Society for American Archaeology honors UWF professor for public education
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Dr. Kristina Killgrove, bioarchaeologist and assistant professor of anthropology at the University of West Florida, was selected by the Society for American Archaeology to receive its 2017 Award for Excellence in Public Education. She accepted the award during the SAA 82nd Annual Meeting, March 29 – April 2, 2017, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Killgrove was selected for her online scholarly writing, which is published in a regular column in Forbes and twice-monthly articles in the online magazine mental_floss. According to the SAA, this award recognizes excellence in the sharing of archaeological information with the general public and is designed to encourage outstanding achievements in public engagement. The 2017 award will be presented in the category of media and information technology, emphasizing the use of print and/or online media to educate and increase public awareness.
“One of the main goals of the Society for American Archaeology is to encourage public appreciation of archaeology and to increase the public’s access to archaeological information,” Killgrove said. “As an early-career archaeologist, to be recognized by the SAA for contributing positively toward their mission is professionally quite meaningful. The fact that this award is specifically in the category of media and information technology shows that SAA values a diverse array of approaches to public education.”
Killgrove was nominated by Dr. Megan Perry, associate professor of biological anthropology at East Carolina University, and was selected for the award by a committee.
“I nominated Kristina because she is changing the nature of communication in our field,” Perry said. “She not only fosters a community of scholars who follow her posts, but she also is teaching young scholars and students how to communicate their results and properly assess and respond to media reports that sensationalize bioarchaeological research.”
This is the second award Killgrove has received for her efforts to educate the public through online media. The American Anthropological Association, the world’s largest organization for professional anthropologists, honored her with a New Directions Award in November 2016.
“I have been blogging about anthropology since 2003,” Killgrove said. “Initially, it was a way for me to work through my ideas in graduate school. After I got my Ph.D. in 2010, I continued to blog, but refocused my efforts on media criticism. I realized that so many stories about ancient skeletons in the news media were sensationalized and incorrect. Blogging was a way that I could combat that sensationalism and provide a more accurate interpretation of a burial, a cemetery or an ancient culture.”
In 2015, Killgrove said the science editor at Forbes’ website invited her to start a blog there after learning about her research through media coverage of her project on ancient Roman DNA. Killgrove’s blog posts have received more than five million views since 2015 and have covered a range of archaeology and anthropology topics such as ancient DNA, palaeopathology and the ethics of skeleton collecting.
Dr. John Bratten, chair of the UWF Department of Anthropology, said the department is fortunate that Killgrove is so well versed in the area of public media.
“Her blogs and online articles for outlets such as Forbes and mental_floss bring the public’s attention not only to her research, but also to the anthropology department and the University as a whole,” Bratten said. “If Dr. Killgrove chose to publish using only the traditional methods of academic journals, her work would be available to a very small audience. By using the methods for which she has won this award, she is encouraging collaboration with other colleagues, raising the profile of our department and college, and attracting new students to the field and our University.”