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Psychoactive plants Project

Principal Investigators

Shannon Tushingham, Ph.D. RPA

Shannon Tushingham is an anthropological archaeologist with research broadly centered on human-environmental relationships and the evolutionary archaeology of hunter-gatherer-fishers in western North America. Her research program involves field, laboratory, and legacy collection studies in collaboration with indigenous communities that explore: (1) the behavioral ecology and evolution of hunter-gatherer socio-economic systems, (2) the evolution of psychoactive plant use by worldwide human cultures, and (3) equity and multivocality in STEM and the dissemination of knowledge. Current projects investigate women, leadership, and decision-making (past and present), the fundamental role of women in the development of storage based societies, and the historical ecology of coastal habitats and fisheries use.

See her faculty page for more information about her work.

David R. Gang, Ph.D.

David R. Gang is a Professor in the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University, where he is also the Co-Director of the Murdock Metabolomics Lab and the Director of the Tissue Imaging and Proteomics Laboratory. He is also currently the Assistant Director of the CAHNRS Office of Research, College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at WSU. Dr. Gang’s research is instrumentation intensive and involves an interdisciplinary approach. A major ongoing focus of the research in his lab seeks to elucidate the biosynthetic pathways that produce novel or “secondary” metabolites in plants and microbes, to uncover the mechanisms responsible for the evolution of such pathways, to understand the function of a given natural product/metabolite in the biology and physiology of a given species, and to develop the tools needed to analyze metabolites and their functions in complex biological systems. His research often focuses on the intersection between basic plant biology and its application to agriculture, human health, and bioenergy.

See his faculty page for more information about his work.

Research Team and Collaborators

Casey Baulne, M.A.

Casey is a first year Ph.D. student, and Tribal Member of the Colville Tribes, with an interest in Indigenous archaeology, food sovereignty, medical anthropology, and the use of psychoactive plants worldwide. Previously, Casey earned a M.A in History, where she studied the history of the Colville Tribes and how that history impacted the diet of the Colvilles. At the root of this investigation were the changing economic structures (resource access, new technology, and mobility) and the roles Colvilles played in the new economy that evolved in each time period, all the way to the present. Ultimately, it was a study of human resilience and survivance in the face of great adversity. Her thesis also concerned the health impacts these changes had, and continue to have, on the present-day population of Native Americans. More specifically how these dietary changes resulted in high rates of diabetes, obesity, and much shorter average life span for Natives in the United States. She plans to continue my research in this vein, but with the added skillsets afforded by anthropology and archaeology.

Anna Berim, Ph.D.

Currently, Anna oversees several analytical instruments in the LCME Analytics facility that is directed by Dr. Gang, where she provides support to numerous collaborative projects that use various targeted or untargeted metabolomics approaches to reach their goals. For the Psychoactive Plants Project, Anna assists with metabolomic analyses of archaeological artifacts and plant extracts. Apart from analytical chemistry, Anna’s background is in medicinal plant biochemistry and her research focuses on the biosynthesis of plant specialized metabolites and their roles in plant physiology.

Korey Brownstein, Ph.D.

Korey's research is connected by two themes: medicinal plants and metabolomics. In his first project area, funded by the National Science Foundation GRFP, he investigated the metabolome of some very interesting medicinal plants that have potentially potent anti-inflammatory properties, such as harpagoside producing devil’s claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and other species in the Lamiales. In the second project, funded by an Archeometry Program grant from the National Science Foundation, he worked with Drs. Gang and Tushingham to develop robust methods for identification of plants used in the past. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Molecular Genetics and Cellular Biology at the University of Chicago.

William J. Damitio, M.A.

Currently a Ph.D. student in archaeology at WSU, William's research focuses on pipes and smoking in the Pacific Northwest of North America, especially in the Columbia River Plateau. He has utilized a combination of geographic information system approaches and chemical residue analyses of artifacts to create a better understanding of the antiquity of smoking practices in this region.

Mario Zimmermann, Ph.D.

Mario is a Maya archaeologist who incorporates both residue studies and microbotanical approaches into his work. His dissertation project included the use of spot tests and, specifically, carbohydrate analyses to determine sampling potentials for starch grain extractions. As part of the Psychoactive Plants Project, Mario is exploring the use of psychoactive plants among the ancient Maya through the analyses of a specific type of miniature vessels, known locally as venom bottles.

Ermia Butler

Ermia is a second-year undergraduate attending Washington State University and a tribal member of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). Her interest are in Environmental and Ecosystem Science. Through engagement with a wide variety of programs focused on environmental education, Ermia has been inspired to pursue her education even more by gaining skills and knowledge to take back home to help her tribe on preserving their culture through the land and hopefully, the next generations will have the opportunity to experience the traditions and resources their land has to offer.

Tiffany Kite

Tiffany is a senior undergraduate at WSU whose skills include osteology and human trauma, stable isotopes, medical anthropology, archaeoastronomy, and osteoarchaeology. She will graduate with a degree in Anthropology with specialization in Archaeology and Bioarchaeology, as well as minors in Native American Studies, History, and Earth Sciences with a focus in Geology. As part of the REU project, Tiffany is involved in the creation and curation of reference collections as well as experiments focused on the saturation of residues and diagenetic processes.