Field School

It is crucial for the future of this field that we raise awareness about the underwater heritage and its challenges both among professionals and the general public. It is an important component of the Alpena-Amberley Ridge (AAR) in Central Lake Huron project to participate in this task. We are working with local high school students in Alpena, Michigan who are engaging in a virtual reality model of the AAR when it was dryland. They are working with their teacher in a class called “Science in the Sanctuary” to better understand the type of research being conducted in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary right in their town. With us, they are exploring the VR landscapes and picking spots they think would be likely to contain archaeological sites. Then, we go out on the research vessel and explore those sites and report the results back to them. In this way the high school students are directly contributing to scientific research.
Training the next generation of researchers and providing them with hands-on experience in underwater archaeology is also important. In 2021 eight undergraduate students from the University of Texas at Arlington participated in our field school. The training took place in Alpena, Michigan and in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

The students learned about a variety of topics, from Michigan’s long maritime history to various techniques for conducting underwater research. Their training included explanatory lectures and hands-on training, from learning about sonar surveys and how to build a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to gaining experience in archaeological site recording.

Their field training focused on the shipwreck of the Joseph S. Fay, in Thunder Bay, Alpena. The Joseph S Fay was a bulk freighter that operated in the Great Lakes region in the late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th and sank in the Thunder Bay in 1905.

There are two sites associated with the shipwreck, as part of the ship came ashore, while the rest  of it is lying under 19 feet of water in Lake Huron These two different components allowed students to not only learn about underwater techniques, but also gain knowledge about the terrestrial aspects of maritime archaeology and the different challenges regarding mapping shipwrecks at shore vs underwater. You can read more about Joseph S Fay here.

Declan Williams, another field school student, presented on their research at the Texas Archaeological Society Annual Meeting in 2021. Check out his poster here.

You can read about the field school here as well, and learn about some of the student experiences here.

The 2021 field school student participants were: Erin Kielty, Sean Kielty, Ashley Sisk, Declan Williams, Shehan Soysa, Kelsey Dewesse, Jonathan Villanueva, Robert Prichard.