Suzanne Birch was always interested in archaeology, and her trip to colonial Jamestown when she was a child confirmed this.
“I think I was seven or eight and they had just started an ongoing project looking for the original 1607 fort,” Birch said. “I told my dad I wanted to dig there and he said, ‘I think you have to have a degree to do that.’”
She received her undergraduate degree in evolutionary anthropology and paleoecology from Rutgers University and went on to get her master’s and doctorate degrees in archaeology from the University of Cambridge. She has been at the University of Georgia since 2014.
A combination of supportive parents and the mentoring from her teachers helped Birch realize these dreams, and she hopes to do the same for students at the UGA.
Birch has recently become an internship coordinator for the Georgia Museum of Natural History. She is excited to take on the job of helping undergraduates get into internships and receive hands-on experiences in the sciences.
Birch has a joint appointment between the department of anthropology and the department of geography. Like many researchers, Birch’s work crosses disciplines in science and her research is balanced between the two.
“If I had to describe myself I would say I’m an archaeologist and a paleoecologist,” Birch said. “The archeology is the part that fits under anthropology and the paleoecology fits under geography.”
Her research specifically investigates how humans have adapted to climate change and dealt with natural resource unpredictability in prehistory. This is important because gaining understanding of past human response to climate change informs our current thinking about these issues.
She uses archeology and biogeochemistry to investigate changes in diet mobility, and settlement systems in the holocene period spanning the end of the last ice age to the beginnings of agriculture.
Other research interests look specifically at the initial domestication of livestock, the transition from hunting to herding and the effects of advancing methodologies in zooarchaeology.
In addition to her research, Birch teaches a number of courses including environmental anthropology, global environmental change during the quaternary, zooarchaeology, old world ecology, the molecular past and more.
This summer she will be teaching an online class called digital dimensions of archeology, that explores the different digital tools used in archeology as well as how archeological information is portrayed and disseminated online.
For the future of science, Birch said she would like to see more women and more women of color involved in science, without it being a big deal for the women to be there. She is the co-founder and a moderator for TrowlBlazers, which highlights women in archeology, paleontology and geology.