March 7, 2017 at 1:44 pm

Anthropology Alum Enjoys Roles as Teacher and Osteologist, Earns Ph.D.

Hannah Plumer

Hannah Plumer

Hannah Plumer ’10 just completed her Ph.D. dissertation defense at the University of Sheffield in February. Her research focused on ancient Maya health and disease of three separate Maya sites located in the Three Rivers Region of northern Belize.

After Plumer graduated with her B.A. in Anthropology with a minor in History from the College of Arts and Sciences at Ohio University, then earned her Masters in Anthropology at Brandeis University in 2011.

Teacher, Osteologist, Field School

Plumer teaches forensic anthropology and human evolution courses at Niagara County Community College in western New York while on the lookout for something more permanent.

In summer months, as osteologist at the Maya Research Program in Blue Creek, Belize, just east of the Guatemala boarder, she is a crew chief and also teaches an intensive osteology field school while working on numerous separate research projects.

While in Belize, Plumer also works with Saint John’s College in Belize City, analyzing the unique historical skeletal collection housed at the college. She says this is the first time the skeletal collection has been analyzed and it is proving to be a valuable contribution to the history of Belize.

“What I enjoy most about teaching is the moment a difficult concept clicks with a student — when the student really understands it,” Plumer says. “In own my research what I enjoy the most is doing what I can to tell the stories of the individuals I work with.”


In reflecting on how her OHIO experience prepared her for her life after graduation, she credits Elliot Abrams and AnnCorinne Freter-Abrams with the inspiration to focus on anthropology. Abrams’ introduction to archaeology class made Plumer change her major just two weeks into that semester. And Freter-Abrams took Plumer under her wing as a woman in the sciences.

“I owe the two of them so much,” she says.

She sees the benefits from her time at Ohio University more broadly, but especially through her experience with the Anthropology faculty.

“They taught me not only how to be an academic, in all the best ways, but allowed me to embrace the love of our discipline wholeheartedly and were fantastic role models for keeping that excitement of anthropology/archaeology throughout their careers.”

Why Osteology?

When asked how she got so focused on osteology, Plumer responds, “It was actually Dr. Nancy Tatarek‘s forensic anthropology class that first sparked my interest in osteology. The summer after I took her course I excavated my first burial, at Nojol Nah, an ancient Maya site in Belize. The excavation and Taterek’s course cemented my interest in osteology.”

Biggest Challenge So Far

Moving to a different country that she had not previously visited to pursue her doctoral degree has been the biggest challenge for Plumer so far. But the pull of an archaeology department known for its osteology program was irresistible.

“I am so glad I did, though!” she says. “The experience of living long term in England was fantastic!”

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