress normal and wear pants like everybody else?” Well, I literally took this girl so seriously that I didn’t wear another dress until well into high school. Being a tomboy became my existence because it was easier to hide the fact that I wanted to be a girly girl under all those flannel baggy shirts. I was afraid to express that I loved ‘roughing it’ all while wanting to be a lady on the outside.

    For me, this is where the ArchaeoVenturers Project comes in; I want to show other young girls, and boys, that no one else should be able to define how you get to represent yourself. In the field of archaeology, there tends to be this stark contrast between over sexualized or over frumpy – for both genders! Usually, women, because they want to be taken more seriously in the field, tend to go over to the more conservative end but why should that be? Can’t we decide that if we want to be somewhere in the middle – an intelligent covered in dirt archaeologist by day, and dressed up with red lipstick in heels by night – that it should be our decision?

    Some of the most interesting people I work with are youth from my maritime archaeology summer camp. It’s students like them that inspire me to make better choices and want to leave better impressions for the next generation. I hope that The ArchaeoVenturers Project brings archaeology, history and science in new and creative ways to a broader public, who are often regrettably left out of most academic conversations about their own past. This project will be a success to me, if even one young boy or girl becomes excited about their future because of the solutions that we help bring to light.

    Stay Tuned Each Week For A New Episode of The ArchaeoVenturers Project (youtube.com/ArchaeoVenturers)
    Tweet us (@ArchaeoVenturer) your thoughts on why you’re interested in ArchaeoVenturers! Or any similar standout moments from your childhood? We’d love to hear them!
    #ArchaeoVenturers #ArchaeoActivists
  • Climate Change & Underwater Cultural Heritage

    We are back from hiatus!! Thanks for hanging in there with us through our travels! This summer will have a lot more travels in store for our “Global ArchaeoVenturers” Series! – Stay tuned for the rest of Season 3 & more ‘in the field’ footage!
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    No matter which camp you side with in the ‘Climate Change’ discussion, its effects cannot be denied.period. Polar vortexes, massive flooding, snow in deserts, excessive drought, etc… we’ve all been privy to it the last few years no matter where we are in this world, in the extreme, and whether it happens sooner or later, these changes will continue unchecked. However, without getting into said debate, this blog & episode is about how climate change is not just affecting our atmospheres, oceans, and seas, but as a byproduct- our submerged heritage as well. If you’re a maritime archaeologist, a scuba diver, someone fascinated by shipwrecks or just someone interested in the past- this means you should be concerned for all of the knowledge that could potentially be lost because of climate change affecting the preservation and ability to document submerged sites.

    The author diving on a WWII shipwreck in Santorini
    The problem with underwater heritage is that it is by definition, underwater, meaning that many times these sites are ‘out of sight, out of mind’ for even those already concerned with cultural heritage protection. Because of a desperate need for awareness and additional protection even within our own sector, UNESCO had to expand upon the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property by creating a completely separate (and needed) Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in 2001. Heritage managers are already fighting great odds to protect submerged sites, and now climate change is complicating that fight even more because the answers aren’t clear and the solutions may not even be feasible.

    As Katie (The Digger) asks in this episode, how can things like rising sea levels make a difference for a site that is already underwater? Well rising sea levels create two problems- 1. sites that are not yet submerged, but may soon be. Even with the right protection, many of these sites are location specific and whole settlements that cannot be moved – Jamestown V.A.- the site of the first English settlement in America or the Statue of Liberty in NYC, amongst others, are predicted to be underwater within another 100 years! What can be done to prevent this? If people would cut their carbon emissions, it could slow down the rate of these predictions of sea level and temperature rises. 2. For sites already underwater, as discussed in the episode (all other environmental factors aside), a rise in water level on sites significantly reduces the amount of time that divers/maritime archaeologists can spend on the site. This might not seem like as big of a deal, but when you take into consideration how costly an underwater archaeological excavation already is, then if the time spent on a site continues to reduce, a full study could take years longer. English Heritage archaeologist Mark Dunkley describes “the effect of sea level rise on archaeological diving projects will be to incrementally reduce the amount of time (and therefore productivity) an air-breathing diver can spend underwater safely. For example, a 20% increase in diving depth can result in a 32% decrease in dive time.” Not to forget that the deeper a site gets, the more expensive high tech equipment will be needed for proper documentation. 


    Teredo navalis (shipworm type) in wood
    Other impacts of climate change on marine environments include increased seawater temperatures, ocean acidification and changes in ocean circulation which will also affect underwater cultural heritage. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses underwater WWII shipwrecks in North Carolina to monitor changes in the marine ecosystems that these ships support as the waters warm up. “North Carolina’s marine communities are made up of a mixture of temperate and tropical species, due to the states’ geographic location in a transition zone between north and south.” So far, they have seen an increase in tropical animals off N.C. as well as tropical algae species never before seen in the area. Invasive species like the notorious shipworm (which is actually a mollusk) which has a penchant for boring into and living in submerged wooden structures, are spreading from their native habitats and thriving in the warming seas. As far north as the U.K. Dunkley points out that the blacktip shipworm has now become active all-year round on unprotected shipwrecks because of sea temperature increase. A report on shipworm invasions in the Baltic Sea by David Gregory for UNESCO illustrates that these dangers to wooden vessels have spread possibly beyond repair in an environment once conducive to pristine wreck preservation, specifically because of the absence of marine borers. These species are an ever-growing major threat to wooden wrecks and structures.

    If you refer to an earlier blog “Forgotten Legacy of WWII Wrecks- Environmental Hazard or Underwater Cultural Heritage?” you’ll recall why the scientific world is also concerned because “shipwrecks, ocean acidification and waste dumping into oceans are among the biggest sources of
    ocean pollution. Some 75% of sunken wrecks date back to the Second World War; their metal structures are
    therefore ageing and the plates deteriorating, threatening to release their contents into the ocean under the
    effect of corrosion. The North Atlantic Ocean has 25% of the potentially polluting wrecks in the world, which can
    contain up to 38% of the total volume of oil trapped in sunken vessels” says the Council of Europe in 2012. 
    These numbers are meant to be intimidating. Humanity is so concerned (and rightfully so) with losing our cultural heritage through force and violence, like in the cases with ISIS going on right now, but what happens when we sit by and do nothing, knowing the effects of climate change today on the future of submerged sites? Will we be mournful for the unknown knowledge or the lives left unremembered on the bottom of the sea because we didn’t get out acts together in time before the information was lost? We must make more strides to understand the impacts/effects of climate change and create ocean management strategies that incorporate cultural heritage, for it is necessary to help us manage the maritime historic environment for future generations.