David Meltzer, Anthropology, mammoth mystery solved

Smithsonian Magazine

Originally Posted: August 3, 2016

Until recently, Alaska’s St. Paul Island was home to a mystery of mammoth proportions. Today the largest animals living on this 42-square mile speck of earth are a few reindeer, but once, St. Paul was woolly mammoth territory. For more than 4,000 years after the mainland mammoths of Asia and North American were wiped out by environmental change and human hunting, this barren turf served as one of the species’ last holdouts.

Only one group of mammoths lived longer than those of St. Paul: the mammoths of Wrangel Island, a 2,900-square mile island located in the Arctic Ocean, which managed to survive until about 4,000 years ago. In this case, scientists suspect we played a hand in the tenacious beasts’ demise. Archaeological evidence suggests that human hunters helped pushed already vulnerable populations over the edge.

But the mammoths of St. Paul never encountered humans, meaning they were shielded from one of the main destructive forces that likely killed their kin. So how did they meet their final end some 5,600 years ago?

Scientists finally think they have the answer. This week, an interdisciplinary team of researchers reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the mammoths essentially died of thirst. Using mammoth remains and radiocarbon dating, researchers found that dwindling freshwater due to climate change caused populations to dry up. Their results—which also show that the St. Paul mammoths persisted for longer than originally thought, until about 5,600 years ago—pinpoints a specific mechanism that may threaten other coastal and island populations facing climate change today.

Scientists had known previously that climate change must have played a role in the St. Paul mammoth extinction, but they had few clues as to the specifics. “This is an excellent piece of research, well-evidenced and well-argued,” says David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University who was not involved in the study. “It’s just the sort of species- and region-specific work that needs to be done to fully understand the causes of extinction for this and other animals in the past.” READ MORE

SMU students earn fellowships to conduct research during summer of 2016

SMU NEWS

Originally Posted: August 10, 2016

For five SMU students, the summer of 2016 wasn’t a walk on the beach. It was an international research adventure instead.

Benjamin Chi, Abigail Hawthorne, Sara Jendrusch, Katherine Logsdon and Yasaman Sahba traveled far and wide this summer conducting research on topics ranging from diabetes in China to performance anxiety among musicians thanks to prestigious Richter Research Fellowships earned through SMU’s University Honors Program. In conducting their research, they joined fellow students Preksha Chowdhary and Anthony Jeffries, who embarked on their projects earlier this year as SMU’s 2016 Richter Research Fellows.

SMU is one of only 12 universities that offer the competitive fellowships, which are supported by the Paul K. and Evalyn E. Cook Richter Memorial Funds. To qualify for a Richter grant, a student needs to be an honors student in good standing.

“My research this summer has been a life-changing experience for me,” says Richter fellow Hawthorne.   “Mental health – and opinions of self-worth often so closely connected to professional artists’ careers – is rarely discussed, and I am hoping my research will help to change some of the negative stigmas associated with experiences of anxiety.”

Details about each student’s project can be viewed below:

Benjamin Chi in Harbin, China

“Diabetes among Rural Immigrants moving to Chinese Cities”

During the summer of 2016 Chi traveled to Harbin, China, to conduct original research on diabetes in China, where it is reaching epidemic proportions. The problem appears especially acute among the migrant populations who have moved in great numbers from the country’s rural villages to its largest cities, such as Harbin. Mentored by a medical professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chi observed patients at a medical clinic and conducted interviews and surveys in a search for causes of the spread of diabetes. With this original research Chi had the chance to contribute significantly to the study of diabetes and its potential causes.

Abigail Hawthorne in Durango, Colorado

“Performance Anxiety among Classical Music Players”

Abigail traveled to a summer music festival to interview classical music performers and gauge their level of performance anxiety. Combining her double majors of music and psychology, this project allowed her to investigate an issue that she herself has often struggled with. In addition to the qualitative interviews, Abigail also distributed a set of written questions so she could develop preliminary quantitative data as well. With the mentoring of her professor in the Psychology Department, Abigail intends to seek publication for the final results of this study.

Sara Jendrusch in London,

Prostitution in the United Kingdom & the United States: A Comparative Study”

Sara traveled to London to further her research into prostitution in modern society. Having pursued the American half of her comparative study here in Dallas, Sara volunteered in a handful of British shelters that assist women and men seeking to leave prostitution. She also conducted informal interviews with current prostitutes as well. Her research project asked the question: What is the life of a prostitute like today in these two countries? Are conditions better or worse than in past historical periods? And how has an increase in human trafficking world-wide impacted prostitution?

Katherine Logsdon in Amsterdam, Netherlands

“Pain in Childbirth: Exploring Pain Management Techniques and Perceptions of Childbirth Pains in Dutch Women”

Katherine traveled to Amsterdam this summer for her second trip studying the Dutch society where almost 50 percent of children are still born at home using traditional childbirth techniques. Despite its status as a highly industrialized and western society, the Netherlands has chosen not to turn to the modern methods used in the United States and other industrialized societies, where the vast majority of births are performed in hospitals. Katherine’s work contrasts the pain management techniques used in more traditional midwife practices with those employed in American hospitals. Her field work included shadowing four Dutch midwives as well as conducting numerous interviews with their patients. Katherine has now been at work on this project for three years and the final product will serve as her Honors or Distinction thesis in her health and society major. Katherine also is working with her faculty mentor, Professor Carolyn Smith-Morris, to submit an article for publication in a scholarly journal.

Yasaman Sahba in Llojlla Grande, Bolivia

“Rural Electrification in Bolivia”

Yasaman traveled to the small village of Llojlla Grande in Bolivia, where the country’s government and international NGOs are involved in a project to establish dependable and affordable electrical service. Bolivia is a rich area for this work, as it is currently sponsoring a number of such efforts throughout the country, mostly in rural areas. Yasaman will not only work as a volunteer on this project, but will observe and record her own notes on the relative success of the project – or lack thereof – for the local population.   

Anthony Jeffries in Washington, D.C.

“A Tragedy of Timing: An Examination of the Chief Justiceship of Roger Brooke Taney”

Pursuing an Honors or Distinction thesis in History, Anthony used his Richter Fellowship funding to travel to the Library of Congress, and the National Archives to research the decisions of Chief Justice Roger Taney – author of the now-infamous Dred Scott Decision of 1854 – that helped push the United States toward the Civil War six years later. Preliminary work and secondary source readings have led Anthony to the conclusion that Taney is not simply the notorious figure we remember him as today, but was rather a victim of his time. Anthony concluded few justices could have weathered the difficulties Taney faced.

Preksha Chowdhary in Rajasthan, India

“Information and Resources for Victims of Domestic Violence”

Preksha worked with Rick Halperin, director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, to put together generic care packets for abused women in an Indian city. Then, working within two local shelters for victims of domestic violence, Preksha interviewed a series of women who found themselves forced to leave their families to seek safety from abuse. The primary focus of the research is to determine how and when a woman decides that violence can no longer be endured. With an eye toward possible preventative strategies in the future, Preksha gathered as much pertinent information on these vulnerable women as possible. READ MORE

Anthropology professor David J. Meltzer profiled in the latest issue of Mammoth Trumpet

Mammoth Trumpet

Originally Posted: August 2016

SMU anthropology professor David J. Meltzer has been profiled in the latest issue of Mammoth Trumpet published by the center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A & M. Congratulations!

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SMU remains weapons-free under Texas ‘campus carry’ law

SMU News

Originally Posted: July 27, 2016

SMU prohibits the possession of any dangerous weapon (either openly or in a concealed manner), or facsimiles of dangerous weapons such as water guns or toy guns and knives, on all University property, athletic venues, passenger transportation vehicles and any groups or building on which University activities are conducted.

Student-owned sporting firearms or other weapons (including all BB and pellet guns) are the responsibility of the owner and must be stored at an appropriate location off campus.

SMU has been a weapons-free campus since at least 1994. See smu.edu/policy for the full policy.

Any violation of this policy is considered a serious offense. If you have questions about this policy, please contact the SMU Police Department at 214-768-3388. READ MORE

Meet the Scientist: Eveline Kuchmak, an SMU alumna and current Manager of Temporary Exhibitions at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The Rock Report

Originally Posted: July 18, 2016

Meet: Eveline Kuchmak

Another Southern Methodist University alumna (Pony Up!), Eveline graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Economic Sociology. Growing up she “lived for trips to art and science museums, space camp, Pony Club veterinary workshops, and the latest issue of National Geographic.” She was homeschooled for much of her childhood and her parents always made sure she had a healthy dose of curiosity. After graduation, she attended archaeological field school in New Mexico which only reinforced her desire to discover new things and share these experiences. This path has led her to a career inspiring others through science museums.

She began working at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in education and public programs; however, at the beginning of this year she transitioned into her new role as Manager of Temporary Exhibits. READ MORE

 

Mark Chancey, Religious Studies, provides expertise for Washington Post article

Washington Post

Originally Posted: July 14, 2016

GOP platform encourages teaching about the Bible in public schools

Members of the GOP this week debated and ultimately embraced an addition to the party’s platform that encourages public high schools to teach elective courses about the Bible, one of several moves that contributed to Republicans’ broad shift to the right.

Several GOP delegates said that they aren’t seeking to inculcate schools with Christianity, but they are trying to make sure that young people are acquainted with a document that has played a significant role in shaping Western culture.

“This is not designed to teach religion in the schools as a means of proselytizing,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, and a GOP delegate from Louisiana who supported the Bible-in-schools provision. “You can’t really fully understand the American form of government and society without some understanding of the Bible.” READ MORE

Dedman College Undergraduate and Health and Society Major, Lauren Zabaleta, Receives Panahellenic Scholarship

Redlands Daily Facts

Originally Posted: July 4, 2016

Lauren Zabaleta, a graduate of Redlands High School, is a senior at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She is a member of the inaugural class of the health and society major at SMU, an interdisciplinary program that combines biology, chemistry, psychology and anthropology. Her minor is business administration.

She is vice president of member education for her Kappa Alpha Theta chapter. Zabaleta works in the SMU Office of Undergraduate Admissions as a student ambassador and tour guide.

Her experiences as a volunteer and intern for Prevent Blindness Texas have inspired her to become an optometrist.

She was a member of SMU NCAA Division I cross country and track team and club soccer team manager and has received All-American Athletic Conference academic honors.

Redlands Area Panhellenic Association was founded in 1949.

Since 1982, it has awarded 83 Panhellenic scholarships to young women who are initiated members of National Panhellenic Council sororities and who are from the greater Redlands area.

Next year’s scholarship applications, requirements and information are available atredlandspanhellenic.org. READ MORE

Dr. Susan Harper, Feminist Witch, Invokes Goddesses to Show Women the Power in Themselves

Dallas Observer

Originally Posted: June 28, 2016

Dr. Susan Harper isn’t the first woman to be called a “feminist witch.” She’s just one of the few who don’t mind. Why should she? She has traveled far, spiritually and geographically, to earn the title.

 Professionally, Harper is the graduate reader at Texas Woman’s University, editing and offering guidance to graduate students completing dissertations. Her own, which earned her a doctorate in anthropology from SMU, was about paganism in Texas. READ MORE

2016-2017 Dallas-Fort Worth Schweitzer Fellows Named

DFW Schweitzer Fellows will launch health and wellbeing initiatives within underserved communities while completing leadership training

Dallas, TX, June 23, 2016—The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) announced the selection of its second class of Dallas-Fort Worth Albert Schweitzer Fellows—9 graduate students who will spend the next year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health, and developing lifelong leadership skills. In doing so, they will follow the example set by famed physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, for whom their Fellowship is named.

Schweitzer Fellows develop and implement service projects that address the root causes of health disparities in under-resourced communities, while also fulfilling their academic responsibilities. Each project is implemented in collaboration with a community-based health and/or social service organization. This year’s Fellows will address an array of health issues affecting a range of populations, including a college and career readiness program, an expansion of a smoking cessation program for men experiencing homelessness, and a volunteer doula program for low-income women.

Housed in Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, the Schweitzer Fellowship draws on an interdisciplinary approach to guide the Fellows throughout the year. Monthly meetings feature speakers from a range of fields, including several Dedman College faculty members. Renee McDonald, Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs, guided the Fellows through evaluation strategies and program planning, allowing them to begin their projects with a more rigorous approach to assessing their effectiveness. Dr. McDonald will meet with the Fellows periodically to help them refine their evaluation plans and interpret their data.

Neely Myers, Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology, led a discussion and exploration of the social determinants of health with the group at another meeting. Dr. Myers’ discussion spurred critical thinking about the issues that the Fellows will address through their projects and laid the groundwork for future explorations of the many aspects of health.

Dr. Rick Halperin, Dr. Carolyn Smith-Morris, and Dr. Alicia Schortgen have also lectured and facilitated discussions with Schweitzer Fellows on topics ranging from human rights, ethics and medicine, and how organizations work within Dallas to address the issues facing our community.

“The Schweitzer Fellowship changes the lives of not just the Fellows themselves, but also the lives of the community members they serve through their Fellowship projects,” said Courtney Roy, Program Director of the Dallas-Fort Worth Schweitzer Fellowship. “Our Fellows will learn to lead and innovate as they take on complex issues, and will also have the opportunity to learn from one another, sharing their strengths and knowledge, preparing them for professional careers in an ever-changing world. Meanwhile, their project participants will gain information, skills, and behaviors that will assist them in leading healthier lives.”

“These Schweitzer Fellows are living Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s legacy of reverence for life,” said Executive Director Sylvia Stevens-Edouard. “Their Fellowship year will leave them well-prepared to successfully face the challenges of serving vulnerable and underserved populations, whose health and medical needs are many and varied.”

The 9 Dallas-Fort Worth Fellows will join over 200 other 2016-17 Schweitzer Fellows working at 15 program sites, 14 in the US and one in Lambaréné, Gabon at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by Dr. Schweitzer in 1913. Upon completion of their Fellowship year, the 2016-17 Dallas-Fort Worth Albert Schweitzer Fellows will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of nearly 3,000 Schweitzer alumni who are skilled in, and committed to, addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers. Fellows for Life routinely report that ASF is integral to sustaining their commitment to serving people in need.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Albert Schweitzer Fellows Program marks a unique collaboration between eight Dallas-Fort Worth universities. Housed in Southern Methodist University (Dedman College), supporting universities include the Baylor University’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing, Texas Christian University, Texas Woman’s University, University of Dallas, University of Texas at Arlington, and the University of Texas at Southwestern Medical Center.

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Meet the 2016-2017 Dallas-Fort Worth Albert Schweitzer Fellows

About The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship

The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF) is preparing the next generation of professionals who will serve and empower vulnerable people to live healthier lives and create healthier communities. To date, more than 3,200 Schweitzer Fellows have delivered nearly 500,000 hours of service to nearly 300,000 people in need.  Additionally, more than 100 Fellows have provided care at the 100-year-old Schweitzer Hospital in Lambaréné, Africa. Through this work and through the contributions of Fellows whose professional careers serve their communities, ASF perpetuates the legacy and philosophy of physician-humanitarian Dr. Albert Schweitzer. ASF has 14 program locations in the U.S. and one in Lambaréné, Africa. Its national office is located in Boston, MA and hosted by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

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