Molly Carney.

Molly Carney is both a pioneering scientist and a bridge builder.

In her current research, the environmental archaeologist and postdoctoral researcher in the WSU Department of Anthropology reconstructs the cultural history and plant food uses by Northwest Native communities. Specifically, her projects focus on use and cultivation strategies of camas (Camassia quamash), a bulb plant. For thousands of years, camas has been a valuable plant food for tribal communities.

“Native people managed and harvested camas bulbs for more than 4,000 years,” said Carney, who earned her PhD in archaeology this spring. “When harvesting, Native Americans selected only mature camas bulbs. and considered the long term for the plant itself. This approach was calculated with enduring sustainability in mind.”

Respect for this cultural legacy has been frequently disregarded by scientists, Carney noted. Many initiate relationships with Native people to conduct research on their lands. But, once the work is complete, they depart and leave those connections in the dust.

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