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Dr. Erin Thornton Dept. of Anthropology - Stable Isotope Lab

Current Students

Valda Black (Ph.D. student)
I obtained my Bachelor and Masters degrees in Anthropology at CUNY Hunter College in New York. My MA thesis focused on using 3D geometric morphometric techniques to analyze intentional cranial modification heterogeneity and how it might relate to social identity in prehistoric Andean Peru. My dissertation work will continue in this region by incorporating skeletal analysis, ancient DNA, and stable isotope techniques to explore migration, lineage, and reformulation of identity.

Emily Kinney (MA student)
My research interests include zooarchaeology, stable isotope analysis, political economy, and human-environment interactions in Mesoamerica and the Andes. For my master’s thesis, I will be studying the economy and environment of Aventura, a Terminal Classic Maya site in Belize, through the lens of zooarchaeology and stable isotope analysis. I received my BA in Archaeological Studies from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse in May 2021. My undergraduate thesis used in-depth faunal analyses to compare the animal economies of Kizsombor-Uj-Elet, Hungary, and Pecica Santul-Mare, Romania, two sites occupied by the Maros culture during the European Bronze Age.

Brandon McIntosh (Ph.D. student)

My research interests include the prehistoric cultures of the Great Basin, U.S. Southwest, and Mesoamerica, stable isotope ecology, zooarchaeology, and conservation biology. My research includes stable isotope analysis in connection to the faunal component of the archaeological record for the purpose of understanding prehistoric relationships between humans and their animal neighbors, and the archaeology of environmental change. I seek to understand cultural and biological change through evolutionary and niche construction theory. My previous Master’s work at New Mexico State University was directed toward understanding turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) domestication, and the exploitation of freshwater fish species as strategies for resilience in subsistence and market trade at the Postclassic site of Isla Cilvituk (Campeche, Mexico). My dissertation research will combine zooarchaeological, isotopic and ancient DNA analyses to explore turkey use and domestication in the Jornada region and northern Mexico.

Lori Phillips (MA student)

I am currently an archaeology M.A. student working with Dr. Erin Thornton. My research interests include stable isotope analysis, zooarchaeology, bioarchaeology, and the ancient Maya. Before coming to WSU, I worked on archaeological projects in both South Africa and Central America, but my current research is based in the Maya region. For my M.A. thesis, I am studying turkey husbandry at the Postclassic site of Mayapan (Yucatan, Mexico) through integrated zooarchaeological and isotopic analyses. In addition to my MA work, I have also been participating in excavation and faunal analysis of several sites located near extensive wetlands in central/northern Belize. For my dissertation, I will use these faunal assemblages in conjunction with stable isotopes analyses (carbon, nitrogen and sulfur) to explore ancient Maya aquatic resource use.

Jackie Rumberger (Ph.D. student)
I am a PhD student focusing in archaeology under Dr. Erin Thornton. I received a BA and MA in Anthropology at the University of Central Florida where I had a regional focus in Central American, specifically coastal Oaxaca, and a methodological focus in bioarchaeology and stable isotope analysis. My MA research focused on human diet and mobility during periods of social collapse in coastal Oaxaca. I hope with my dissertation work to create an isotopic food web and gather environmental data from isotopic analysis of shell to create a more complete understanding of the environmental pressures and food resources available to and used by pre-Columbian peoples living along the coast.

We’d love to have you join our lab!

Please see the link for prospective students if you’re thinking of applying to WSU for graduate school.

I strongly encourage all serious candidates to contact me directly ( before applying.