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Structural Vulnerability Profile

In partnership with my UWF colleagues, Dr. Meredith Marten (Medical Anthropology) and Dr. Allysha Winburn (Forensic Anthropology), in our Biocultural Research Group Lab, we have begun to explore the embodied effects of structural inequity and structural violence that become apparent in skeletal and dental tissues. Our first publication "Operationalizing a Structural Vulnerability Profile for forensic anthropology: Skeletal and dental biomarkers of embodied inequity" appeared in November of 2022 and has already produced a robust conversation in biological anthropology. Our research has been supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and was featured in an Executive Session of the American Association of Anthropology Meetings in Toronto, Canada in November of 2023. 


In our evaluation of anonymized medicolegal CT imagery contextualized with demographic data provided by next of kin from the the New Mexico Decedent Image Database, NMDID, we have collected 41 biomarkers that highlight embodied structural inequity. We work closely with graduate students who have developed a fantastic Radiograph Guide to assist in the collection of data from CT scans. 


This work is now being extended into archaeological and contemporary populations to reconstruct and model structural vulnerability in the past, present, and future.

Migration, Kinship, and Social Organization at the urban frontier city of Copan

My research draws from methods in biological anthropology, archaeology, osteology, biogeochemistry, and genetics to investigate kinship, migration, and what life was like in the past. I conducted the first ever bioarchaeological study of kinship and migration at the site of Copan that explored social organization and the urban city at a frontier zone between the Maya world and Central Honduras.​My dissertation, "Family, 'foreigners', and fictive kinship: a bioarchaeological approach to social organization at Late Classic Copan" can be found at the Arizona State University repository and at the link below.​I used dental metric biodistance data and strontium isotope analysis to examine those buried in 22 different patios within 8 residential groups at Copan. I found that 40% of the Late Classic Copan people were from a place outside of the city, were well-integrated into society, and that there is very poor evidence for ethnic neighborhoods in urban Copan. The results also suggested that kinship models do not follow a lineage format in Copan but instead follow a more nuanced and open "house" model (see Levi-Strauss; Gillespie). This research was completed in 2014, published in May 2015, and was supported by the National Science Foundation (BCS-1207533)

The Copan Skeletal Collection, Honduras

In addition to working with archaeological projects with Harvard University, Pennsylvania University, University of New Mexico, and the Honduran Institute of Anthropology and History (IHAH) among others, I have devoted myself to ensuring that the skeletal remains curated in Copan are protected for the cultural patrimony of Honduras.   I began working in Copan in 2004 to create an inventory of the skeletal remains of approximately 1,200 individuals recovered from the site since 1890. As part of that process, I also conducted a complete cleaning and re-housing of the skeletal collection in new bags, boxes, and with new tags to ensure their safety for the long-term in the now temperature controlled Copan Osteology Lab. The Copan collection is the largest yet recovered in Mesoamerica and is of great cultural and scientific importance. I continue to care for the collection and have an active research program with which I can engage undergraduate and graduate students from the United States and Honduras. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation. ​ I was chosen as a Fulbright Scholar for 2020 to teach conservation methods and bioarchaeological techniques to students from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Honduras (UNAH).

Ucanal, Guatemala

I am also the bioarchaeology field and laboratory director for the Ucanal Archaeological Project (PAU) where we investigate the Postclassic site of Ucanal with a great team directed by Dr. Christina Halperin of the Universite du Montreal. We are only a few seasons into excavations and have plans to continue with household archaeological research in the coming year.

Blue Creek, Belize and The Maya Research Program

I also co-direct a bioarchaeology fieldschool in Blue Creek, Belize on teh remains of 260 individuals recovered from Early Classic residential settlements. The field school typically takes place for 2-3 weeks every July in Belize.

Tayasal and San Bernabé, Guatemala

In collaboration with the project director, Dr. Timothy Pugh, I serve as the bioarchaeologist in the field and lab for his projects in Lake Petén Itzá region of Guatemala where we are investigation ancient Maya and Spanish-Maya Contact-period (~1690) sites.

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