Stetson University’s Gillespie Museum opens its spring 2022 Science Café series with a presentation on “Florida Underwater Archaeology” by geoarchaeologist Dr. Morgan Smith, a geoarchaeologist and assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga.
The informal conversation will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the museum at Amelia and Michigan avenues in DeLand.
“Attendees of this conversation will come away with a much deeper understanding of human habitation and occupation of submerged lands throughout Florida, including those inland and offshore,” Dr. Smith explained in a news release.
After working in the Southeast Archaeological Center of the National Park Service, Dr. Smith received his doctorate in anthropology from Texas A&M University, studying in the Center for the Study of the First Americans.
In the last decade, he has directed full-scale geoarchaeological excavations of underwater prehistoric sites, as well as surveys of terrestrial and submerged lands throughout North America. He has contributed to underwater archaeology by developing methods and models to locate underwater prehistoric sites more accurately and reliably, with an emphasis on mobile forager societies.
At the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, Dr. Smith teaches anthropology and archaeology, as well as courses in social, cultural and justice studies. He also serves on the board of the Archaeological Research Cooperative, a non-profit dedicated to building capacity and supporting underwater archaeological work.
The Armchair Geology series is co-sponsored by the Department of Environmental Science and Studies. Dr. Ben Tanner, an environmental geologist and department chair, stated, “As an undergraduate, I worked at underwater prehistoric sites that are now submerged in the Gulf of Mexico and it opened my eyes to the impact of sea level rise on human populations. Dr. Smith is working at the very forefront of Florida underwater archaeology and we’re quite lucky to have him visiting our campus. This is an exciting presentation.”
Dr. Smith’s visit also is supported by the Stetson Institute for Water and Resilience and a National Science Foundation STEM scholarship grant, “Cohort-Based Interdisciplinary Learning to Increase Retention and Graduation Rates of Undergraduate Students in Science, Technology, and Mathematics.”
Dr. Jason Evans, an associate professor and executive director of the institute, explained the connection between geoarchaeology and current environmental issues.
“The study of Florida’s geology is inherently a study of water and the sea,” Dr. Evans stated in the release. “As we confront a future with more rapidly rising seas and highly vulnerable coastal communities, better understanding of the past may help guide us toward more sustainable approaches for moving forward.”
Undergraduates may join Dr. Smith for an informal coffee hour at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 18, at the Rinker Environmental Learning Center to learn more about his research and careers in STEM fields.
The Gillespie Museum has hosted Science Café events for the last 10 years as part of an international movement, promoting scientific literacy by encouraging relaxed, open conversations among scientists and nonscientists of all ages.
For those who wish to join in person, the Science Café will offer coffee, tea and desserts, served on the museum’s porch; masks will be required indoors, during the presentation. Through a Zoom link, others may join as armchair geologists.