Professor of Anthropology Julia King and adjunct instructor of anthropology Scott Strickland ’08 are featured along with Chief Anne Richardson of the Rappahannock Tribe in the January/February edition of Archaeology Magazine. The article, “Return to the River,” focuses on their work tracing the history and development of the Rappahannock Indians in early American history. The anthropology department at St. Mary’s College first began studying the Rappahannock River valley’s history in 2016 at the request of the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office and the Chesapeake Conservancy. The work was undertaken to provide interpretive support for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail and led to the Rappahannock Indians’ return to the river when former Senator John Warner and his daughter, Virginia Warner, donated land to the Rappahannock in their ancestral homeland. The survey of the greater river valley has been funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Assistant Professor of Biology Emily Brownlee was recently awarded a $21,840 grant from the National Science Foundation for her project titled: Collaborative Research FSML: PhytoChop: An estuarine phytoplankton observatory (Award Number: 2022966). The two-year award began August 1, and will help fund Brownlee’s collaborative research with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES- Horn Point Laboratory).
With this grant, the researchers will establish the PhytoChop Coastal Observatory, an advanced autonomous instrument array designed to monitor the composition and photosynthetic activity of the phytoplankton community, together with water column nutrient and optical properties. The PhytoChop Coastal Observatory will be housed at Horn Point Laboratory’s research pier situated on the Choptank River, a tidal sub-estuary of the Chesapeake Bay.
Brownlee will be responsible for setting up and analyzing instrumentation data, and will help curate and expand the imaging library. Furthermore, Brownlee will coordinate with her collaborators at UMCES to synthesize results from the integration of Imaging FlowCytobot data with other PhytoChop instrumentation.
I’m excited to be a part of founding one of the first observatories to combine high-resolution plankton imaging and plankton health measurements at very small timescales. Along with measuring environmental parameters, this can provide unprecedented insight into how phytoplankton, such as those contributing to harmful algal blooms, are responding to long-term environmental and climate change. To have such an observatory on the Chesapeake Bay is a long-time dream of mine and I look forward to integrating observatory data into my courses and supplying St. Mary’s Project students with a lot of data in years to come!
Professor of Anthropology, Julia (Julie) King, was recently awarded a $110,000 grant from the National Park Service to fund a complete archeological overview and assessment of Piscataway Park in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This project will be conducted through a Cooperative Agreement under the Chesapeake Watershed Cooperative Ecosystems Study Unit. The Cooperative Agreement was signed August 14, 2020 and the project is expected to be completed by December 31, 2021.
Piscataway Park is a unit of the National Park Service administered by National Capital Parks—East. The park is located in Southern Maryland along the banks of the Potomac River. This park is significant because of the rich archeological resources located within the park and their impact on our modern understanding of Native American societies in the Eastern Middle Atlantic. Situated approximately 25 miles downriver from Washington D.C., lands within the park were home to the Potomac Valley’s indigenous inhabitants for thousands of years—dating as far back as 6,000 years ago and through the 1500s. Among the occupants were the Piscataway Indians of Southern Maryland whose ancestors still live nearby today.
Piscataway Park is the greatest resource of pre-contact and contact period American Indian archeological resources in the National Capital Region of the National Park Service. The park has been the subject of several archeological investigations, but there has never been a synthetic report of this work or a formal organization of this material for management needs. The scope and breadth of existing archeological collections also lend themselves to addressing future research questions related not only to the history of Piscataway Park, but also the Native American communities that once lived there.
The archeological overview and assessment will describe and assess the known and potential archeological resources at Piscataway Park. The overview reviews, summarizes and synthesizes existing archeological data in detail, assesses past work, identifies gaps in our understanding of the archeological data, and determines the need for and recommendations for future studies. The document will be a core baseline archeological resources management reference for the National Capital Parks—East unit. This project will also critically examine and evaluate museum collections from archeological sites in the park to assist in understanding the history of the park. Furthermore, this work will develop recommendations for future research for management of park resources and public education. Julie King is the Principal Investigator for the project, with Scott Strickland (’08) serving as Research and GIS Coordinator. The grant also includes funding for an assistant archaeologist, likely to be an SMCM alum, and two student assistants.
Pending available funding, King and NPS may continue the project into 2022 and beyond with a new cooperative agreement. Additional work will likely entail reviewing and assessing archaeological collections, completion of updating state site forms, and updating archeological site condition assessments for the National Park System’s online Cultural Resources Inventory System. Further work may also involve the production of a publicly accessible document (excluding sensitive archeological information) that will provide a detailed history of the Native American experience as linked to Piscataway Park, along with a Finding Aid/Collections Assessment document to complement the Archeological Overview and Assessment Document.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland announces a SEP Phase XV Scientific Equipment grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation to support, improve and broaden the access and impact of undergraduate science education at the College.
This grant will supply the equipment to establish two new laboratory spaces on campus, a fabrication laboratory and an imaging center, as well as the acquisition of observational astronomy and chemical imaging equipment that will support and expand current curricular and research offerings to both science and non-science majors.
Engaging students through experiential learning is a major component of the College’s new Learning through Experiential and Applied Discovery (LEAD) initiative. Through LEAD, faculty work across disciplines to blend together a thoughtful and purposeful academic experience for students with hands-on learning opportunities intertwined with credit-bearing professional skill development courses.
“We are grateful to the Sherman Fairchild Foundation for investing in St. Mary’s College of Maryland as we continue to work toward integrating practical and professional skills for students through our LEAD initiative promoting success beyond college,” said President Tuajuanda C. Jordan.
Scientific equipment like that provided through the grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation also enables the College to recruit and retain more talented high school students to the College by increasing and diversifying undergraduate research and hands-on learning opportunities for both science and non-science majors.
The St. Mary’s College of Maryland Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization that supports the College through sound fiscal management of a growing endowment portfolio. It is governed by a board of directors that gives its expertise and time in service to the College without compensation.
St. Mary’s College of Maryland, the National Public Honors College, is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education through 2024-2025. St. Mary’s College is ranked one of the best public liberal arts schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Approximately 1,600 students attend the college, nestled on the St. Mary’s River in Southern Maryland.
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Ellen Kohl was recently awarded a $14,117 grant from the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) for her project titled: Implications of Trump Administration policies on Environmental Justice Activists. The award is part of a larger project sponsored by the David and Lucille Packard Foundation.
Kohl will lead a team of EDGI scholars to draw on interview data to research the responses of environmental justice activists to the actions of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Trump Administration. EDGI researchers have begun and continue to conduct interviews with environmental justice activists across the United States. During the funding period, Kohl will use the time allotted to her by a course release to:
- use qualitative research methods to analyze interview data and documents received through an ongoing Freedom of Information Act request, and
- spearhead an EDGI white paper and a peer reviewed manuscript.
The EDGI interview and policy project leads have done extensive research, interviews, and writing on the impact that Trump administration policies have on EPA, EPA employees, and how these changes have impacted implementation of environmental policies. This project complements EDGI’s ongoing research by examining how changes within the EPA impact those on the ground who are most vulnerable to the changes brought about by the Trump administration. By analyzing interview data from environmental justice activists, this research can contribute to EDGI’s goal of centering justice and equity in environmental, climate, and data governance. The grant began August 1, 2020.
Cassie Gurbisz, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, has received a grant for $19,073 from the Ferry Cove Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding the Chesapeake Bay oyster aquaculture industry. Partnering with Dr. Jeremy Testa from University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, Dr. Gurbisz will collect measurements in the waterways around Tilghman Island, MD to quantify the effects of a new oyster hatchery on the local coastal environment.
The hatchery, to be located on an 80-acre farm with several hundred feet of shoreline, will include a floating oyster conditioning area and a 400-foot oyster reef breakwater. Measurements in and around the conditioning area, which includes floating oyster cages to be installed atop beds of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV), provide an excellent opportunity to investigate the ways in which oyster aquaculture interacts with SAV. This has recently become a hot topic as both SAV abundance and aquaculture leases expand and therefore compete for space in shallow regions of the Chesapeake Bay. Data collected prior to and after the construction of the oyster breakwater and the adjacent marsh will generate information about the ways in which this increasingly popular but understudied shoreline defense structure modifies physical and ecological processes at the land-water interface. While each of these objectives is valuable individually, together they will constitute a unique case study of how the coastal environment responds to multiple human uses from a holistic, integrated perspective.
The goal of the current project is to collect baseline environmental data before hatchery construction begins. Over the next several years, Gurbisz and Testa hope to continue the project to collect post-construction data and make more detailed measurements. This project complements Gurbisz and Testa’s ongoing work funded by Maryland Sea Grant to study the effects of bottom cage oyster aquaculture on SAV. Ultimately, their goal is to provide scientifically sound information to guide regional environmental policy and management decisions related to SAV-oyster aquaculture interactions.
Barry Muchnick, Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, was recently awarded a three-year, $18,110 subaward as part of a $1.077 million National Science Foundation grant for a project titled: Developing a Next Generation Concept Inventory to Help Environmental Programs Evaluate Student Knowledge of Complex Food-Energy-Water Systems (NSF award number 2013373). The collaborative research project brings together researchers from University of Northern Colorado, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and nine other higher-education institutions across the country to develop a machine-learning program to assess students’ understanding of the connections among food-energy-water concepts in their classes. Their ultimate goal is to improve teaching in college-level environmental studies courses by helping instructors make evidence-based decisions on how to best shape their students’ understanding of complex systems thinking and sustainability concepts.
“Big data and the power of machine learning drive this project,” Muchnick said, “but ultimately we are interested in how best to reinforce interdisciplinary connections, especially with regard to food, energy, and water systems.” “I’m thrilled that St. Mary’s College of Maryland environmental studies students are part of a national research effort to more effectively train the next generation of environmental leaders.”
Muchnick’s teaching and scholarship is concerned with how natural and cultural systems interact to form our ecosystems, experiences, institutions, and imaginations.
Professor of Biology Karen Crawford’s milestone study on achieving the first gene knockout in a cephalopod using the squid Doryteuthis pealeii was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Crawford, who was the Whitman Scientist this summer on a team at Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, is first author of the study reported in the July 30 issue of Current Biology. The NPR story is available online.
Professor of Anthropology Julia King, Instructor of Anthropology Scott Strickland and SMCM students Caitlin Hall, Sarah Kifer and Danielle Harris-Burnett are featured in a July 25, 2020 Fredericksburg.com article focusing on their Rappahannock Tribe project called “Indigenous Borderlands of the Chesapeake.” The team is doing historical archaeology in Virginia to find spots where Native American villages existed along the Rappahannock River.
King and her crew have been working recently at a land tract above the Rappahannock River called Fones Cliffs. The site had been considered for development but was acquired instead in 2019 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Fones Cliffs has a rich cultural history, as well as important ecological habitat and a beautiful white cliff landscape.
The team of archaeologists has found clues of Native Americans at Fones Cliffs and King said the main objective will continue to be finding evidence of the three large villages that exist in both the Rappahannock Tribe’s oral histories and in Captain John Smith’s journals, describing his journey up the river in 1608. King notes that an earlier round of exploration on the Fones Cliffs site was funded by The Conservation Fund, while this year’s two weeks of digging and exploration were paid for by the refuge.
Assistant Professor of Psychology at St. Mary’s College of Maryland Gili Freedman and colleague Jennifer Beer (University of Texas at Austin) recently received a collaborative, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation for a total of $465,222 ($75,102 of which will go to SMCM).
In the project titled “Collaborative Research: Lessening the Blow of Social Rejection,” Freedman and Beer will investigate the language of social rejection and how power and concern for one’s reputation shape the way that individuals reject others. A central aim of the project is to develop empirically supported training that teaches individuals how to be less hurtful when they engage in social rejection. Starting this fall, Freedman will be working with SMCM collaborative research students on the first stages of the grant.
Read the award abstract (Award Number 2017043) on NSF’s website.