UNB News
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Shovel-ready careers: Archeological training boosts job prospects for graduates

Author: Tim Jaques

Posted on May 27, 2024

Category: UNB Fredericton

Dr. Gabriel Hrynick, an archeologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Brunswick

Dr. Gabriel Hrynick ignited his early passion for archeology during his years as a student participating in field schools in Maryland and Maine.

“I just got into it and stayed in it,” said Hrynick, an archeologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) who also serves as the director of the Northeastern Archaeological Survey.

He specializes in the study of coastal hunter-gatherers, their domestic and ritual structures and spaces, and their adaptation to changing coastal environments. He has collaborated to document and salvage archeological sites threatened by coastal erosion and development.

“I’ve worked in the northeast my entire career, as far south as Maryland and as far north as here,” he said.

“The oldest sites that I’ve worked on were ahead of the expansion of an airport at a Paleo-Indian site, the first archeologically known inhabitants of the northeast,” said Hrynick, who has worked at sites dating from nearly 13,000 years ago to the 17th century.

Hrynick co-hosts The New Brunswick Archaeology Podcast with Ken Holyoke, an assistant professor of archeology in the department of geography and environment at the University of Lethbridge.

The podcast offers storytelling and expert interviews about archeological discoveries in Maine and the Maritimes and their significance. It won the Canadian Archaeological Association’s Public Communication Award.

“Some of the best and most interesting archeology in the world is in Maine and the Maritimes,” Hrynick said.

“What archeology here has is not an archeology problem, but a branding problem, so we decided to make that more accessible to the public.”

Hrynick leads a summer field school at UNB, providing undergraduates with hands-on learning opportunities to develop basic archeological field skills.

Emily Gosling, who graduated in 2023 with a bachelor of arts with honours in anthropology, sees the field school’s practical benefit.

“Aside from the fieldwork itself and the excavations we did, a major highlight of this program was how Dr. Hrynick and his colleagues integrated community collaboration and engagement into the field school,” she said.

They went on several field trips, including visits to the Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum, the Wabanaki Culture Center and a Passamaquoddy petroglyph site in Maine.

Gosling said the field school bridged classroom learning with hands-on fieldwork.

At the heart of Hrynick’s approach is the belief that archeology is inherently interdisciplinary. Gosling agrees, saying the curriculum incorporated archaeobotany, history, geography, and zoology.

“Through the field school curriculum, we were able to learn about the ways that other disciplines intersect with archaeology to help us get a better understanding of certain findings at sites and to build the history of the people occupying a site,” she said.

“So much of archaeology is done with your hands, and you learn so much by doing fieldwork. This field school brings that classroom-based learning into the field and builds upon it in a way that can’t necessarily be built upon in a classroom.”

Dawson Burnett, who graduated from UNB in 2023 with a bachelor of arts degree in anthropology and history, works as an archeological technician with the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

“Between the excellent faculty, a rotating cast of guest speakers and fascinating sites, the growth opportunities are numerous,” Burnett said of his time at field school.

“My biggest highlight was when I helped recover a roughly 2,000-year-old ceramic vessel,” he said.

“The field school equipped me with many useful skills which I have already found myself using. My identification and research skills are handy in my job for the state of Maine. I recently started working some small Cultural Resource Management (CRM) jobs, where my shovel test pit and artifact identification experience from field school has proved crucial.”

One of Hrynick’s favourite initiatives is UNB’s involvement in the Midden Minders program in Maine, a collaboration between various universities, Indigenous nations and members of the public, including high school students.

“It is an innovative program,” Hrynick said.

“There is something like 3,000 archeological sites in Maine and they are virtually all eroding.”

The Midden Minders program empowers communities in archeological stewardship by engaging local citizens in documenting and preserving coastal middens.

Unfortunately, the pandemic interrupted UNB’s expeditions to Maine since 2019, although Hrynick hopes to secure funding to resume this fall.

Hrynick says there are Indigenous middens in the Maritime provinces, but governments here discourage the kind of public involvement seen in Maine.

Looking ahead, Hrynick acknowledges the challenges of coastal erosion and a shortage of archeologists. “That’s part of why we think having the field school we run out of UNB is important,” he said.

He said that demand for archeologists should grow given the requirement for investigation before development in many cases.

“The typical entry-level position for an archeologist is called technician,” Hrynick said. “Those who direct projects typically have a master’s degree.”

Burnett says he sees job openings in the United States for people with his training.

“In my experience in New England, CRM jobs are available to graduates with anthropology degrees and field school experience. There are also large companies that can provide work around the country and often hire seasonally,” he said.

“It appears to me that the shortage of archaeologists in the region is starting to drive up wages and benefits.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a four percent growth in the employment of anthropologists and archeologists in the United States from 2022 to 2032. About 700 job openings are projected each year, on average, over that decade.

Statistics Canada does not offer job projections specific to anthropologists and archeologists, lumping them in with unrelated professions, but Hrynick believes there will be job growth here.

“Archeology is a ‘boom’ field due to a shortage,” he said.

“We are committed here at UNB to train students for that work.”

Photo: Gabriel Hrynick, an archeologist and associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Brunswick (UNB), who also serves as the director of the Northeastern Archaeological Survey, emphasizes the importance of archeological fieldwork.