About Me

Late medieval farm at Gröf, Iceland. 2014. Photo: Rachel Rubin

Late medieval farm at Gröf, Iceland. 2014. Photo: Rachel Rubin

I’m an environmental archaeologist and a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park. I’m interested in the dynamics of cultural adaptations for the management of changing landscapes. This drives my research as a zooarchaeologist: an archaeologist who analyzes animal remains to investigate both our reliance on these animals as well as their ability to be an archive of information on past environmental change. These data can provide an insight into the powerful connection between cultural-biological communities and natural capital. Livestock animals such as sheep and cattle can themselves be viewed as ‘manufactured’ artifacts: their bodies a product of both natural processes and human management strategies.

My dissertation research is focused on understanding patterns of livestock management strategies and landscape change across the North Atlantic with an emphasis on the connection between livestock grazing and land surface change in Iceland from its Viking Age settlement to the arrival of industrialization. You can learn more about my current research here.

Fieldwork in the rain. Skaftártunga, Iceland. 2014. Photo: Rachel Rubin

Fieldwork in the rain. Skaftártunga, Iceland. 2014. Photo: Rachel Rubin

I bring together my humanities background with my training in archaeological science to promote a holistic view of cultural heritage and the connections to shifting environmental conditions and climate change in the past and present. My colleagues across the many related academic disciplines are working to both break down the barriers between our research within academe but also to better communicate and engage with the public. Aside from its inherent value as our shared cultural heritage, archaeological resources are both being threatened by changing climate and have the potential to tell stories about how communities in the past have confronted and managed their responses to various forms of environmental change. I’m honored to serve on the Society for American Archaeology’s recently formed committee on Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Resources.

Landscape survey on Big Moor, Peak District, Derbyshire. 2009.

Landscape survey on Big Moor, Peak District, Derbyshire. 2009.

As we collectively work to build public policies to address anthropogenic climate change, archaeology and historical ecology are the only sources for data on the outcomes of these long-term completed ‘experiments’ in the past. Indeed, we argue that archaeological resources should be viewed as distributed observing networks of human ecodynamics in the past – our best source for understanding not just human societies and history but placing long-term environmental change in the human scale of years and decades.

In addition to my dissertation research, my ongoing projects (a) trace the emerging research potential of coupling aDNA with faunal biometrical data; (b) construct an integrated environmental history of the Potomac River Gorge region as a model for the US National Park Service; and (c) identify the areas in which Historical Ecology research can be applied towards facilitating a more sustainable and socially- and environmentally-just world.

Water screening at Accotink Quarter, Lorton, Virginia. 2012. Photo: Craig Rose

Water screening at Accotink Quarter, Lorton, Virginia. 2012. Photo: Craig Rose

Archaeology has taken me across North America and Europe. During my time as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia, I was trained in prehistoric archaeology and colonial-period zooarchaeology. I’ve measured remains of game animals such as deer at medieval castle and manor sites in England to understand how elite individuals enacted and maintained high-status lifestyles while I was earning a master’s degree at the University of Sheffield in delightful South Yorkshire. Before beginning my doctoral program at the University of Maryland, my previous work at the Georgia Museum of Natural History and a cultural resource management firm in Virginia have allowed me to gain experience working in complex post-colonial contexts along the U.S. Gulf Coast and the Mid-Atlantic region.


You can access my full CV for a list of publications and professional work.

Research Interests

Zooarchaeology, Historical Ecology, Coupled Human-Natural Systems, Socio-Ecological Systems, Environmental Archaeology, Climate Change, Cultural Heritage, Iceland, Dynamical Systems Theory, Ancient DNA, Traditional Ecological Knowledge

Education

current     Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Maryland

2010           M.Sc. Environmental Archaeology & Palaeoeconomy, University of Sheffield

2009           B.A. Anthropology, University of Georgia

2006           A.A. Liberal Arts, Young Harris College