Member Spotlight: Erin
Each month, we invite DBC members with a connection to our theme to share their personal experiences with us. Interested in sharing your story with the DBC community? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please introduce yourself to the DBC members.
Hi! My name is Erin and I’m an archaeologist. I have an undergraduate degree in anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology and a graduate degree in anthropology with an emphasis in bioarchaeology. Bioarchaeology is the study of human remains in an archaeological setting. I have studied skeletal collections in Europe and in the United States and have been brought in to identify human remains during construction projects and during archaeological digs.
Currently I work as a cultural resources consultant to navigate federal and state historic preservation rules and regulations on behalf of construction clients. In my role I manage field studies to identify archaeological sites ahead of construction. I then work with my clients and government agencies to either avoid or scientifically excavate sites before construction. It’s a complex process that also takes into account other environmental studies (biology, paleontology, wetlands, etc.) and can take years to get from field studies to construction. I’ve also served as an expert witness for environmental issues during contested case hearings.
Why is this month’s topic, women in science, near and dear to your heart?
From a young age I’ve been interested in science, but I grew up in a very small community where few people valued a higher education, and certainly not women in STEM careers. I remember going to the beach and looking for seashells and “fossils” and I used to bury toys in my sandbox and excavate them. For me, books were the thing that led me to these other worlds, and first showed me I could become anything that I wanted. Books have the power to open new doors and lead you down paths you couldn’t have dreamed of otherwise.
How did you discover your passion for archaeology?
I love both social sciences and hard sciences and archaeology is a good marriage between the two. Before college I thought I would be a history major. My second semester I took an anthropology class and everything clicked into place for me. I even had to transfer to a different university to pursue my dream.
Did you have a favorite book that featured women (or girls) and science while growing up? Is there one you’ve read in your adulthood that you love?
At a really young age I devoured books about archaeology, paleontology, history, and stories that brought the past to life. As a teenager I enjoyed Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series and really started digging into (no pun intended) nonfiction books about history / historical mysteries. There’s a book I vividly remember reading as a child about mummies coming to life in a museum but I cannot remember the title. Any help with that would be greatly appreciated!.
Do you find you have faced obstacles in your field because of your gender?
Yes. Always. I’m a woman, a scientist, a consultant, a wife, and a mother. Finding the work-life balance for myself is very challenging. Finding it while battling social norms and sexist men who see women (and motherhood specifically) as a weakness is something I encounter on a regular basis. I specifically remember one instance where I was told by my company management that I couldn’t be the lead on a project because the client was made up of “good old boys” and they wouldn’t appreciate taking advice from a woman. Well, that specific client ended up hiring me directly and firing that company I worked for. Karma! The key for me is a good sense of humor, taking things in stride, and exceeding expectations and kicking ass at every turn. Lift each other up, ladies! And don’t be afraid to be your own cheerleader.
Are there any additional resources (books, articles, podcasts) about women in science that you would recommend to our readers?
In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall
Gorillas in the Mist by Dian Fossey
Disclosing the Past by Mary Leakey
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier
Fieldwork by Mischa Berlinski
The Archaeological Adventures of I.V. Jones by Heidi Roberts
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell
The Temperance Brennan series by Kathy Reichs
My Last Continent by Midge Raymond
Do you have any advice for young women looking to pursue a career in archaeology?
Do it! I think anthropology (in general) is such a great background to have and can lead to all sorts of career options. And within the realm of archaeology, there are many different career paths: academia, government work, consulting. And the connections you make along the way can lead to new and varied opportunities. It’s very exciting!
Is there anything else you’d like our members to know?
I love to connect with people who have an interest in or are passionate about archaeology and anthropology in general. Please feel free to contact me about any questions or experiences you might have. I’d love to hear from you!