I spent 2010 running my own project at a ceremonial center in the Chicama Valley, Peru to understand its role in the geopolitical landscape. Through the course of my research, and while living in Peru, I became increasingly interested in the transformative effects El Niño events had on past civilizations and how they are handled today. The North Coast of Peru is one of the driest regions in the world except during El Niño events when torrential rains devastate the region. Evidence shows that a massive El Niño event took place sometime between 500-600 AD. This event had major ramifications for the political and religious systems of the time and was likely one of the catalyzing factors for marked social change that we see in the archaeological record from just after this event. I have recently become involved in a project focused on ancient environmental global teleconnections and plan to continue to conduct research in Peru with a focus on the human response to environmental change and natural disasters.
I am especially interested in the effects the rains have on the irrigation systems, and also the appearance, use, and maintenance of “opportunistic” settlements that crop up in marginal zones that are only inhabitable in times of rain. Through the process of graduate school I have come to realize that for me research is moot without a means to make it relevant and effectively disseminate the information to the public. This includes both the local communities where I conduct research and to the larger general public, policy makers, and governmental institutions. Dealing with environmental change and natural disasters is not new and we can learn a lot about strategies and repercussions by examining the response of the people and societies of the past. I have a strong interest in exploring employment in both environmental policy and academia, and I would ideally like to combine the two. I strongly feel that by combining these skills I can bring a greater understanding to archaeology on why conducting research transferable to relevant environmental issues is so important, and on the other hand, bring the knowledge of the past into discussions on how to move forward on environmental issues that exist today.