My research interests center upon highly interdisciplinary ways to ‘think’ volcanoes as emblematic examples of the long-term intersection between human life and changeable environments. I am particularly interested in the very dynamic ways that culture encapsulates mutable natures in narratives.
In my research I examine the ways that archaeology is impacted by post-Enlightenment interpretations of the volcano in eruptive and non-eruptive periods. My doctoral research at Columbia University focused upon fieldwork I conducted in western Panamá. In this project, I examined both pre-Columbian and contemporary social roles of the Volcán Barú. I incorporated traditional archaeological field survey and artifact analysis, ethnography, ethnohistory, and petrographic analysis of tephra from archaeological stratigraphy and lake-sediment cores. In exploring new ways to examine rock art and volcanic materials used in grave construction from my survey area I used a GIS to integrate satellite imagery and the deceptive precision of GPS points with less easily georeferenced data from historical maps, hearsay, rumor, and descriptions of looted site locations.
My current research projects explore conceptions of material culture and material nature and how we view and value them. I am examining the importance of William Hamilton’s Campi Phlegraei (1776) and Alexander von Humboldt’s 1799-1804 New World travels in modern scientific conceptions of volcanism. In a separate project I am querying the social value we give to landscapes and have recently completed trips to the Antarctic Peninsula and Amazonia to examine these issues through the lens of ecotourism and heritage. In future projects I intend to examine the parallels and overlaps in the ways that the lived experience of volcanic regions intersects with that of glacial regions as well as ways that geological conceptions are incorporated into contemporary art and literature.
My past fieldwork experiences have been in Athens, Belize, El Salvador, Papua New Guinea, and both prehistoric and historic sites in Virginia. I will be teaching two courses in 2009-2010: ‘The Nature and Culture of Disaster’ and ‘Archaeology under the Volcano’. I will also be planning a colloquium for December 2009, Terra Mobilis: Fire and Ice.