For the longest time, I’ve been fascinated with mysteries and detective stories, which started when I read the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories (book #1, “The Secret of the Old Clock”). What I found the most interesting was how different types of evidence that alone may not be significant, but connected together can reconstruct the who, what, where, when and why.

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Saw marks on burned bone (Marciniak, 2009)

My first exposure to anthropology was through my undergraduate at the University of Toronto where I also majored in forensic science. I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist – it appealed to my interests in piecing together a mystery and ultimately, to give a voice to those who could not speak for themselves.  This led to two undergraduate projects on the osteometric sorting of commingled human remains and the impact of fire exposure on metric  assessments of ancestry. Eventually, I completed my Masters at Trent University (Peterborough, ON) where I studied the identification of saw marks (from hand and power saws) on burned bone, but this was my last foray into forensic anthropology.

Although, I was and still am motivated by the applicability of anthropology to address humanistic and scientific questions, I stumbled upon the world of ancient DNA at McMaster University (Hamilton, ON) during my doctoral work, which provided me with that framework to seek out the ‘answers’ held within human skeletal remains from thousands of years ago. It’s a humbling experience to have that window into how individuals lived and reconstructing the potential impacts on their health and well-being.

If you want to read more about me, check out this profile on Sully Asks a Scientist, which is part of a blog run by Alexis Sullivan (NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Dept. of Biology, PSU).

Aside from my research, a few other things keep me busy:

Hiking!
One of the best things about living in State College is all of the hiking that’s possible within a relatively short distance. My next adventure will be to climb Ben Nevis in Scotland (the Highlands) – I went to Arthur’s Seat (Edinburgh) and definitely want to explore more hiking over there.

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The walk up Arthur’s Seat.

Films!
My go-to genres include dark comedies and film noire. When I was doing fieldwork in Vienna in April 2018 for my aDNA and osteological stature project, I went to “The Third Man” museum, which inspired me to put together my own walking tour of the filming locations for the movie. A decent part of my travel is informed by movies – I went to Bruges (Belgium) because I liked “In Bruges” so much.

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One of my favourite places – Bruges!