August 31, 2012
By Tracy Clyde
Ohio Northern University
These students work in different areas of the Museum, learning about careers in science or doing research on a specific topic. This is the third post about what some of the students are doing at the Museum this summer. In this post, learn about how Ohio Northern University students completed individual capstone projects in the Physical Anthropology department.
We arrived to the Museum the last week of May and immediately dove into various projects. The first major task was to assist Drs. Israel Hershkovitz and Rachel Sarig of Tel Aviv University in Israel. They needed data points from human skulls that would allow them to measure the Frankfort Mandibular Plane Angle (FMPA), which is of special interest to Dr. Sarig who is a dentist. In order to get data from the human skulls in the Hamann-Todd collection, we used a three-dimensional measuring device call a Microscribe. As we took the points, we entered the coordinates for each point into a spreadsheet. After completing about 250 skulls, we added formulas to the spreadsheet to calculate the FMPA for all the skulls we examined. The completed spreadsheet was sent to Drs. Hershkovitz and Sarig.
Once that was finished, we began our next mission of going through the entire Hamann-Todd collection and reorganizing the bones in the drawers. While going through the drawers, we also began making a spreadsheet of all the pathologies we noticed. This way, we have a complete collection of pathologies. When we are finished, we can compare them to the original database to see if we have discovered anything new. There are about 3,000 skeletons in the collection, so it will most likely take the rest of the summer for us to complete the project.
Throughout the course of the summer, we have also been introduced to things such as gluing teeth back into the proper place in a jaw, measuring gorilla skulls, using pins and clips to fix human skulls, and using calligraphy ink to put numbers back on the bones. For us to fully understand how to do many of these projects, it is important for us to do research outside the lab. Physical anthropology collections manager Lyman Jellema provided us with many articles and books to help us along the way.
Our main reason for coming to the Museum is to complete a project and write a paper on our findings, which we will then present back at Ohio Northern. Each of us has our own individual project to work on: Becca Ray is working on extracting DNA from one of the specimens to determine what disease the person had at the time of his death; Liz Harbeck is concentrating on the lunate bone in the wrist to see if the number of foramen present can be linked to Kienbock's disease; and Tracy Clyde is working alongside two doctors from the Cleveland Clinic in their research of the ethmoidal groove in the eye orbit and seeing how it differs based on ethnicity.