Environmental Dynamics Ph.D. Candidate Receives NSF Dissertation Research Improvement Grant

Seth Price conducting field research in Casma Valley, Peru.
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Seth Price conducting field research in Casma Valley, Peru.

Seth Price, a doctoral candidate in the Environmental Dynamics Program at the U of A, has been awarded $19,867 by the National Science Foundation through a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant in the archaeology program. Price's dissertation research will be supervised by Ben Vining, an environmental dynamics and anthropology faculty member.

This project investigates ancient raised field agricultural systems in the Casma Valley on the northern coast of Peru in order to understand the cultural processes that were key to their operation and determine how this information can contribute to modern sustainable development. These fields were likely constructed during the late Chimu period (1300-1470 CE) and are a fairly unique instance of wetland agriculture in coastal South America. 

The goal of this research is to determine the motivation for the creation of these field systems, particularly whether they were designed to deal with El Nino coastal flooding events or general climatic instability, and to investigate how this knowledge can affect food security in arid coastal ecosystems.

These questions will be addressed through testing of soil conditions, hydrologic drainage, crop assemblage and field organization. Work to date, including multi-scalar geophysical prospecting and soil geochemical studies, indicates an agricultural system with soil properties and topography distinct from the surrounding landscape and with clear signatures of human input. Hydrological modeling will be used to determine how water moved through these fields, and a new method of low-cost drone-based thermal imagery developed by Price will be used to look at field temperature variation.

This grant will specifically fund radiocarbon dating to determine the age of field systems and whether this coincides with periods of climatic instability, pollen analyses to assess what crops were grown, the creation of a high-resolution digital elevation model to look at how water flows in these systems, and improved hardware to process photogrammetric and flow models.

Contacts

Jo Ann Kvamme, assistant director
Environmental Dynamics Program
479-575-6603, jkvamme@uark.edu

John Post, director of communications
Graduate School and International Education
479-575-4853, johnpost@uark.edu

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