Spotlight On: Hornbeck’s Research Receives NSF Grant

Bobbi Hornbeck and students

From left, Joseph Ross, Jennifer Rios, Professor Hornbeck, Anne LoDico and Carly Hammartstrom take a break from sifting through samples Hornbeck collected in the western Aleutian Islands of Alaska.

Galloway, N.J. – Bobbi Hornbeck ’08, adjunct faculty of Sociology and Anthropology at Stockton, spent 18 days this summer in the remote western Aleutian Islands of Alaska. What was she doing? Hornbeck, a lifelong resident of Cape May, was busy collecting data for her research project, “Aleut Monumentality: Hunter-Fisher-Gatherer Transformations of the Rat Islands Group of the Western Aleutian Islands, Ala.” 

Bobbi Hornbeck in AlaskaIn April, Hornbeck learned she was awarded a $19,067 grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the project, with additional funding from the NSF’s Arctic Research Support and Logistics Program through the Office of Polar Programs to cover her logistical costs. 

“Grant proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation are highly competitive, so I was absolutely thrilled when I was told that my proposal was selected for funding and logistical support. The western Aleutian Islands are not easily accessible and conducting field research there is virtually impossible without the support of the National Science Foundation,” said Hornbeck. “I would not have been able to return to the Rat Islands for field work without it. This grant is especially important to me because it means that the National Science Foundation, as well as the panel of reviewers, has found value and merit in my work.”

The project gained traction earlier this year when she was selected as a winner of the 2018 PaleoWest Foundation Graduate Scholarship, which helped offset the costs of capturing and processing imagery of the cultural coastlines of the Rat Islands which are being threatened by warming Arctic climates.

According to Hornbeck, archaeology is often glorified by the public and reduced to professional digging in search of artifacts. woman holding piece of vegetation

“In fact, the discipline is incredibly complex and what archaeologists are actually in search of is a meaningful glimpse into the human past and a deeper understanding of what role(s) past human actions play in our existence today. The ‘digging’ is only one small part of archaeological research. Archaeology is an integration of the social and natural sciences,” Hornbeck said. “It requires research design, archival investigations, field work, laboratory analyses, statistical analyses, mapping, the application of high-level theory, writing for both the academic world and the public, etc. All of this is done with the goal of contributing knowledge about our shared past while maintaining and disseminating strong ethical standards for the protection of cultural heritage.”

Hornbeck is currently analyzing the samples she collected during her recent field work with a team of six Stockton Archaeology graduates and students, Joseph Ross ’19 of Brick Township; Carly Conticchio ’19 of Lanoka Harbor; Anne LoDico of Pomona; Carly Hammartstrom of Marlboro; and Jennifer Rios of Egg Harbor City.

LoDico has been working with Hornbeck for two years on her passion, Native American studies in Cape May County. She hopes to get involved in museum studies and archiving.

When asked how this lab work relates to her future, LoDico said, “This work is very important. This is all new research Professor Hornbeck is conducting right now. It’s all about data collection and analysis. And learning the history tied to artifacts.” While looking through roots and vegetation, she points to a small piece of sea urchin, so hard to see without a trained eye. LoDico will graduate with a degree in Sociology and Anthropology with a concentration in Archaeology and a minor in Cannabis Studies.

Hammartstrom says she hopes to go into a career in archaeology, possibly working in a museum. As she cleans a rock that Hornbeck collected, she casually reflects on how it may be an artifact.Student examining samples

“This type of lab work definitely gives me another look into the field and a way to actually dive into the research itself,” Hammartstrom said. “Working with Bobbi has given me a different way into archaeology I didn’t think I was going to be able to have as an undergraduate. And it looks great on my resumé.”

As Ross prepares to sift through more vegetation samples for carbon dating, he says his future aspirations actually include pursuing his doctorate in East Asian Archaeology.

“Work like this that extends beyond one centralized focus I really enjoy. While this doesn’t relate to my one career focus, I think any type of experience related to archaeology is just fantastic to get,” Ross said.

Rios echoed the sentiments of the other students saying how valuable any archaeological experience is to get, even if it’s out of your expertise.

“Being able to catalogue artifacts, get the lab experience so that you know what tools are available to you and how you’re supposed to go about things is important, especially prior to grad school,” Rios said.

Hornbeck sifting through samples

Reported by Mandee McCullough