G.R.I.M. (Graduate Research in Isotopic Methodologies)
Each year, first year graduate students at TEAL undertake a research project as a part of their graduate course 'Advanced Stable Isotope Laboratory Methods' taught by Paul Szpak. In addition to learning about the application of stable isotope research in archaeology and ecology, this course gives students an opportunity to complete a methodologically-oriented research project, generating real isotopic data and gaining invaluable training in the lab. This gives student the opportunity to 'hit the ground running' when they start their thesis research at the end of the first year since they will have already accrued a substantial amount of laboratory experience.
A brief overview of each project is provided below. Funding for GRIM projects is provided by NSERC and the Canada Research Chairs program.
2022-23 - TIBIA
Students: Alex Derian (PhD Student, Environmental & Life Sciences), Olivia Hall (MSc Student, Anthropology), Julia McCuaig (MSc Student, Anthropology), Alexis Rausch (MSc Student, Anthropology)
Project Overview: Coming Soon.
2021-22 - PATRICIA
Students: Brooke Driscoll (MA student, Anthropology), Nicole Hultquist (MSc student, Anthropology), Anahi Maturana-Fernandez (MSc student, Anthropology), Mariah Miller (MSc student, Anthropology)
Project Overview: Optimizing refluxing conditions during bone collagen extraction (pH and temperature).
This project tested the optimal temperature and pH for the refluxing (melting) of bone collagen to maximize yield. The project also examined the impact of variable reflux conditions on the stable isotope and elemental composition of bone collagen. This project used a range of modern and archaeological bone samples. Students affiliated with this project established the lab's TikTok presence.
2020-21 - Lip-a-roo
Students: Jennifer Routledge (PhD student, Environmental & Life Sciences) and Adrián González Gómez de Agüero (MA student, Anthropology)
Project Overview: Optimizing lipid extraction methods for modern bones.
This was the first project to opt for a portmanteau name rather than an acronym and was also the first to develop its own logo. Most of the initial samples that were used were kangaroo tibia (hence the -a-roo in Lip-a-roo) and the goal of the project was to develop techniques that would most effectively extract lipids from modern bones (hence the Lip in Lip-a-roo). As of August 2021, all of the kangaroo samples have been analyzed but as with all of these projects, the scope has expanded slightly beyond the initial vision and now it also includes a set of harbour porpoise bones (less well named as Porp-a-roo). The exploits of the Lip-a-roo project are well-documented on our Facebook page. Stay tuned for the final results of this project in the near future.
2019-20 - D.A.T.A. (Demineralization and Time Assessment)
Students: Tessa Grogan (MA student, Anthropology) and Victoria Tait (MA student, Anthropology)
Project Overview: Optimizing demineralization time and bone fraction size for collagen extraction.
The extraction of collagen from bone generally involves removing the mineral part of the bone with a weak acid. Very little research has examined the optimal conditions for this demineralization and the D.A.T.A. project sought to systematically examine how variables of demineralization time and bone fragment size influenced the amount of collagen recovered from bone. The project was interrupted by the global pandemic but all of the yield data are in hand and the isotopic and elemental compositions of the collagen will be determined before the end of summer 2021. Stay tuned for a presentation on the results of this project at the Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology Annual Meeting in Hamilton, Ontario in October 2021.
2018-19 - V.I.P. (Variation in Isotopes Project)
Students: Corrie Hyland (MA student, Anthropology), Jennifer Routledge (MA student, Anthropology), Michael Scott (MA student, Anthropology)
Project Overview: Developing an isotopic metric for quantifying the number of distinct individuals in an assemblage.
The OG graduate class project. The goals of this project were to characterize how much isotopic variation exists among different bones within a single individual by determining the stable isotope compositions of the bone collagen extracted from multiple bones of the same animal. These data gave us an understanding of how much variation we could expect within an individual and that allowed us to make probabilistic statements about the likelihood that two bones come from two distinct individuals when this cannot be ascertained on morphological criteria - we deemed this the NIDS (number of isotopically distinct individuals) metric. The results of this class project were published in Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory.
Hyland C, Scott MB, Routledge J, Szpak P, 2021. Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Variability of Bone Collagen to Determine the Number of Isotopically Distinct Specimens. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. doi:10.1007/s10816-021-09533-7. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]