Archeologist research associate…seeing the unknown unfold.

I’m a research associate at a pulic university…. research associate is a label for recent graduates who don’t have jobs…I rearrange their collections …lab space…do some research projects which I’ve brought in….more than full time work. And I also teach introduction to Archaology at another university. I have a few grants doing contract research in Archaeology. A lot of stuff in the national park.

Sometimes I get called in for salvage archaeology…I get into it sometimes, but only if it interests me. A lot of archaeologists do that……A lot of archaeologists will look the other way for stuff like that. It’s not ideal kind of work because you have a bounded piece of land…they want you to survey through that and clear it. It’s federal law…there is no research objective to it other than saying it’s significant or not and then you keep going.

I got into Archaeology through the courses I took in Undergrad. I didn’t start in it…I started in Engineering and didn’t think of it as a career. I didn’t have any friends in Engineering…narrow minded people…I didn’t like the classes. They would do their work and play cards and drink soda all night.

I took antrhopology and a field archaeology course and through that, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I knew I would never be rich, but you gotta do what you enjoy doing. I remember that when I dropped the engineering school, the dean wrote a letter to my parents saying ‘Do you know what your son is doing?’

I love the field work. being able to design and implement field projects…the process of seeing things come together…seeing things that are unknown and seeing it unfold….. My specialty is eastern north american prehistory….I picked that because that’s where most of my experience was and I had opportunities to work there. Some of the first archaeology i did was in caves and so I maintained that. I’ve worked other parts of the us…I’ve toured other places…but this is what I know the best and what I became most interested in. Eventually you have to specialize….you have some theoretical background and you have to have an area you know about to apply it to….

The worst things…funding, buraucracy, paperwork, trying to please everybody….Earthwatch, University, volunteer, parks….making everybody happy is the hard part. Volunteers are easiest cuz they leave soon enough….we try to explain as thorough as we can about what you are getting into…

I don’t seriously think of stopping….there are points where you get burnout and if somebody had offered me a lucrative job at that point, I may have taken it…in between degrees, etc….Occasionally I’ll go and do contract work for awhile and realize that the academic stuff is what I want to do. The contract stuff is really a business where you have to low bid, cut corners….what you gain from it is not as valuable as when you do academic research.. A lot of money is spent there and not all of it is worthwhile. Although I haven’t experienced the problems of faculty too much as of yet.

In 5 years, I hope to have a permanent job….tenyear track position…or a museum position. I don’t mind teaching but it’s a lot of work and not as rewarding for the work put in. Trying to motivate kids who are just out of high school is almost impossible…they just aren’t interested. You get a syllabus built up, but you still have to keep working on it…books are changing…knowledge changes….
In 30 years, I’ll be at the end of my produictive career…the next 20 years will be the most productive and I’d like to have built a program in this area concerning the caves area and it’s prehistory…that takes long term commitment to make it valuable. Whenever you learn something, it raises more questions. I’m interested in how humans impact the environment and I want to learn about how the environment has been impactd in this area. How have we interacted with the environment in this area? It links into larger global systems and I’d like to know how these things are intermeshed…..