SoA Students Shine at Honors Pinnacle

The School of Anthropology had a strong representation at the recent Honors Pinnacle held on April 18, 2019. The Honors Pinnacle is made up of three events showcasing the summit of Honors College student achievement. Our students featured in almost all categories of the research exposition from peer mentoring program, to Honors alternative Spring Break, to internships, research grants, and Honors theses. Below are some highlights submitted by SoA Associate Professor Eleni Hasaki and Undergraduate Advisor Ann Samuelson. For more information on the Honors Pinnacle visit

Honors Thesis/Capstone    

Chris Sauer (BA in Anthropology with minor in Linguistics)
“Precious Mangrove: An Ethnography of Environmental Resilience”
(Thesis Director: Prof. T. Sheridan)
I researched the Comcaac (Seri) people of northwestern Mexico, specifically their relationship with a mangrove estuary. From this I developed a set of questions and visited them to conduct interviews in December with help from the Tom and Nancy Sullivan undergraduate research award. In addition to asking about their history and use of the estuary, I developed a Normalized Data Vegetation Index to share with them about the estuary condition over the last 18 years. At the Honors Pinnacle I presented a video of this research entitled “The Comcaac and Estero Sargento.”

Madalena Birr (BA in Ecology and Evolution with a minor in Anthropology)
“Functional Relationships between Estradiol and Paternal Care in Red-Bellied Lemurs”
(M. Birr, A. Baden, and S. Tecot)
Our project investigated the mechanisms by which fathers bond and care for their children. Our goal was to determine if estradiol levels were functionally associated with paternal care, or if they only reflect the additional fat that expectant fathers put on, since estradiol is produced in part by fat tissue. We extracted and assayed estradiol levels from fecal samples collected from wild, red-bellied lemurs. We found that the best predictor of estradiol was infant age, rather than paternal care. We concluded that estradiol may play a role in paternal physiology, but is not directly associated with paternal behavior.

Spirit of Inquiry Research Grant    

Brandon Neth (BS in Mathematics and Computer Science with a minor in Anthropology)
“The Potter’s Wheel: Seeing the Speed”
(B. Neth and E. Hasaki)
Our project focused on creating visualizations of the speed of potter's wheels focusing on the wheel at the SoA Laboratory for Traditional Technology. By creating a web application to aid in data analysis, his project was able to create more detailed graphs of wheel velocity than any previous method. These visualizations allow archaeologists to uncover previously unseen relationships in the throwing process.

PATH Mentoring Program    

Emma Eddy (Dual Degree Anthropology BS (Human Biology) and Physiology; minor in Physiology)
“Finding our Path”
Our group project was associated with the Partnerships Through Honors program: an internship involved with mentoring first year students through their transition into college. Our Pinnacle presentation focused on common problems that mentors encounter while trying to engage with the students to organize and facilitate meetings. We hoped to help mentors overcome the challenges of connecting with mentees in order to create lasting relationships (E. Eddy et al.).

Vi Ramassini (BS in Anthropology; BA in Law)
“Diversity and Inclusion in PATH”
Our group presentation focused on racial diversity within the program and actions the Honors College could take to better coordinate with the larger campus community (V. Ramassini et al.).

Honors Alternative Spring Break    

Christopher Dziadosz (BA in Anthropology and American Indian Studies)
Mya Cisneros (BS in Anthropology and BA in Biochemistry)
“White Mountain Apache Unemployment”
In our group project we discussed several factors, including the lack of a viable economic base, an undervalued and underperforming educational system, a dearth of support from the tribal government, and a culture that has been reeling from the effects of heavy-handed federal interference in nearly every aspect of their lives for nearly 150 years. Our analysis was the culmination of an alternative spring break trip to Whiteriver, Arizona, which entailed a week-long food sovereignty project at Ndee Bikiyaa, or the People's Farm (C. Dziadosz, M. Cisneros et al.).

Undergraduate Research    

Emily Koons (BA in Anthropology, a BS in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science, a BSHS in Physiology, and a minor in Biochemistry)
“Pretargeting Strategy in Pancreatic Cancer”
In this study, we successfully created a radiolabeled complex that will specifically bind to only the tumor site. This was completed through the use of a biotinylated single chain variable fragment (scFv) in combination with tetrameric protein NeutrAvidin (NAv) possessing affinity for biotin. We were able to determine critical time points for injection and imaging of the construct.


Allison Leibrandt (BA in Anthropology and German)
“Teaching Te Ao Maori”
I presented about my internship last year, where I worked on an Auckland University of Technology marae (Maori meeting grounds ) in Auckland, New Zealand and taught international visitors, usually students studying abroad, some basic aspects of Maori culture. In the short sessions, which I nicknamed “first grade for college kids,” my boss, Jason King, and I would teach the students a bit about the marae building, some of the language (te reo Maori), a famous Maori song (Pokarekare Ana), and an easy version of a stick game (tititorea).

Anthro News digest date: 4/26/2019