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Student Profile: Melissa Ayling
Archaeology master's student in the Faculty of Environment
I grew up on my family's farm in Central Vancouver Island, so I have always been surrounded by animals and nature. I got my BA in Anthropology from Vancouver Island University. In my senior year I was fortunate to help found the Raise your Glass to the Past Experimental archaeology project. Our goal was to use ancient inspired beers to personalize our conception of the life and experiences of the people of the past, who are so often reduced to only their archaeologically visible material culture. This is where my interest in experimental and ethnoarchaeology began, with a specific focus on how humans express ourselves through culinary practices. I currently reside in Burnaby with my partner Simon, my cat Hank and bearded dragon, Merlin. I also work part time as a brewer for Oddity Kombucha, in Vancouver.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO COME TO SFU?
A variety of factors played into my choosing SFU to continue my studies. The research focused design of this program was important to me. I was also looking for a specific type of supervisor, someone with the experience and knowledge to help me gain experience in ethnoarchaeological field work. I also wanted to remain close to my family and close to the ocean.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR RESEARCH OR YOUR PROGRAM TO A FAMILY MEMBER?
I study beer. For my MA thesis, I will be conducting an ethnoarchaeological study of beer production in Tigrai, Northern Ethiopia. I want to learn the brewing process from the women there who brew beer for their families. By documenting beer production in a traditional (non-mechanized) rural setting from harvesting the grain to the last drop of beer in your cup, I hope to demonstrate the social importance of the beverage in traditional subsistence settings, document and preserve this incredible practice and help archaeologists "see" beer in the archaeological record. This is important because even though we know that many ancient people made and drank beer, it is hard to recognize beer production and consumption when all that remains of a culture is the bits and pieces left in the archaeological record.
WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY ENJOYING ABOUT YOUR STUDIES/RESEARCH AT SFU?
My program started in September 2020, completely online. Throughout the challenges of starting grad school, online, in a global pandemic, my incredible cohort were able to connect and bond. I am also thankful for the tremendous support and inspiration I've received from my supervisor, Dr. Cathy D'Andrea and the other students working under her. The entire department has a wonderful sense of community and helpfulness to help everyone achieve their goals.
HAVE YOU BEEN THE RECIPIENT OF ANY MAJOR OR DONOR-FUNDED AWARDS? IF SO, PLEASE TELL US WHICH ONES AND A LITTLE ABOUT HOW THE AWARDS HAVE IMPACTED YOUR STUDIES AND/OR RESEARCH.
I have been fortunate enough to receive an entrance scholarship, the Graduate Fellowship. I also received the SSHRC CGS Master's Scholarship 2020/2021. Both of these awards have supported me and given me peace of mind throughout the pandemic. The SSHRC award will help me prepare for my research and cover costs associated with my dissertation.
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