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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History

Natural History Research Experiences

Ashley Dafoe and Dayln Grindle were Interns with the Smithsonian in the summer of 2016.  The Natural History Research Experiences (NHRE) is a 10-week summer internship program hosted at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. (May 31 – August 5, 2016). NHRE interns work closely with scientific mentors to complete independent research projects in Earth science, Biology, and Anthropology.


NHRE Intern Ashley Dafoe

Mentor: Dr. David Hunt

Project Title: Data collection of metric and non-metric variables from the individuals in the Terry Collection

Project Description:

    The Robert Terry Collection is one of the premier anatomical human skeletal collections in the world, visited by more than 40 researchers a year for various anthropological and medical studies. This collection is (and has been) one of the main collections used to set the standards for non-metric and metric recording of the human skeleton for determination of age, sex and ancestry and pathological conditions.

    The proposed project for the NHRE intern would be to participate in the systematic data collection of metric and non-metric variables from the individuals in the Terry Collection – this data to be added the on-going databases for researcher access. Concerns have been made to the accuracy and repeatability of the protocols used for data collection.  The NHRE intern will design and implement testing of a number of the more problematic standards / definitions using repeatability tests and method understandability tests to suggest modification to the standards to provide for greater rigor in the methodology and definitions. 


Intern: Dalyn Grindle

Mentor: Dr. Torben Rick

Project Title: Historical ecology, zooarchaeology, and ancient DNA of Northern Oregon Coast sturgeon (Acipenser spp.)

    Sturgeon are an anadromous fish found around the world. In Oregon, two species (white and green) have been the focus of recreational and commercial fisheries for ~100 years. Today green sturgeon are a threatened species of conservation concern while white sturgeon are declining and a moratorium is being proposed on the fishery. Despite the importance of sturgeon in Oregon Coast economies and their conservation status, relatively little is known about the Native American sturgeon fishery, which persisted for at least 3000 years. This project focuses on the analysis of archaeological sturgeon bones (scutes and cranial elements) from two Native American village sites located on the Oregon Coast just south of the Columbia River. The intern will identify archaeological sturgeon bones from the larger fish assemblage, make morphological measurements of some of these bones, and compare these to modern sturgeon bone measurements and DNA data to understand the nature of the prehistoric Native American sturgeon fishery through time. 

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