Fall 2018 SBSRI Dissertation Grants Announced

Congratulation to doctoral candidates Elizabeth Ecklund and James Webber upon being selected for a grant from the Social and Behavioral Sciences Research Institute! The grants will support dissertation research. Elizabeth’s project is titled “Water, Ecology, and Cultural Memory in the Sierra Madre Foothills.” James’ project is titled “To run or carry: Derived locomotor skeletal traits in early homo.” Both abstracts appear below.

Elizabeth Ecklund, “Water, Ecology, and Cultural Memory in the Sierra Madre Foothills”
Abstract: Agriculture in the Sonora River was first documented over half a century ago by Spanish explorers and the people in Banámichi practice “traditional” floodwater farming today. Ideas of heritage and antiquity are on public display in the town square where a rock carved with pre-Hispanic petroglyphs is shown in a monument. It has been argued that the Historic Rock reflects a map of the pre-Hispanic irrigation system. Since the time when the petroglyph was carved, the valley has seen a lot of change, from the arrival of the Spanish, through laws and revolution in Mexico, modernization efforts, becoming connected to the region and transnational economies, to mine spills and future hazards like climate change. Nor can this be thought of as an isolated community. Nearly everyone has family in the United States and many of the older adults have lived in the US, some for decades before returning. My data suggests a “deep history” of Tradition (with a capital “T”) which serves as an anchor to place. This project looks at the question of why this community continues to practice “traditional” irrigation, despite change and aversity. I focus on three questions. How do people narrate water management, or how do water managers discuss the system; what are the power dynamics (political ecology) influencing the natural and political forces that have allowed (or encouraged) traditional management to endure despite these changes; and, how do people cope with hazards and risk of a mine spill or a changing climate given the practice of “traditional” floodwater farming fed by the canal system. This project has the potential to provide critical insights into ideas of adaptive capacity, or the ability of a system to accommodate hazards; political ecology, or how policies have shaped, or not shaped the water system; and cultural contact, or how Indigenous ideas are incorporated or excluded from by a community that builds upon the wisdom they inherited from their predecessors.

James Webber, “To run or carry: Derived locomotor skeletal traits in early homo”
Abstract: Human ancestors transitioned from an ape-like foraging strategy with relatively short day ranges to a hunting and gathering lifestyle around two million years ago, requiring increased daily travel and aerobic physical activity compared to earlier hominins. Many changes in musculoskeletal morphology seen early in the evolution of the genus Homo have been interpreted as adaptations to this increasingly active lifestyle, with some suggesting they reflect the evolution of a novel locomotor behavior: endurance running (ER). Previous work suggests musculoskeletal structures that define early members of the genus Homo, including enlarged joint surface areas, increased gluetal muscle mass, and larger semi-circular canals, are adaptations to ER-related forces. However, living hunter-gatherers engage in a wide range of non-ER locomotor behaviors that likely also alter skeletal loading regimes including high-speed walking and load carrying. The overarching goal of this project is to test the hypothesis that high-speed walking and load carrying could have led to the evolution of force-resisting skeletal adaptations prior to ER. If supported, these behaviors may provide an important evolutionary bridge between locomotor modes requiring similar force resistance and help explain the evolution of human ER capabilities. A motion capture system, force plate, and wireless 3d accelerometer / EMG technology will be used to collect kinematics, kinetics, and muscle activity data from University of Arizona human subjects carrying loads across a range of speeds. Using these data, I will test the hypothesis that combinations of high-speed and loaded walking generate forces and accelerations similar to those experienced during ER.