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Elizabeth Chilton named first chancellor of WSU Pullman

Elizabeth Chilton.

Elizabeth Chilton, Washington State University’s provost and executive vice president, will also become the first chancellor of the flagship Pullman campus in a phased transition culminating on July 1, 2022.

Chilton, who joined WSU a year ago, said she is “honored and thrilled to take on this expanded role in the next year.” She added, “Our Pullman campus is distinct from the other campuses in its history, size, and local community. It’s our only residential campus and it’s the seat of Cougar Athletics. When it comes to decisions affecting the Pullman campus operations or our relationships with communities and constituencies on the Palouse, the campus needs the same distinctive autonomy afforded our other WSU campuses,” she said.

“As an anthropologist, Dr. Chilton understands the connections between people and place as well as how individual units function as part of a system,” said WSU President Kirk Schulz. “Her cumulative expertise in public university systems makes her the natural choice to become the first chancellor of WSU Pullman.”

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Health equity issues the focus of new seed grants from HERC

Washington State University’s Health Equity Research Center (HERC) awarded seed grants to five research teams that will explore health equity issues with potential to draw major funding for further research.

HERC Director Paul Whitney said, “Each of the funded proposals addresses an issue critical to health equity. They all also have strong prospects for leveraging their seed grants to develop extramurally funded projects. We’ll be excited to follow their accomplishments over the next year and proud to contribute to WSU’s efforts to produce high quality scholarship that directly benefits the people of our state and beyond.”

Courtney Meehan.

The funded seed grant proposals include:

  • Human Milk and Cannabinoids
    Principal Investigator: Courtney Meehan, Department of Anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences

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Using new technology to uncover wrongs from the past

The discovery of the remains of 215 children at the defunct Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia this spring has put a new focus on ground penetrating radar (GPR), the technology that was used to detect these unmarked graves.

Colin Grier.

Colin Grier, a Washington State University professor of anthropology, is the principal investigator for a National Science Foundation-funded effort to shed light on the capabilities of GPR to find and identify archaeological features, including graves, that are many decades or even centuries old. He hopes that ultimately his work will help bring closure to the families of the thousands of First Nation children who went missing at Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, which operated between 1883-1996.

“The sad reality is that the discovery at the Kamloops School is probably just the tip of the iceberg,” Grier said. “There are hundreds more schools like this across Canada and similar institutions in the United States where it is likely other discoveries of remains will be made. Therefore, we need to develop a better understanding of what ground penetrating radar can and cannot do.”

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Indiana Jones and the quest for truth

The fictional archaeologist has a special spot in pop culture, with four movies and a fifth on the way. The films have grossed more than a billion dollars worldwide. The American Film Institute lists “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at No. 66 on its list of 100 greatest American movies of all time. The character ranked No. 2 on its 100 greatest heroes and villains list, right behind Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. While it lost to “Chariots of Fire,” it picked up wins in art direction, sound, film editing and special effects.

John Blong.

The real process for beginning an archaeological adventure takes more preparation. Field work starts with a consultation with the group that owns the land, whether its state, federal or private, said John Blong, assistant professor of anthropology at Washington State University in Pullman. This process also includes a plan for what happens to artifacts that may be discovered on the site, a detail left out in the “Indiana Jones” movies.

Rachel Horowitz.

Sometimes the answer is in the landscape before an archaeologist’s eyes, which is how Rachel Horowitz, assistant professor of anthropology at WSU, makes her discoveries. Horowitz specializes in finding stone tools in the Maya region. Mounds on the ground indicate where people once lived.

Erin Thornton.

To Erin Thornton, associate professor of anthropology at WSU, Indy misses all the good finds when he brushes past the skeletons. Her work involves analyzing human and animal bones.

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Seeds of economic health disparities found in subsistence society

No billionaires live among the Tsimane people of Bolivia, although some are a bit better off than others. These subsistence communities on the edge of the Amazon also have fewer chronic health problems linked to the kind of dramatic economic disparity found in industrialized Western societies.

Aaron Blackwell.

For a study in the journal eLife, a research team led by Aaron Blackwell of Washington State University and Adrian Jaeggi of University of Zurich tracked 13 different health variables across 40 Tsimane communities, analyzing them against each person’s wealth and the degree of inequality in each community. While some have theorized that inequality’s health impacts are universal, the researchers found only two robustly associated outcomes: higher blood pressure and respiratory disease.

“The connection between inequality and health is not as straightforward as what you would see in an industrialized population. We had a lot of mixed results,” said Blackwell, a WSU associate professor of anthropology. “These findings suggest that at this scale, inequality is not at the level that causes health problems. Instead maybe it’s the extreme inequality in a lot of modern environments that causes health problems since it’s unlike any inequality we’ve ever had in our evolutionary history.”

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