Over the past few weeks, the REU students have been busy with new research and life experiences! With the 5th worst recorded flood of the Illinois River, many of these research experiences were moved indoors. Unfortunately, time in the field, for both our ecology and archeology students, was limited. Our students had a long trek into the field due to flooded roads, while fishing trips were hampered by inundated boat ramps.
Although much of the archeological and ecological field season involves excavating and fishing, we spend a good deal of time indoors analyzing data and tending field equipment. Learning the process of tabbing artifacts became a main activity for many of the students when the rain kept us indoors. Tabbing is a systematic procedure where we sort artifacts into various class categories, while also properly labeling and storing these artifacts. Tabbing also allowed the students to become familiar with the material culture of the Lower Illinois River Valley. The archeology students learned to identify the differences between pottery sherds, animal bones, and lithic debris.
While the archeology students focused on tabbing, the ecology students learned to mend nets. Although this activity is repetitive, it is necessary. Equipment upkeep is very important in fieldwork; a torn net could potentially lead to bad dataset. So while the river was too high to fish, students checked all the equipment and fixed any problems that could impact future fishing trips.The ecology students also took larval fish samples from up and down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. The flooded roads and parks provided interesting habitats for these tiny fishes.
Even though the students were not able to get out into the field as often as hoped, they have been learning valuable skills related to archeology, ecology, and the challenges of conducting scientific research! The flood waters have now receded and the students have entered the final stages of the program. More details about the REU will be posted this week!
Blog post by Autumn Beyer, Kelly Brown, and Carol Colaninno