Recent Posts

Primates at TMSE! by Mary Gibler
This past week, our lesson at TSME focused on Primates. We taught the students that monkeys, apes, and humans are all primates, surprising the class with a picture of them that we had taken the previous week to demonstrate the concept. To distinguish between monkeys and apes, we discussed the presence of tails in monkeys (some of which are prehensile), not apes, and why that tail might be beneficial for smaller apes based on their arboreal environment. We showed the students Indonesian apes, including a loris, gibbons, macaques, a proboscis monkey, a javan lutung, and an orangutan. This helped the students understand the context of primates in their environment and why they can find certain types of primates in different places. We asked the students why we study primates, and concluded that studying primates helps us to learn how to better save the environment while also teaching us important concepts... read more ❯
Body Modification at TMSE by LaBethany Bradford
So this week at TMSE we learned about body modification! I was really excited to teach this class given that a lot of people think body modification is weird. But, it isn't! I had to remind the students throughout the presentation that we also do body modification on a regular basis and that it is normal. To begin, I went over CLAP one last time, which stands for the four subfields of anthropology: cultural, linguistic, archaeology and physical. I then reminded them about our lesson on archaeology from last week and how it is the study of past people by examining things they left behind. To start off with body modification, I asked them what they thought it was and they gave me great answers! I was very pleased that they said it is when you change your body or get a tattoo. I then further explained to them that body modification can also be... read more ❯
Archaeology, week 3! By LaBethany Bradford
For our third week at TMSE, we focused on Archaeology. But, before I started to teach them about archaeology I reviewed "CLAP." CLAP stands for Cultural, Linguistic, Archaeology, and Physical. While teaching them about different archaeological sites of Indonesia the children started to ask many good questions. They also had really great answers for the questions I asked. One student in particular said that archaeology was the study of culture using the things they might have left behind. They also made great connections with the pictures from different archaeological sites in Indonesia. The site Candi Sukuh, for example, was compared to the Mayan pyramids and one of the students let me know that they originated in Mexico. They knew a lot more about archaeology than we anticipated and they are learning to make connections between the things we are teaching them. Members of the Mighty Animal Dinosaurs carefully... read more ❯
What Is the “Environment” in Gene-Environment Interaction Research?
Published 2/2/2017 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Bill Dressler
The notion that nature and nurture interact to produce the phenotype of an individual is a  very old one.  Modern techniques of molecular biology and the mapping of the human genome have led to multiple studies approaching gene-environment interaction as more than a metaphor.  A part of that revolution was led by Caspi and associates in their studies of depression.  They examined a gene linked to the serotonin transporter mechanism, which influences how long the neurotransmitter serotonin remains in the synapse between nerve cells.  Many anti-depressant medications inhibit the re-uptake of serotonin by the transmitting cell.  In some way, this helps to alleviate depressive symptoms.  Caspi and associates found that risk of depression was enhanced under the condition of individuals possessing a specific polymorphism or gene variant for the serotonin transporter gene and having experienced recent... read more ❯
Ethnography at TMSE - Week 2 by Mary Gibler
For our second week at TMSE, we focused on ethnography. After a recap of the previous week’s focus on culture and the four subfields of anthropology, we explained that ethnography is a tool that anthropologists use to describe cultures. We showed pictures from Indonesian celebrations of the New Year, a marriage, a birthday party, and school uniforms to discuss the differences between cultures and further their understanding of ethnography as a descriptive research method. The students were enthusiastic about culture and caught on quickly to ethnography. One student even noted that while we might see aspects of certain cultures as weird, they might see our own cultural experiences the same way and that we shouldn’t judge differences. After the PowerPoint describing ethnographic methods, we focused back on the cultures we had created the previous week and asked the students to choose an ethnographer from their clan. Given a worksheet with... read more ❯
Culture at TMSE - Week 1! By Madeline Anscombe
In our first class at TMSE, we met our twenty new anthropologists and divided into clans. Over the course of the year, we will be using Indonesia as a model for our lessons. In order to explain the clans, we used the model of the Javanese, whom inhabit the largest island of Indonesia.   Once separated, we started our lesson on culture as well as a general overview of the four kinds of anthropology. To remember this we used the acronym CLAP, standing for cultural, linguistics, archaeology and physical. When we covered cultural, the students had already learned a significant amount about what constitutes a culture. Their answers ranged from more textbook definitions to more comprehensive ones such as an acronym they had learned called the “Five F’s” which included food, faith, family, finances and fashion. They were able to grasp the concept of clans fairly easily as well and were excited to start the activity. In our clans, we first came up... read more ❯
Peaks and Valleys of Building Community Rapport: Lessons Learned Through an Investigation of Adolescent Sexual Health
Published 12/24/2016 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Tina Thomas
On my graduate school journey in medical anthropology at the University of Alabama, I became curious about HIV risk while conducting fieldwork in Mobile, Alabama. There, I worked on my thesis on intergenerational body image beliefs of working class African American mothers and daughters. Mothers in my study revealed that they could tell someone had HIV by looking at them. These insights solidified my interests in determining what African American adolescent girls in Alabama knew about HIV and how social ecological factors influence both knowledge and sexual health behaviors. Alabama is an abstinence only sex education state (Minimum Contents to be Included in Sex Education Program or Curriculum, Alabama State Code Section 16-40A-2). Sexual health education is focused on abstinence until marriage, and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and teen pregnancy. The Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance reports that while risky sexual activity is decreasing among adolescents, condom use among... read more ❯
Replacing the Lone Stranger with Evidence-Based Theory: Collaborative Fieldwork in Anthropology
Published 12/22/2016 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Christopher Lynn
An abridged version of this post first appeared in our column in Anthropology News: http://www.anthropology-news.org/index.php/2016/12/19/replacing-the-lone-stranger-with-evidence-based-theory/ At the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association this year in Minneapolis, MN, I was recruiting a graduate student whose former adviser was denied a promotion and who then told the student she should leave academia because she would never get hired or tenure at an R1 institution. There are several layers of things wrong with this scenario, but my pitch in gaining her interest in our program (as she has no intention of leaving academia) was that I absolutely refuse to send students into the field alone unless they essentially demand it, have already set up the field site, and have a proven track record of mature and independent work.... read more ❯
“Making a Bill” in Search of Health
Published 12/7/2016 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Avery McNeece
The Poorest, Sickest State Mississippi is the U.S.’s poorest state and has the lowest rates of insurance coverage. Mississippi also has very poor health outcomes including the highest or second highest rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and age-adjusted death rate due to cancer (Mississippi State Department of Health 2014). These rates are nothing new and Mississippi has a history of health disparities that stretch back to the Depression and beyond. In spite of this, the Affordable Care Act has had little impact on the nation’s poorest, sickest state. Mississippi opted out of the Medicaid expansion, which left 138,000 Mississippians, most of whom are African American, without any insurance options (Kaiser Health News 2014). Refusing the federal subsidies has increased the burden on rural hospitals, forcing some to close entire departments and lay off staff. During the course of my thesis research on health seeking behaviors... read more ❯
A World Famous African-American Scientist Puts the Presidential Election in Perspective: "I Am Not Surprised At All"
Published 12/4/2016 in Biocultural Systematics
Author Christopher Lynn
On Wednesday, the day after our 2017 presidential election, I dreaded having to put on my host face to go out to dinner with Dr. Joseph Graves, our ALLELE speaker for Thursday. I couldn't really stand the thought of talking to anyone. His talk on "Biological determinism in the age of genomics" was supposed to have been anti-climactic after Hillary's easy sweep. We see how well that went. Joseph Graves is the first African-American to ever earn a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology and go on to become an evolutionary biologist. Before he came here this week though, I remember wondering if, in the age of Obama, it is important to have any one scientist speak about the race concept over another scientist simply because the one speaking is black (i.e., Jim Bindon, a white male anthropologist who has spent over 30 years teaching about the fallacy of the race concept, does... read more ❯

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