Category Archives: Research

Undergraduates share research at event

Ten undergraduate researchers from across the country shared their research projects Aug. 3 at East Carolina University’s Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, wrapping up the final week of a research-intensive program funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Biomedical Engineering in Simulations, Imaging and Modeling Research Experience for Undergraduates, led by ECU’s departments of engineering, kinesiology and physical therapy, hosted students from nine universities to conduct original research in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

The program, initially funded by a $288,000 grant from the NSF, gives undergraduate students an understanding of how to conduct research and to learn more about graduate school opportunities.

Madeline Pauley’s, left, research topic focused on plantar fasciitis and the internal structure of the foot in healthy patients and patients suffering from the condition.

Madeline Pauley’s, left, research topic focused on plantar fasciitis and the internal structure of the foot in healthy patients and patients suffering from the condition. (Photos by Matt Smith)

During the 10-week program, students investigated fields ranging from bioengineering to physiology, learning the research process firsthand.

“This was really my first time doing research that was my own project,” said Madeline Pauley, who will graduate this summer from ECU with a degree in exercise physiology. “The program allowed me to decide what I wanted to research. We were guided through the process, but we had a lot of freedom to make our own decisions that you may not get when you’re just volunteering in a lab.”

Pauley’s research focused on plantar fasciitis and the internal structure of the foot in healthy patients and patients suffering from the condition. Joining Pauley from ECU was rising junior Victoria Blackwood. Her research looked at osteoarthritis in post-ACL reconstruction patients and rehabilitation techniques that may limit knee joint pain in patients who have undergone surgery.

“I came to the program with little research experience, so I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Blackwood said. “In just a short time I’ve realized what goes into conducting research and that I do want to continue participating in research projects in the future.”

•Rising East Carolina University junior Victoria Blackwood, right, shares her research on osteoarthritis in patients who have undergone ACL surgery at the The Biomedical Engineering in Simulations, Imaging and Modeling Research Experience for Undergraduates post session at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Friday.

Rising East Carolina University junior Victoria Blackwood, right, shares her research on osteoarthritis in patients who have undergone ACL surgery at the The Biomedical Engineering in Simulations, Imaging and Modeling Research Experience for Undergraduates post session at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Friday.

Pauley and Blackwood said that having students from other universities – including the University of Connecticut, Mercer University and Long Beach State University, among others – added to their program experience.

“Our research peers from other universities helped show me my strengths and weaknesses,” Pauley said. “It was interesting to see how we complemented one another. My background is in anatomy and physiology, but most of their backgrounds were in bioengineering and technology. It was eye-opening to learn about their interests and see how researchers can work together to accomplish things.”

Stephanie George, an assistant professor of engineering at ECU, oversees the program with associate professor of kinesiology Zac Domire. George hopes giving undergraduate researchers with varied interests an opportunity to work with one another shows them the importance of multidisciplinary and collaborative research.

“They put a lot of work into it, but they rely on each other a bit because of their diverse expertise,” she said. “We have computer science, engineering and physics majors; there’s a lot of different expertise that they share with one another. We believe at the end of it all they have a better understanding of the research process and gain confidence that they can lead a project and share it with others.”

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

Study shows climate change may hinder fish conservation efforts

For more than 20 years, conservationists in the Caribbean have been working to protect the endangered Nassau grouper. Thanks to those efforts, populations of this critical reef fish have stabilized in some areas.

However, in a new paper authored by researchers from East Carolina University and the University of Texas at Austin, marine scientists show that climate change may severely hinder these conservation efforts by the end of this century.

By 2100, breeding habitats are projected to decline by 82 percent from 2000 levels if nothing is done to mitigate climate change, according to the report published in the July issue of the journal Diversity and Distributions. These spawning habitats are critical to the survival of the species. Additionally, suitable habitats for non-spawning fish are expected to decline by 46 percent.

ECU assistant professor Rebecca Asch and researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found that climate change may affect the breeding habitats of the endangered Nassau grouper.

ECU assistant professor Rebecca Asch and researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have found that climate change may affect the breeding habitats of the endangered Nassau grouper. (Photo by Rhett Butler)

“To truly understand how climate will impact fishes, we need to know how it will impact the most vulnerable life history stage – spawning. If this link in the life cycle is jeopardized, the species as a whole will be in jeopardy,” said Rebecca G. Asch, an assistant professor of fisheries biology at ECU.

The Nassau grouper is one of the most recognizable reef fish in the Caribbean and, as a top predator, the fish contributes significantly to the ecosystem and can act as a warning system for overall reef health.

Nassau groupers depend on the success of their spawning aggregations, where hundreds to thousands of fish gather in one area for a few days to mate. These mass spawning events make them easy targets for fishers and they were overfished to the point the species became endangered.

Beginning in the 1990s, several countries, including the United States, have put outright bans on fishing Nassau grouper. Other countries, like Cuba and the Dominican Republic, restrict fishing during their winter spawning season. Other areas have restricted fishing in specific breeding grounds.

The paper points out that because Nassau groupers have a narrow temperature range they can tolerate while spawning, this may create a bottleneck that will impact population recovery.

“The concern is that the effects of climate change may override some of the successes of conservation efforts at local and regional scales,” said Brad Erisman, assistant professor of fisheries biology at UT Austin. “That is, if Nassau grouper no longer migrate to spawn in a particular region because the water is too warm, then protecting spawning sites in that region will be ineffective. Likewise, if the months when spawning occurs in certain regions shifts in response to climate change, then seasonal protection measures in those regions will need to shift accordingly to ensure that spawning is still protected.”

Large breeding events, called spawning aggregations, are important for the health of the ecosystem. Large predators, like sharks, feed on the gathered grouper. Whale sharks and manta rays feed on the eggs that are released.

There is some good news, the scientists said. If strong steps are taken to mitigate climate change, breeding habitat is projected to decline by only 30 percent.

The scientists plan to expand their research to look at how climate change may affect spawning in 12 species of grouper and snapper in the Caribbean and the Pacific. The model developed could aid researchers in studying climate change impacts on other fish species that depend on large spawning events.

Funding for the research was provided by the Nippon Foundation-Nereus Program and the National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Program Early Career Fellowship.

Asch received a prestigious Sloan Research Fellowship in February in the field of ocean sciences. Her work focuuses on how warming oceans lead some marine species to change their reproductive habits, causing them to reproduce at different times of the year than in the past and affecting the way they interact with their food sources. Asch’s work has been reported in national outlets such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, NPR, FOX, Newsweek and The Huffington Post.

The full study can be read online.

 

-by University Communications at ECU/University of Texas at Austin

ECU systematic review explains higher incidence of respiratory diseases in LGB community

A systematic research review conducted recently at East Carolina University sheds light on why sexual minorities have a greater chance of developing respiratory diseases.

Dr. Joseph Lee, assistant professor in ECU’s Department of Health Education and Promotion in the College of Health and Human Performance, set out to learn more about why sexual minorities experience respiratory diseases at a higher rate, and he had a hunch their environments played a big part. However, data about where lesbian, gay and bisexual people are most likely to live wasn’t readily available.

Kerry Sewell, research librarian for Laupus Library’s Systematic Review Service

Kerry Sewell, research librarian for Laupus Library’s Systematic Review Service (Photo by Kelly Rogers Dilda)

So he partnered with Kerry Sewell, research librarian for ECU’s Laupus Library, University of New Mexico graduate student Kasim Ortiz and international collaborator and human geographer Dr. Thomas Wimark from Stockholm University in Sweden to conduct a systematic review – a formal research study that follows a clear-cut model to find, assess and examine research that tried to answer a similar question.

“The limited data available on lesbian and gay lives meant that it was critically important to identify high-quality information from multiple disciplines,” Lee said.

“When there are such gaps in the literature, it’s important to use systematic research methodologies to bring together all of the existing evidence in one place,” said Sewell. “Outcomes of a systematic review can present a reliable depiction of what is known and what remains uncertain.”

The team found 51 quantitative papers addressing the topic from multiple fields and found clear evidence of a pattern that LGB people are more likely to live in urban areas, as well as in areas with more air pollution and more tobacco retailers. The data also suggests that even when LGB people live in more prosperous regions, they’re living in poorer neighborhoods than their heterosexual counterparts.

“This review helps us explain the role of geography in why LGB people are more likely to have respiratory diseases and smoke than their straight counterparts,” Lee said.

These findings not only expand understanding of why certain health disparities exist, Lee said, but can also lead to improved health programs, health education and promotion campaigns for the LGB community.

Dr. Joseph Lee, assistant professor in ECU’s Department of Health Educations and Promotion in the College of Health and Human Performance

Dr. Joseph Lee, assistant professor in ECU’s Department of Health Educations and Promotion in the College of Health and Human Performance (Photo contributed by ECU News Services)

Lee added the findings would not have been possible without collaboration from a medical librarian.

Librarians in Laupus Library’s Systematic Review Service have unique skills that ensure the search for published studies is thorough, guarding against biased findings or recommendations that inform patient care, health care decision-making, research and policy.

“I’m pleased that the Laupus Systematic Review Service was able to bring state-of-the-art systematic review methods to pull together evidence from multiple fields, journals and even languages to inform health programs and future research,” Sewell said.

The review was published on June 27 by PLOS One, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the Public Library of Science, where it became immediately accessible to the public at no cost.

“This article is a terrific example of how including a librarian on the research team enhances the outcomes of the scholarly product,” said Laupus Library Director Beth Ketterman. “We are very proud of the Systemic Review Service at Laupus Library, and encourage our ECU researchers to utilize this unique librarian skill set so that we can continue to partner in quality contributions to the health literature.”

No data was available on studies of transgender and transsexual populations, pointing to the need for continued research.

Read the full review at http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0198751.

Learn more about Laupus Library’s Systematic Review Service at http://libguides.ecu.edu/systematicreviewservice.

 

-by Kelly Rogers Dilda, University Communications

Abroad in Saipan: Same field school, different perspectives

ECU maritime studies program professor Dr. Jennifer McKinnon and several graduate students traveled to Saipan this summer to conduct archaeological surveys of surrounding waters to locate and document sites related to World War II. McKinnon and the students – including Emily DiBiase and Molly Trivelpiece, who detail some of the experience in personal accounts below – hope their work will lead to identifying possible sites containing the remains of missing servicemen.

This is the fourth and final post from this trip. Read the firstsecond and third posts to learn more about the journey to Saipan and the importance of the trip.

As a first-year maritime studies student with very little dive experience, I came into this field school not knowing what to expect. I had previously participated in land-based archaeological projects during my time as an undergraduate, so I was thinking that it would be similar. I was definitely wrong.

I realized that underwater archaeology is a lot more equipment-intensive than doing the same activities on land, because we were snorkeling or diving instead of just walking around. This may sound self-explanatory, but I had never really considered how much more difficult it would be to move, write and record in the water. Many of us discovered areas where we could improve. The main one for me was using the program Illustrator, which we used to digitize the data that we collected. It takes all kinds of people to make a project go well and recognizing each person’s skills and shortcomings helps.

Students and staff visit the wreck site of a Japanese seaplane named "Emily."

Students and staff visit the wreck site of a Japanese seaplane named “Emily.” (Contributed photos)

Generally, I learned a lot during this field school experience, mostly about how to be a better diver. I came in having only done open water and the American Academy of Underwater Sciences diver classes. This trip allowed me to practice skills while figuring out things on my own, like how to arrange my extra gear so that I could access it easily underwater.

Finally, I learned a lot about the other people in my cohort, which is good because I’ll probably be interacting with them for a long time. I found out new things about each of them and realized that they are a solid group of people. I think we became a better team and figured out how to work with each other during this field school.

Overall, Saipan was a fantastic learning experience where I was given the opportunity to hone my skills as an archaeologist. The island itself was amazing, too  –  from the sites to the food. Though I’m probably not going to eat fish or rice for the rest of the summer.

 

-by Emily DiBiase, graduate student

 


Molly Trivelpiece, right, and Ryan Miranda prepare to dive.

Molly Trivelpiece, right, and Ryan Miranda prepare to dive.

Although Saipan offered new challenges and experiences, I’m no stranger to the maritime archaeology field. The last several summers I worked in Florida, becoming familiar with high temperatures and even higher humidity levels, but the warm clear waters in Saipan were something new to behold. Past experiences with diving had either been in cold or dark water, oftentimes both.

But the biggest hardship for me was to constantly remind myself that I was a student, not a supervisor. For the past three summers, I had been a senior supervisor for a field school that operated very similarly. While part of me reveled in just being a student again and not having the responsibility to plan out the days and monitor students, there were times when it became frustrating and several occasions where my supervisor mindset slipped out.

When dealing with frustrations, however, I had to keep in mind that this project objective was by far the most important aspect of any work I have been a part of. If we were successful in finding or identifying a site, we could be that much closer to bringing closure to the family of a lost WWII service member.

Overall, this was the smoothest field school I have worked on. I think that going into the project with people you have been in class with for the past year really worked in our favor. As a slightly smaller class with only 11 students, we already had a grasp on who worked well together and their strengths or weaknesses. There was also no personal drama, which tends to be a rarity in any field. I cannot wait to continue to learn and work with the rest of the maritime studies program students and see what exciting development comes next for us.

 

-by Molly Trivelpiece, graduate student

REDE retreat discusses interdisciplinary research

Cross-discipline research was the topic at hand June 20 at the 2018 Research, Economic Development and Engagement Interdisciplinary Research Retreat held at Greenville’s Eastern Area Health Education Center.

More than 80 East Carolina University researchers and department leaders joined REDE for the event, which included guest speakers from the University of Kentucky, North Carolina State University and the National Science Foundation.

The retreat focused on the growing role and success of interdisciplinary research at major universities.

Interdisciplinary research is a type of research done by teams that integrates information, data, tools, perspectives and techniques across academic departments. This type of work brings together engineers, biologists, economists and psychologists, for example, to solve a need.

“We want our researchers to cross traditional academic boundaries and work together to support ECU’s research mission,” said Jay Golden, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement. “It’s a difficult process to begin; it’s not easy reaching across departments to find one another and create meaningful partnerships. However, we have to start reaching across disciplines to come up with solutions to the health, educational and economic disparities our region faces.”

Robert Smart, from left, Elizabeth Blood and Tyrone Borders answer questions during a panel discussion at the 2018 Research, Economic Development and Engagement Interdisciplinary Research Retreat held June 20 at Greenville’s Eastern Area Health Education Center. (Photos by Matt Smith)

Robert Smart, from left, Elizabeth Blood and Tyrone Borders answer questions during a panel discussion at the 2018 Research, Economic Development and Engagement Interdisciplinary Research Retreat held June 20 at Greenville’s Eastern Area Health Education Center. (Photos by Matt Smith)

Current trends

Elizabeth Blood, program director at the NSF, said her organization has seen a shift in funding from individual-led projects to team-oriented interdisciplinary research projects.

From 2004-13, NSF funding for multiple primary investigator research projects rose 40 percent from $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion. The rise has been stark in science and engineering funding, Blood said, with more team-led papers receiving acknowledgments from academic publications.

“We’re seeing a convergence in research toward working together to solve specific and compelling problems with deep integration across disciplines,” Blood said. “Interdisciplinary research combines knowledge, methods and expertise from different disciplines, allowing research to form new frameworks that advance scientific discovery and innovation.”

Blood said the NSF has shifted its focus to 10 big ideas – including harnessing data, understanding the “rules” of life and navigating the new Arctic. The foundation provides tools to help researchers solve these problems, including its solicited interdisciplinary programs, research centers, education training and the National Ecological Observatory Network.

The NSF also provides best practices for team-led interdisciplinary research, including project management guidelines, technology application and training strategies.

“Researchers and universities have to take into account that interdisciplinary teams are not only built upon intellectual skill,” Blood said. “You have to take into account that project leadership, project management, data management and innovative training techniques are necessary pieces of grant proposals.”

Interdisciplinary success and rural health

N.C. State University’s Robert Smart also touched on the benefits of interdisciplinary research, specifically within his university’s research clusters and its Center for Human Health and the Environment.

In 2011, N.C. State launched its Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program, which brought together researchers across a range of academic disciplines to tackle global issues. While the creation of the clusters took time to develop, Smart said that the university has seen early successes from its 20 cluster programs. The programs include topics ranging from digital transformation of education to genetic engineering and society.

“The creation of our clusters allowed faculty to create new interdisciplinary groups and have new interactions between and within disciplines,” Smart said. “It was a bottom-up process with faculty proposals and submissions driving the problems our clusters aim to solve.”

Smart also described the development of N.C. State’s Center for Human Health and the Environment, which promotes interdisciplinary research not only at N.C. State, but also at other academic institutions. Six ECU researchers are members of the CHHE.

“CHHE has developed three interdisciplinary research teams that cut across different disciplines including genomics, veterinary and human medicine, epidemiology, exposure science, statistics, bioinformatics, genetics, cell and developmental biology, and toxicology,” Smart said. “We’re using researchers from different academic areas to solve problems like GenX contamination in the Cape Fear River and providing data for student and teacher professional development programs and activities.”

Tyrone Borders, director of the University of Kentucky’s Rural and Underserved Health Research Center, discusses rural health trends at the 2018 REDE Interdisciplinary Research Retreat.

Tyrone Borders, director of the University of Kentucky’s Rural and Underserved Health Research Center, discusses rural health trends at the 2018 REDE Interdisciplinary Research Retreat.

Tyrone Borders, director of the University of Kentucky’s Rural and Underserved Health Research Center, added that interdisciplinary research can be done on a variety of topics pertinent to eastern North Carolinians.

“In the future, population health – including understanding widening mortality rates and increasing suicide rates – and facilitating rural health care access are going to be important research topics,” Borders said. “These topics pull in researchers from economics, psychology, sociology, public policy and epidemiology, creating an environment that not only fosters research across disciplines, but one that has to have interdisciplinary research to survive.”

ECU’s research mission

In conjunction with ECU’s Rural Prosperity Initiative, the university has increased interdisciplinary research efforts.

In 2017, ECU launched seven university-wide research clusters – with an eighth planned this fall – that provide a framework for fostering interdisciplinary research, outreach and engagement. The clusters bridge the gap between industries and ECU’s research projects, which makes it easy for researchers to pursue innovative research that forges new intellectual directions and discoveries.

ECU and REDE are also exploring ways to highlight researchers for their interdisciplinary efforts. The division has changed how sponsored awards are credited. Faculty on interdisciplinary projects can have a portion of the award credited to them and to their departments and colleges so that the value of the individual contribution to the team is acknowledged and accounted for.

In addition, REDE funds, which in previous years were used to support pilot projects and preliminary data gathering, will be funneled through ECU’s research clusters, which are interdisciplinary in nature.

“It’s important that our faculty, staff and students support the growth of research on campus,” Golden said. “REDE is a service organization. We want to support our faculty and students in their pursuit of research activities to make positive impacts in our region.

“We’re going to continue to work to find ways to overcome barriers to interdisciplinary research so we can become America’s next great national university,” he said.

 

-by Matt Smith, University Communications

ECU researchers participate in Camp Lejeune symposium

Faculty members from East Carolina University participated in the eighth Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Research Symposium on May 25.

ECU investigators were among the only civilian university participants to receive awards, according to James R. Menke, director of military research partnerships at ECU.

The following faculty members were recognized:

  • Stacey Meardon, assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy in the College of Allied Health Sciences, took first place in the Clinical Investigation Poster Competition.
  • Caitlin O’Connell, post-doctoral scholar in the Department of Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Performance, took second place with her podium presentation titled “Detecting Sandbagging on Baseline Balance Tests.”
  • John Willson, associate professor of physical therapy, took third place for his podium presentation titled “Training Modifications to Reduce Knee Joint Load Following ACL Reconstruction.”

The symposium, hosted by the Family Medicine Residency Program at Camp Lejeune, showcases scholarly activity happening behind the scenes at the medical center. Staff and medical residents are involved in more than two dozen research projects, clinical studies and collaborative efforts.

From left, Drs. Stacey Meardon, Caitlin O'Connell and John Wilson are recognized during the Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Research Symposium. (Contributed photos)

From left, Drs. Stacey Meardon, Caitlin O’Connell and John Wilson are recognized during the Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune Research Symposium. (Contributed photos)

 

-by Crystal Baity, ECU News Services

Maritime students go from surveying WWII sites underwater to local outreach

ECU maritime studies program professor Dr. Jennifer McKinnon and several graduate students are in Saipan this summer to conduct archaeological surveys of surrounding waters to locate and document sites related to World War II. McKinnon and the students – including Ryan Miranda, who details some of the experience in a personal account below – hope their work will lead to identifying possible sites containing the remains of missing servicemen.

This is the third post from the trip. Read the first and second posts to learn more about the journey to Saipan and the importance of the trip.

Bird Island

Bird Island (Contributed photos)

As we fly on top of the crystal blue waters in the zodiac boat, multiple thoughts run through my head: the plan for the day, my job during the dives and what types of materials we are looking for. Scanning the horizon, I imagine how 74 years ago it would be filled with the huge metal masses of United States Navy ships.

Our field school has been underway for the past few weeks and it’s been an amazing experience. For me, the best way to learn the techniques and methods of the archaeological process has been being in the field or, in our case, on the water. We’ve dived, snorkeled and have become a lean, mean surveying machine.

As the field school progresses, our knowledge and execution of archaeological methods such as six-person snorkel surveys, side scan sonar lines or two-person dive circle searches has improved. We were even able to help conduct surveys with a Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) that was provided and driven by one of our partners.

We also conducted public outreach about our research and the overall mission.

Several maritime students appeared on radio shows, the local news and classmate Joel Cook and I talked to several classes at Kagman High School on the island. Our camaraderie has grown as well. On the boats, we talk, joke and grow closer as a group.

Joel Cook and Ryan Miranda with Kagman High School students. (Contributed photos)

Joel Cook and Ryan Miranda with Kagman High School students.

But while we have been working hard, we also have been taking time to explore Saipan and the massive amount of history here. We have walked into a Japanese bomb bunker, machine gun emplacements, visited Banzai and Suicide Cliffs and looked at the ancient paintings at Kalabera Cave.

Japanese Bomb Magazine where explosives were stored prior to and during the war

Japanese Bomb Magazine, where explosives were stored prior to and during the war

A special treat came on the final day of jumping targets when we finished early and were able to dive at some of the better-known sites on the WWII Maritime Heritage Trail: Battle of Saipan. We were able to explore downed aircraft and shipwrecks and marvel at the amount of preservation. It reminded all of us why we chose this field of study.

As our work turns from being on the water to being behind a computer, we realize how much we have achieved and the area we have covered. Personally, I am amazed and surprised how much we have done.

Looking back, I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this field school and the overall mission of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. It allowed us to learn and improve our archaeological skill while serving a greater purpose.

We still may have more to learn but I look forward to the challenges and adventures that are on the way.

 

-by Ryan Miranda, graduate student

 

Read more: Same field school, different perspectives

Graduate students learning to become better archaeologists, divers on Saipan trip

ECU maritime studies program professor Dr. Jennifer McKinnon and several graduate students are in Saipan this summer to conduct archaeological surveys of surrounding waters to locate and document sites related to World War II. McKinnon and the students – including Aleck Tan, who shares below what they already have learned – hope their work will lead to identifying possible sites containing the remains of missing servicemen.

This is the second post from the trip. Read the first post to learn more about the journey to Saipan and the importance of the trip.

Our Saipan field school has been underway for the past few days. Professors and graduate students in the East Carolina University Program in Maritime Studies have settled into a routine. At 7 a.m. each day we travel to our base in Smiling Cove Marina, and then it’s a short boat ride to our project sites in Tanapag Lagoon. We conduct surveys until 3 p.m. then come back to our hotel to de-salt ourselves and post-process data. 

While our ECU team looks like a well-oiled machine now, it took some trial and error to get there. On the first day of conducting a sonar survey, a wave overcame the 7-meter-long black rubber boat and flooded some of our not-so-waterproof computers. Thankfully, there were other computers available to replace the flooded ones. On my first day of conducting a metal detector survey at one of our project sites, my dive buddy and I forgot the necessary 30-meter measuring tape, but instead got a short 15-meter tape, so we had to return to the boat to get the appropriate length tape. Each mistake has taught us what not to do, what to do, and how to do it better.

This field school has been a great learning experience. In a classroom, one can learn all he or she can about how to conduct circle searches or run metal detector surveys, but it is another thing to actually do the work in the ocean where conditions are different. The current moves you away from survey lines, you might get scratched by coral, the sun might beat down harshly on already sunburnt skin, and you might constantly sweat through your shirt and smell like you haven’t washed it in three days. With every challenge, we have learned how to become better archaeologists and divers. Most importantly, the challenges and new experiences have taught us to go with the flow with a bright and shining positive mental attitude.

ECU graduate student Aleck Tan runs a metal detector over an object while Dr. Nathan Richards supervises. (Contributed photo)

ECU graduate student Aleck Tan runs a metal detector over an object while Dr. Nathan Richards supervises. (Contributed photo)

At the end of the day, our team crowds into a makeshift conference room where we talk about our day and plan for the next day. In our meetings, we also talk about another important topic – where to eat dinner. Food has been one of the highlights of the trip as it reminds me of home.

While Saipan is a thousand miles away from my home in North Carolina, it feels like home for me. As a Filipino immigrant, I was born and raised in the Philippines, where afternoon showers, mangoes and water activities are common. Being geographically close to the Philippines, Saipan is similar in weather and even in culture as Saipan has a very close relationship with the Philippines. Since the 16th century, Filipino migrants have been traveling and bringing their culture and food to Saipan.

Being on an island similar to my birthplace has made the study abroad experience easier to adapt to but also more exciting. While work days are long and nights are filled with post-processing, a lot of duct tape, and discussions of people’s spirit animals, our team looks forward to exploring more of Tanapag Lagoon.

 

-by Aleck Tan, graduate student

 

Read more

Third post: Maritime students go from surveying WWII sites underwater to local outreach

Fourth post: Same field school, different perspectives

Graduate students’ work in Saipan could help with recovery of servicemen MIA after WWII

ECU maritime studies program professor Dr. Jennifer McKinnon and several graduate students are in Saipan this summer to conduct archaeological surveys of surrounding waters to locate and document sites related to World War II. McKinnon and the students – including Jack “Gus” Adamson, who details some of the experience in a personal account below – hope their work will lead to identifying possible sites containing the remains of missing servicemen.

In the early morning hours of May 17, our team of archaeologists, dive safety officers and maritime graduate students gathered at Eller House on the edge of East Carolina University’s main campus. Our gear was checked and loaded and we departed for Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, Virginia, just as the sun began to break over the horizon announcing a new day. Although a three-hour drive, this would be the first leg of a multiday journey that would take us, quite literally, to the far side of the world ending on the now little-known island of Saipan. Located approximately 1,500 miles south of Japan, Saipan is part of the Marianas Island chain.

In mid-1944, Saipan was the site of one of the most crucial battles of World War II. Its recapture from the Japanese, along with the islands of Guam and Tinian (also in the Marianas), placed Japan within range of newly developed B-29 Superfortress bombers, allowing for strategic bombing of the war industry on the Japanese mainland. Both sides understood the island’s strategic importance and fought bitterly for control of it. The ensuing battle, waged from June 15 to July 9, 1944, resulted in the deaths of approximately 30,000 Japanese and 3,255 Americans. Many of those American servicemen are still unaccounted for and labeled as missing in action (MIA), but they are by no means forgotten. It is that memory that is fueling ECU’s maritime studies summer field school.

As a maritime studies graduate student with aspirations of becoming a conflict archaeologist, this project is particularly exciting for me. Military history and battlefield archaeology have always been a deep passion, and the chance to do a project of this nature is truly once in a lifetime. Further, I have relatives who fought in the Pacific theater and I feel that this brings me much closer to understanding their experiences.

ECU’s maritime studies program is conducting side scan sonar surveys and using underwater metal detection during their field school. (Contributed photo)

ECU’s maritime studies program is conducting side scan sonar surveys and using underwater metal detection during their field school. (Contributed photo)

Partnered with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), which is assisting us in our travel arrangements and numerous other logistics of the project, ECU graduate students guided by our mentors will conduct archaeological surveys of the waters surrounding Saipan in order to locate, record and document sites related to the battle. Hopefully, this will lead to identifying possible sites containing the remains of missing servicemen. Our entire team is humbled and proud to be able to undertake this task that will not only reinforce the archaeological knowledge of this Pacific battlefield, but could also result in the return home of a soldier, sailor or Marine whose family hasn’t received closure after 74 years.

With the weight and pride of this task in our minds, we rolled into Oceana Naval Air Station primed and ready to begin our long journey, only to be told that we must undertake the most difficult of tasks: wait. Our aircraft was down for maintenance and would be unavailable for some time. Murphy’s Law is not the exception but the rule on field projects, and a contingency plan should always be ready. Instead of wasting time on social media or staring at the walls, our team made the short journey to a local museum where, as luck would have it, not only was there an air show of vintage airplanes occurring, but several World War II-era military aircraft were housed there. World War II buffs like me were giddy from being able to study the aircraft and components in person. As an added bonus, some of us were lucky enough to observe an engine test run of a B-25 Mitchell bomber, a rare treat that most can’t claim to have had.

The next leg of our journey finally began on May 19 with our departure for the West Coast before continuing on into the vast blue Pacific Ocean. There will surely be other surprises, but that is part of the adventure!

 

-by Jack “Gus” Adamson, graduate student

 

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Second post: Graduate students learning to become better archaeologists, divers on Saipan trip

Third post: Maritime students go from surveying WWII sites underwater to local outreach

Fourth post: Same field school, different perspectives

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