What research questions currently preoccupy you?
Three issues in particular drive my current research. The first of these is human induced environmental change in historical context. I am also focused on issues of identity, ethnicity, and labor in industry. The third is the age of exploration. First contact between cultures anywhere intrigues me, because it never occurs first with scholars or diplomats, but by sailors, soldiers, merchants, and social mavericks. This has shaped the world more than we know.
What personal factors contributed to your study?
I have a deep interest in environmental and historical preservation.
What has been most challenging in your research?
I try to make connections between seemingly distinct arenas of human behavior. Doing so archaeologically requires careful construction of material correlates that are not often intuitive.
How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?
Being at SJSU has given me a solid and credible reputation. The college has been generous in its support of my research, and we have built one of the premier archaeological field schools for student in the country.
A hidden (research) talent:
I am really an Anthropologist. I approach all archaeology from an anthropological perspective. I am also a magician, so I am also always aware of how easy it is to deceive ourselves.
One book that changed your life (or research) & why:
There have been many, but the one with the most impact was Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth. I read it during a summer reading program in 3rd grade. It was almost 1000 pages. I am a slow reader, and it took me most of the summer. It made me feel I had accomplished something real, and it also set me on a path, because it made science seem like adventure.
A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:
I never miss the newspaper (SF Chronicle) or NPR in the morning. There isn’t a website that I can’t live without. I always read the journal of the Society for Historical Archaeology.
Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:
Don’t be afraid to take on research or projects that are outside your comfort zone and immediate training or to adopt relevant technologies. You will find intersections with your basic interests, grow, and enhance your research abilities.
The conference in Washington was for the Society for Historical Archaeology. My paper title was, Environmental Change and Capitalism: Profit and Exploitation of the Natural World in Colonial Context. This is based on research over the past several years and is the subject of my recent book. I am also preparing to further this study during the summer by investigating prehistoric environments. Data related to these environments will be reconstructed through archaeological and geoarchaeological methods. Last October I conducted XRf (x-ray florescence spectometry) analysis of porcelains from 16th century Spanish shipwrecks on California’s coast in an effort to isolate the origins of cargo. The collections are curated by the National Park Service at Pt. Reyes. I was aided by two graduate students.