From pursuing her B.Sc. Archaeology and master’s in Anthropology degrees at Trent to ground-breaking research on ancient Peruvian societies and pursuing her Ph.D. at Oxford University –Corrie Hyland’s future is certainly bright.
In her master’s work at Trent, Ms. Hyland used a variety of stable isotope methods to analyze bone, nail and mummified skin and hair of people who lived during the formation of early state-level societies along the coast of northern Peru in the Virú Valley. Her goal was to examine their diets and movement patterns. Her research was recently accepted for publication in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
“We found that agricultural and pastoral foods were more important to the diet of these coastal people than marine fish and shellfish. This suggests that the adoption of farming as a major source of food may have been important to the development of more complex state-level societies in this region,” explains Ms. Hyland.
She also investigated a ritual killing event that involved children and young llamas, and found strong evidence of contact between two very different cultural populations – those living on the coast and those in the mountains.
“This shows us a complex set of interactions between people living in this area close to the ocean and people living in the mountains – both people and ideas were moving between these regions,” says Dr. Paul Szpak, Anthropology professor at Trent, Canada research chair in Environmental Archaeology, and Ms. Hyland’s research supervisor.
Opportunities and mentorship abound at Trent
Anthropology at Trent is one of the most highly regarded programs of its kind in Canada. This, and the many hands-on learning opportunities through fieldwork and using Trent’s state-of-the-art laboratories attracted Ms. Hyland to the University.
What better way to study an ancient community than experiencing the sites and sounds of the area firsthand? Thanks to a Jack Matthews Study & Research Abroad Bursary, Ms. Hyland was able to conduct field research in Peru. Here she participated in ongoing archaeological research on the Virú Valley and made connections with fellow archaeological researchers.
Ms. Hyland also gained valuable experience in using equipment such as the EA-IRMS (Elemental Analyser and Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer) in Trent’s state-of-the-art Water Quality Centre, to conduct her research, an opportunity she believes she would not have had at other universities.
Now pursuing her Ph.D. at Oxford University, Ms. Hyland attributes much of her success to the guidance and mentorship provided by Professor Szpak and other Anthropology faculty members at Trent.
“My supervisor, Prof. Szpak, is well known for stable isotope research in archaeology and paleoecology and provided incredible mentorship and training throughout my undergraduate and master’s research,” says Ms. Hyland. “Trent’s Anthropology faculty provided the support and guidance I needed for my application to Oxford University. Through their support I succeeded in acquiring a doctoral scholarship from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada in addition to a Clarendon Scholarship from Oxford.”
At Trent, students have the opportunity to work alongside renowned experts like Prof. Szpak early in their undergraduate degree, and seeing them move on to successful post-graduate studies is a highlight of his job.
“Mentoring talented students that are conducting original research is absolutely the best part of my job,” says Prof. Szpak. “It is very rewarding to see an early career researcher bring a project like this one from the earliest stages all the way through to a fantastic publication. Seeing these scholars develop skills in the laboratory, critical thinking, and in writing is really great to see.”