Research co-authored by Karen Lupo, Anthropology, finds early Native Americans raised turkeys for feathers, not food

Discovery News

Originally Posted: November 25, 2015

Early Native Americans Raised Turkeys, But Not to Eat

There is little doubt that Native Americans at a Utah site appropriately called Turkey Pen Ruins raised turkeys, but new research concludes that they rarely ate them, and instead raised the large birds for their coveted feathers.

The study involved extensive analysis of amino acid signatures resulting from diet that can be detected in human hair. The research, which has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, represents one of the first analyses of human hair from the American Southwest.

The findings indicate that Native Americans from the Ancestral Pueblo Tradition (also sometimes known as the Anasazi) heavily relied upon corn, showing that “about 80 percent of the calories and protein came from maize,” co-author R.G. Matson from the University of British Columbia Department of Anthropology told Discovery News. READ MORE

Anthropology Ph.D. candidate Kerri Brown receives prestigious Fulbright-Hays grant


Originally Posted: Nov. 12, 2015

SMU anthropology Ph.D. candidate Kerri Brown recently received a Fulbright-Hays international education fellowship to support 18 months of research in Brazil. Brown leaves for Rio de Janeiro in January to continue work on her dissertation about public policy related to traditional medicinal plants in Brazil.

In Brazil, home to nearly one-fourth of the world’s plant species, many groups within the country have long relied on medicinal plants for basic health care. Pharmaceutical companies also use South American plants to create medications such as quinine for malaria and beta blockers for cardiovascular disease. But local groups’ knowledge of the natural world and pharmaceutical companies’ desire to better understand and export untapped resources has created a conflict resulting in international regulation, Brown says.

“I am interested in how international policy affects various communities’ uses of medicinal plants,” Brown says. “The regulation of medicinal plants is often a point of conversation for larger issues in Latin America, such as deforestation, biopiracy and the rights of marginalized people.”

Brown first became interested in Brazil as an undergraduate at the University of Texas in Austin. A psychology and anthropology major, she studied abroad in Rio de Janeiro and volunteered at Criola, an organization that seeks to empower Afro-Brazilian girls and women to become agents of change. At Criola she became interested in women’s access to health care and use of traditional medicine.

As part of her fellowship, Brown will spend nine months in Rio de Janeiro and then travel to Oriximiná, a small town in the Amazon, to continue her research.

“The Fulbright-Hays fellowship will give me so much flexibility,” Brown says. “It will enable me to travel, attend regional conferences and meet with other researchers in Brazil.”

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded $4.4 million in Fulbright-Hays grants aimed at increasing understanding between the United States and the rest of the world. Brown is one of 86 scholars nationwide to receive funding through the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad project.

Harvard professor explains why science is safe to trust

Daily Campus

Originally Posted: October 20, 2015

Society should trust science because it’s a long, time-tested process of accumulated expertise, Harvard University Professor of the History of Science Naomi Oreskes, Ph.D said Thursday night.

Speaking at the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute’s annual Allman Family Lecture, Oreskes explained that some of society’s misconceptions of science exist because most people cannot judge whether or not a scientific finding is true. Most people assume the risk of accepting science is smaller than the risk of rejecting it. Parents vaccinate their children because the risk of precautionary vaccinating is smaller than the risk of not vaccinating and suffering potentially harmful consequences. But society is more skeptical of scientific findings than it was before.

“The larger issue is how to reduce the number of those who deny,” said Caroline Brettell, the institute’s director. “How do we build up the trust?” READ MORE

Do science and partisan politics need to get a divorce?

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: October 28, 2015

Well, they’ve been an awkward mismatch, off and on, since the age of Galileo. And if scientific achievements have created better lives for us with, say, antibiotics and vaccines, it’s hard to make the same claim for the political consequences of bigger bombs and better guns.

It’s one thing to debate the utility of scientific fact. But it’s a much more maddening exercise to try to reach people determined to believe that science is a kind of choose-what-you-like cafeteria, where facts are only real if you want them to be.

Several professors at Southern Methodist University are working in their quiet professorial way to urge people here in Dallas to come on down and renew their faith in science. A five-part public lecture series tackling the troubling spread of science denial in America begins Thursday.

They’re starting with a bang: The first lecturer will be Harvard professor Naomi Oreskes, who has written extensively on corporations’ vested interest in and deliberate efforts to undermine widely accepted science regarding climate change.

I know, I know: You can’t even say “climate change” — much less “global warming” — without making everybody go stark raving bonkers. People who don’t know a blessed thing about physics or meteorology or atmospheric system research rocket off to their political encampments and start howling insults at one another.

That’s politics. But when political polarization begins to undermine scientific realities like evolution, the benefits of vaccination or the obvious fact that routine water fluoridation isn’t a mass murder conspiracy, we’re all in trouble.

“The level of scientific literacy is declining,” said Caroline Brettell, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and the Ruth Collins Altshuler Director of the Dedman College Interdisciplinary Institute (yep, her bona fides are excellent), and the key motivator for putting the lecture series together. “It’s ‘I feel’ or ‘I believe,’ but that’s not scientific practice. That’s not how it works.” READ MORE

David Meltzer, Anthropology, wooly mammoth unearthed in Michigan

National Geographic

Originally Posted: October 7, 2015

The discovery of a nearly complete mammoth skeleton last week in Michigan raises the question of not only this animal’s fate, but also what happened to the rest of the woolly mammoths. Did humans drive the Ice Age’s great beasts to extinction? READ MORE

Meet anthropologist and coffee master Ryan Fisher, Dedman College alumnus ’05, ’11

5280 Denver Magazine

Q&A: Commonwealth Coffee’s Ryan Fisher

Ryan Fisher, coffee expert and co-founder of the Park Hill roastery, chats about his love for the bean and taking second place at the inaugural NYC Coffee Masters Tournament.

The launch of the semiannual Coffee Masters Tournament in London and New York this year was certainly buzz-worthy. The worldwide competition (think: Iron Chef for java) invited 20 talented baristas from around the globe to compete onstage—foaming, swirling, and tasting their way to the top. Denver’s own Ryan Fisher, co-founder and co-owner of Commonwealth, took home second place in New York two weeks ago. Here, his thoughts on the competition and his love of everything coffee.

5280: What sparked your interest in the coffee world?

Ryan Fisher: I got into coffee when I was in graduate school at SMU. I was finishing up my PhD and needed a job, so a few friends and I messed around with coffee and realized we could do a lot with it. I ended up going to London to study coffee more in depth, and then came back to Dallas with that knowledge and made a pretty reputable cafe with those friends. In the end, I wanted a new adventure, so I sold my share back to them and moved to Denver to start Commonwealth. READ MORE

SMU faculty to assist area history teachers in tackling immigration

DALLAS (SMU) — Immigration has rarely been so controversial or prominent a topic as it is today, which makes it all the more challenging to teach it to middle-and high-school students. SMU and the Old Red Museum of Dallas County History & Culture are partnering with Humanities Texas and the Texas Historical Commission to present a conference at the museum on the history of U.S. immigration from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19, to help area teachers tackle this hot-button topic in the classroom. READ MORE

Caroline Brettell, Anthropology, comments on study that finds immigrant teens less prone to violence and crime

Mineral Wells Index

Originally Posted: September 8, 2015

AUSTIN – There’s no doubt that some Americans link immigrants with crime, violence and drugs.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump gave voice to that view in a speech at Trump Tower earlier this summer when he described Mexicans arriving in the Untied States: “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

A new study shows the opposite is true of immigrant teenagers who are less likely to commit crime, engage in violence or use drugs than their American-born peers, according to a team led by Christopher Salas-Wright of the University of Texas’ School of Social Work.
“To assume immigrants are bringing crime to the United States is not backed up by research,” said Salas-Wright. His team’s findings appear in the journal Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.

Salas-Wright and others found that immigrant children ages 13 to 17 are half as likely to report binge drinking, drug use or selling drugs than their American-born teenagers.

Those who arrived in the United States at age 12 or older are one-third as likely to have sold illegal drugs or used cannabis as youths born in the United States. The odds of being involved in serious violent attacks or carrying handguns are one-third lower for immigrants ages 15 to 17.

Researchers studied national data collected from 2002 to 2009 among students who were not asked for their names or immigration status.

Among immigrants, about half identified themselves as Hispanic.
David Córdova, of the University of Michigan, a co-author of the study, said family dynamics play a key role in youth behavior. READ MORE

Service set for SMU’s Fred Wendorf, professor emeritus of anthropology

Dallas Morning News

Originally Posted: August 6, 2015

A memorial service for Denver Fred Wendorf Jr. will be at 3 p.m. Aug. 20 in the Perkins Chapel on the Southern Methodist University campus. A reception will follow at Kirby Parlor. Wendorf, SMU professor emeritus of anthropology, died July 15 in Dallas. His service was delayed until colleagues return for the fall semester.

Two rooms at the British Museum in London are dedicated to the prehistoric items he discovered during his decades of excavation in northeastern Africa.

Memorials may be made to the Friends of SMU-in-Taos Fund or the Institute for the Study of Earth and Man, P.O. Box 750402, Dallas, Texas 75275. READ MORE

Mysterious link emerges between Native Americans and people half a globe away

Originally Posted: July 21, 2015

The Americas were the last great frontier to be settled by humans, and their peopling remains one of the great mysteries for researchers. This week, two major studies of the DNA of living and ancient people try to settle the big questions about the early settlers: who they were, when they came, and how many waves arrived. But instead of converging on a single consensus picture, the studies, published online in Science and Nature, throw up a new mystery: Both detect in modern Native Americans a trace of DNA related to that of native people from Australia and Melanesia. The competing teams, neither of which knew what the other was up to until the last minute, are still trying to reconcile and make sense of each other’s data.

“Both models … see in the Americas a subtle signal from” Australo-Melanesians, notes Science co-author David Meltzer, an archaeologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. “A key difference is when and how it arrived in the New World.” The Nature team concludes it came in one of two early waves of migration into the continent, whereas the Science team concludes it came much later, and was unrelated to the initial peopling. READ MORE