Digging up our past, phyto-literally: Maureece Levin joins RealScientists

We are delighted to welcome our next curator, Dr Maureece J Levin (@ReecieLevin), Postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Archaeology Center, US. Maureece, an archaeologist and paleoethnobotanist, began her journey with an bachelor’s degree in arts at Whitman College, Washington. She followed it up with a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Oregon, Eugene, US.  Her current research focuses on prehistoric and historic ecology of Micronesia. She’s also involved in phytolith research on ancient Chinese food production, in collaboration with the Chinese Archaeology program. Here’s Maureece’s story in her own words.

I’ve always been curious about the way the world works. Honestly, I’ve really just ended up following my interests where they led. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to use my career to ask questions and then try to figure out the answers.

In archaeobotany, I am able to engage with the study of history, human culture, and the natural sciences. These are three things I love, and I don’t have to choose between them!

I study the relationships between past food production and consumption, the physical environment, and social change. I use the archaeological record to look at these relationships, with a focus on plant remains preserved in archaeological sites. This includes the study of both plant microremains (starch and phytoliths) and charred macroremains. I conducted my dissertation work on Temwen Island, Pohnpei, Micronesia, and remain very interested in human adaptations to and construction of island landscapes. In fact, I’ll be going back to the Pacific for fieldwork this summer. In my postdoc, I am working in a Chinese archaeology lab, looking at human-plant relationships, domestication, and diet from the Pleistocene to historic times in East Asia.

We all need to eat, and what and how we have eaten through time has had a profound impact on the way on the way our society functions. Much of our day-to-day life and many of our social interactions center around food. Plus, the ways we choose to procure food have profound impacts on earth’s ecosystems. While I conduct basic rather than applied research, I do think that the more we learn about the long-term trajectory of food production in the past, the better we can learn to cope with climate change and increase food security at both local and global levels.

I really love music, and I have pretty varied taste. I play flute; I was pretty serious about it in high school and college, although I only play occasionally these days.

Ideal Day Off? Hm. I think I’d spend the day hiking, cycling, or snorkeling somewhere new to me. Then, I’d cap off the day of exploring with a good microbrew and Thai food.

Please welcome Maureece to Real Scientists!

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