Alumni

January 27, 2017 at 5:36 pm

History Alum Is Archaeological Trainee with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Ashley Taylor in hard hat, head sticking up out of what appears to be a street excavation

Ashley Taylor in Indianapolis before her summer internship: a city block had been demolished and paved in the 1960s; the pavement was peeled up in 2015 and became a large archaeological site.

Ashley Taylor ’11 began her career in archaeology as a field technician soon after graduation. Since that time she has worked for different companies assisting with several projects, and she is now an archaeological trainee with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

She graduated with her degree in History and minors in Anthropology and Classical Civilizations, then attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania for her master’s in Applied Archaeology and is currently completing her thesis on using geophysics to locate unmarked burials.

Fieldwork: ‘Put Your Time In’

Even though being a field tech is hard work, Taylor says it is important. Spending a lot of time in the field is the best, perhaps only way, to learn how fieldwork is conducted and the proper techniques necessary to do it well. This strong foundation will reward students in reviewing archaeological projects throughout their careers.

“Put your time in, you’ll be thankful for it later,” she says.

Still, field work is a job that only takes one so far in the archaeological process. Excavation can be very exciting, but it does not involve report writing, coordination, and the full Section 106 process.

The Value of Her Summer Internship

After her last project as a technician, Taylor began searching for internships that would help teach her more about the Section 106 process and how it is completed in real world situations. Eventually she was accepted as one of the Governor’s Summer Interns with the Indiana Department of Transportation, where she worked for four months with the agency’s archaeologists and historians.

She cannot speak highly enough of this particular internship and recommends it to anyone who is looking to make archaeology their career choice.

While at INDOT she got to travel the state while learning about the coordination process, how to properly review archaeological reports sent to INDOT from contractors, and how to write reports for submission to the State Historic Preservation Office.

She even got to learn a lot about the agency’s National Register eligible bridges and alternative mitigation ideas.

Furthermore, her internship with a state agency played a significant role in how she got her job with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by setting her apart from other applicants who had not worked with Section 106 yet.

Current Role

Taylor is now employed as a Pathways Intern in her current role of Student Archeological Trainee and will advance to staff Archaeologist once she has successfully defended her thesis.

At the Corps, a large part of what they do is administer land for the federal government and manage dams and reservoirs within their district.

Municipalities, private corporations, adjacent landowners, and other governmental and private interests may request easements, licenses, and leases on federal lands. Examples of this would be waterline licenses, road and sewer easements, and leases for marinas and other recreational facilities.

Projects like these bring archaeology into play.

She and her coworker are responsible for providing permits through the Archaeological Resources Protection Act and requiring these entities to complete the Section 106 process. The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act also plays a large role at their district. Occasionally, Taylor still has the opportunity for field work, but most of her duties are centered on compliance, mitigation, review, and coordination.

The Best Part

“What I love the most are the people. I’ve come into contact with people who specialize in various subjects and they’re so willing to share some of their knowledge,” Taylor says.

The Biggest Challenge?

The hardest part for her has been learning about the army’s structure and operations while adjusting to her new job.

“There’s so much to learn!”

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