Monday, October 26, 2015

Evolutionary Research and Graduate Programs at Binghamton University... Interested?

Now that I have landed at Binghamton University, I am looking forward to working with graduate students who are interested in pursuing a PhD in evolution-based research focusing on the archaeological record and/or historical and contemporary data. Ideal students would have an interest in quantitative methods, programming and other kinds of tools that enable evolutionary modeling (e.g., simulation). Some experience in archaeometry, artifact analysis, phylogenetic analyses, materials analyses, geochronology, GIS, remote sensing, paleoenvironmental analyses, spatial studies, statistics, etc. would be beneficial though training in these areas is certainly available at Binghamton. Fundamentally, I am looking for students who are passionate about science and share my passion for figuring out why the human past unfolded as it did.
Binghamton University offers a remarkable array of resources that can provided a background and training in evolutionary studies. Within the Anthropology Department, the PhD program is a general sort with the usual exposure to anthropological research. However, in my own courses I teach all my classes within a science- and evolutionary based framework. In addition to my own classes, opportunities exist within the department to gain training from other faculty. For example, Koji Lum runs the Laboratory of Evolutionary Anthropology and Health (LEAH) and does research that emphasizes the Pacific islands, a region of particular interest to me. David (Andy) Merriwether runs an ancient DNA laboratory and is doing amazing work studying past populations of camelids. The potential for collaborative work and cross-training in these laboratories is exceptional. In the area of paleoanthropology, Rolf Quam is studying human evolution and has been active at Atapuerca in northern Spain. Outside the Department there is an even greater array of opportunities for training in evolution. First, we have EVoS, the Evolutionary Studies Program. EVoS is an interdisciplinary program that brings together faculty from across the University who are interested in evolutionary theory and evolutionary science. EVoS offers classes in evolutionary thinking and has a prominent lecture series that brings researchers from around the world to present on evolution-based research. The Director of EVoS is David Sloan Wilson, who is well-known for his evolutionary theory advocacy, research into the dynamics of group-level behavior and applications of evolutionary thinking to contemporary issues in communities. Wilson is a remarkable thinker who is fearless in his approach to using evolution in the study of human populations. Second, Binghamton has the newly established Center for Collective Dynamics of Complex Systems, CoCo. CoCo is an interdisciplinary program that fosters collaborations among faculty who are interested in studying complexity. Many of the CoCo researchers make use of evolutionary dynamics as a means of studying change in populations and their foci complement that of EVoS quite nicely. In terms of science-based analyses of the archaeological record and in addition to resources in Geological Sciences, Binghamton has the Advanced Diagnostics Laboratory (ADL). ADL is a centrally managed laboratory with a diverse array of instruments that are suitable for studying physical properties of material culture. These instruments will play an important role in generating data on variability in artifact performance as it varies over space and time. In the realm of field research, we are currently putting into place a program in remote sensing and geospatial research through a collaboration with Geography, Geology, the MA program in Public Archaeology and Environmental Studies. This collaboration will bring together tools and instruments for mapping landscapes at the surface and subsurface. We are in the process of assembling a suite of fixed wing UAS, rotor UAS - with color, NIR and LiDAR sensors. We are also setting up a laboratory for object-based image analysis and are acquiring a suite of geophysical equipment: ground penetrating radar, seismic, resistivity and magnetometry/gradiometry. We should be well positioned to offer training in cutting edge field techniques in the next year. Funding is available for graduate students within the Anthropology department. Applications should be submitted early to be considered for departmental funding. Additional sources of funding depend on research projects and funds that are always in the works. Overall, I welcome students who wish do evolutionary research in any part of the prehistoric, historic and contemporary world. While my own work is in the Pacific and the Mississippi Valley, students need not focus in those areas. If any of this interests you, feel free to contact me. In addition, check out the Anthropology graduate program and application procedures. We'd be happy to give you the tour of the University if you care to visit the beautiful Northeast.