Paleoecology Laboratory
Paleoecology Laboratory

Research in the Paleoecology Laboratory focuses on the reconstruction of past human-environmental relationships by the means of studying dietary practices, migration, paleoenvironments, and human-animal relationships. The laboratory is setup to:

  • Isolate bone collagen for stable isotope analysis (C & N)
  • Isolate bone mineral apatite for stable isotope analysis of carbonates (C & O)
  • Clean and prepare a variety of other substances for stable isotope analysis, including hair and plants
  • Analyze materials (bone, ceramics, lithics) using a portable X-Ray Florescence (XRF) instrument (Bruker Tracer 5i) to obtain elemental concentrations
  • Study human and animal skeletal morphology
  • Capture images of bones or artifacts with a digital camera station and a digital microscope (Dino-Lite Edge AM73915MZT, 5.0MP, 10X~220X)

Dr. Andrew Somerville, director
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Department of World Languages and Cultures
Iowa State University
Ames, IA 50011
3102 Pearson Hall

Laboratory Ethics and Values

The Paleoecology Laboratory is dedicated to providing a welcoming environment for students and researchers from a diversity of backgrounds. As is true for natural ecosystems, diversity is considered a strength within the community of the laboratory. No discriminatory or exclusionary behaviors, including in relation to gender, ethnicity, ancestry, age, or social status, are tolerated.

Because many samples analyzed within the laboratory originate from archaeological contexts, a central priority of researchers is to carefully document, photograph, and when possible preserve the greatest amount of material possible. As stable isotope analysis is a destructive technique, great care is taken to acknowledge and respect the responsibility we have been given to curate and care for all specimens analyzed within and outside of the lab.

Occasionally, research within the lab concerns the analysis of human remains. All treatment or processing of human remains follows best practices and upholds the highest ethical standards. Practices of studying human remains within the lab are modeled after the statement concerning the treatment of human remains as published by the Society for American Archaeology (April 14, 2021). We acknowledge that working with human remains is a privilege, not a right, and our studies respect the views and interests of descendant communities, affiliated groups, or other stakeholders whenever possible. Any and all applicable laws, including those from other countries, are respected and upheld. Generally, the foremost guiding principle in research on human remains is to treat them with the dignity and respect that would be afforded to living people.