Summer Research Takes Students and Faculty Around the World
Archaeological Digs in Romania
Matt Fiore ’24, Kimmie Johnson ’24, and Angela Escalante Zarco ’25 traveled to Romania for archaeological research with former Hamilton professor Colin Quinn. Fiore shared his observations about the trip:
“During the month of June and into July, I grew increasingly excited about traveling to Romania, as our research group met daily to explore and discuss evolving ideas and plans. I was eager to begin the work abroad, but also nervous about encountering many new things, including people, places, food, and customs.
I focused my energy on exploring my research topic within the broader MARBAL (Mortuary Archaeology of the Ramet Bronze Age Landscape) project: examining the history of activity at Ramet through the perspective of placemaking theory to understand the physical transformation of space from settlement to cemetery. Specifically, I wanted to learn more about what a pattern or repeated use of burial spaces suggests about the Bronze Age cultural groups using the land and the presence of any potential relationships among those groups.
Over several weeks, I engaged in daily fieldwork with classmates and professors. We woke up early to drive to the excavation sites, managed to be efficient workers navigating fluctuating heat conditions, and we also traveled to multiple cultural sites and museums.
The constant interplay between the current, contemporary culture and the ways in which the ancient cultures are presented to the public sharpened my understanding of connections between places and urban development. These experiences also raised many questions to explore further in my future work, such as how location-based or spatial analysis can be used to create maps of Early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age locations where there is evidence of settlement transformation in graves and burial sites, including Ramet.
I also had the opportunity to observe the operation of a drone at Ramet, which resulted in footage overlooking Ramet and the surrounding landscape. I’m excited to apply to my research what I’ve learned about the use of drone footage in relation to museums and increasing public awareness of historical cultures and artifacts.”
The Romania trip was part of the Levitt Center's summer research group fellowships .
Philosophy Students Visit Ireland
Justin Clark, associate professor of philosophy, describes attending the Summer 2023 Ireland Program (June 19-July 1) with a Hamilton colleague and students:
“Ashley Gorham [assistant professor of government] and I selected 15 amazing students to visit the campus of the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland (ISAI) in the small surfside town of Bundoran along the Atlantic coast, where we set up our headquarters for an interdisciplinary program on human rights, civil rights, and conflict resolution as taught through the lens of Irish history and culture.
We were thrilled by the program itself, which included a series of captivating lessons from ISAI Director Niamh Hamill, who taught us about ancient mythology and poetry, famine and poverty, colonization and emigration, and more.
We benefited from a series of guest speakers who came to talk about the complexities of Black and Irish identity, the history of U.S. and Irish politics, the forms of discrimination faced by Travellers and other minority groups; we heard first-hand accounts and personal experiences of the Troubles, including some from influential artists explaining their artistic representations of the conflict.
A vibrant line-up of cultural entertainment also was a huge bonus — performances of traditional Irish music, lessons in traditional Irish dancing, an Irish movie night, a Gaelic football match. Along the way, we organized group discussions about philosophy, hiked up Knocknarea mountain and Cavan Burren, toured the Donegal Castle, boarded a ferryboat to Arranmore Island, traveled by bus to Yeats country and the city of Sligo, and stayed overnight in Derry and Dublin.”
Geosciences Fieldwork in Kenya
Adeera Batlay ’25 traveled to Kenya with Associate Professor of Geosciences Cat Beck to conduct paleolimnology research at the Turkana Basin Institute. Batlay describes her experience:
Coming in to do my undergrad, I could never have imagined the opportunity to go to Kenya and be able to do fieldwork. The Turkana Miocene Project aims to explore how climate change and tectonic activity drove the evolution of our human ancestors in East Africa (surrounding Lake Turkana) during the Miocene, a geologic time period around 5-20 million years ago.
We flew into Nairobi, took a charter plane into Turkwell, and from there drove to the Turkana Basin Institute, a Kenyan institute that supports scientific research and exploration related to human evolution in the Turkana Basin. Over the next two weeks we drove between two different sites — Locherengan and Lodwar.
The researchers I met on the trip included paleontologists, sedimentologists, pedologists, and volcanologists. I spent quite a bit of time with the team’s pegologist, learning how to identify paleosols (ancient soils), how to describe them, and collect them for sampling.
Before heading to Kenya, I had spent the previous semester analyzing some of Cat’s colleague’s soil samples via their bulk geochemistry with the help of Hamilton’s Analytical Lab (they have an X-Ray Refraction machine used to identify elements present in material).
This experience of working with the pedologist and seeing the soils firsthand made me appreciate and understand what happens behind the scenes of lab work and the rigor involved in the scientific process. I was bummed when the trip came to an end and hope to be able to do more fieldwork in the future.
Filming a Documentary in the United Kingdom
Rob Knight, associate professor of art, shared:
Since 2019, I have made three trips to the United Kingdom to work on a documentary film and photography project about the indefinite detention of asylum seekers in the U.K., the only country in western Europe that allows for such treatment of refugees. My project, “Strangers in a Strange Land, supports the work of two U.K. nonprofits, Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group and Refugee Tales whose work is centered on ending indefinite detention in the U.K. and supporting asylum seekers who have experienced detention.
This year, I traveled with two students, Alya MacDonald ’25 and Hugh Williams ’26. We spent the first part of our trip mainly in Clacton-on-Sea and Folkestone conducting interviews and filming additional footage to expand two of the stories that I had worked on previously. Then we participated in Refugee Tales five-day walk, which this year was from Crawley (outside London) to Worthing (on the south coast), with stops along the way in Haywards Heath, Three Bridges, Burgess Hill, and Portslade.
Along the way, we conducted audio and video interviews. Support for the project has been generously provided by Levitt Center Faculty Innovation Grants (2019, 2022, and 2023) and The Christian A. Johnson Fund for Enhanced International Understanding (2023).
MacDonald added these comments on the experience:
Before going to the U.K., we had a few weeks of remote editing where I started to familiarize myself with past year’s footage and learn the workflow. Because of this, I had some idea of what the trip would be like, and yet I could not have predicted how amazing the experience would be.
… We visited a man who has been in the asylum process for over two decades and with whom Professor Knight had previously connected, and we got to spend time with him, listening to and recording his stories. There was one day where we went to several different locations, and I was tasked with filming him while keeping his identity anonymous. Another day, we visited a drop-in center, where we got to hang out with refugees and meet the volunteers who support it. We connected with a group of artists and art therapists who were having an event that day, and it was awesome to interact with another group that is using art as a tool to help people.
During the [walk with] Refugee Tales, I [heard] the often-untold stories of refugees from the refugees themselves. Furthermore, I had the opportunity to form friendships with these people. Their stories took on many places far beyond those of detention centers in the U.K. — through them, I learned about the countries that people had come from and about the immigration crisis as a whole.
There is always a dangerous line to be walked when harvesting stories from people for the fear that the people are being used for their stories, however, the open spaces of casual conversation and the slow-going nature of building relationships — both things provided for by the Refugee Tales walk — taught me how to practice truly ethical storytelling.
Exploring Plate Tectonics in Australia
Assistant Professor of Geosciences Nick Roberts conducted fieldwork in Australia with Xavier Schlemmer ’25 and Veronica Seixas ’24. They investigated the structure of large granitic domes that led to the formation of one of Earth’s earliest continents, the East Pilbara Terrane in Western Australia. Roberts explained “The structure of these domes provides a test of how early continents formed and deformed during a critical moment in our planet’s evolution: the development of Plate Tectonics.”
The trip was a success. “Through our fieldwork, we determined that the lobe had a structure that implies that the Mt Edgar batholith formed during a period of crustal extension — a potentially critical piece of information for solving the puzzle of how early continents formed and deformed,” Roberts said.
“We also collected samples for several types of analysis at Hamilton, and have been working hard to process samples and collect data in the lab,” he added.
Artificial intelligence and climate change are among the very foremost hot-button issues of today. This summer, a project by Adam Koplik ’25 and Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Heather Kropp is using one to explore the other—by employing machine learning to measure vegetation change in the Arctic.