MAILED: July 31, 2001
EAU CLAIRE — Two University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire professors and several students were once again involved in
a field research project conducted in Canada during June and July.
For the second year in a row, UW-Eau Claire geography
professor Garry Running teamed with Dion Wiseman, a geography professor at
Brandon University in Manitoba, Canada, to offer directed study credits in
advanced geographic field methods.
The opportunity for advanced study was offered in
conjunction with the Manitoba component of a five-year, interdisciplinary
research project to document aboriginal land use and adaptation to the northern
plains at critical times over the past 9,000 years. Geographers, geologists,
archaeologists, historians and other specialists from across western Canada and
the upper Midwest of the United States are working together to collect and
interpret information about the ancient environment and how people adapted to
Ryan DeChaine, a junior from Brainerd, Minn., and
Corinne Orzech, a senior from Waukesha, were two UW-Eau Claire geography
majors taking the course this summer, along with two geography graduate students
from UW-Madison. Dr. Karen Havholm, UW-Eau Claire associate professor of
geology, and Nicole Bergstrom, a UW-Eau Claire senior comprehensive geology
major from Green Bay, also joined them for the project.
According to Dr. Scott Hamilton of Lakehead University,
Ontario, Canada, this year’s investigations began at the Tiger Hills of
southern Manitoba and over the next six weeks focused on a cluster of sites
dating from the last 2,000 years. The archaeological part of the research
included investigation of the Lowton site, where researchers removed plowed and
disturbed surface soil in hopes of discovering intact features, such as storage
pits or hearths, that will indicate whether ancient inhabitants engaged in
horticulture to supplement wild food.
Excavations were also carried out on a recently
discovered bison kill, with an associated encampment known as the Hokanson site.
This site, believed to be about 1,500 years old, includes a bison “pound” or
trap built along the edge of a slough. The researchers were interested in what
this site can reveal about how hunters exploited the landscape to trap and kill
animals, and then cooperated in the processing of large quantities of game.
Running and his geography students spent most of their
time using a geoprobe coring device to investigate alluvial fans in the Pembina
Trench, a huge meltwater channel just a few miles east of the sites the
archaeologists are investigating.
“We were looking at the fans
as sources of information with which to reconstruct environmental
conditions at the time folks lived at the archaeological sites,”
said Running, noting that part of their work also involved further
assessment of geophysics as a means of prospecting for subsurface
site features, and determining which geophysical methods of investigation
work best in these particular conditions. As part of his student
research project, DeChaine will write up and analyze this data.
Orzech, along with Havholm and
Bergstrom, conducted and documented research in the Lauder Sand
Hills, one of the last sites on their itinerary. Orzech analyzed
land use, while Havholm and Bergstrom’s work involved taking measurements
on sedimentary structures in dune exposures to determine their
mode and direction of movement.
Running said that the one of the best aspects of the
project was that the students got to interact with a variety of professionals
and see how each conducts data collection and research. “We had a great crew
and everybody worked as a team — everybody worked as everyone else’s field
assistants. We all worked hard, learned a lot and had fun doing it,” he said.
Funding for this project comes primarily from the Social
Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada in the form of a $2.5 million
Major Collaborative Research Initiatives grant. According to Running, the grant
for this project was initiated by similar research that he and his students
conducted with Canadian colleagues in southwest Manitoba in 1998 and 1999, which
had been funded by the Office of University Research at UW-Eau Claire.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: July 31, 2001