STUDENT REVIEW: Grand Challenges at the Edinburgh Meeting of Association for Environmental Archaeology – Abigail Buffington

Another review of the recent AEA conference ‘Grand Challenges in Environmental Archaeology’ hosted by Edinburgh is here!

Keep reading to see what  PhD candidate Abigail Buffington thought of it all!


I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to participate in and attend the meeting this December. Without the generous support of the conference fund, I likely could not have made the trip as a North American graduate student.

I am a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at The Ohio State University. As this is the last year of my degree, I am on the job market and the conference provided me with the opportunity to present my research and workshop my ideas with potential future colleagues and peers. I have presented previously at larger conferences, but this conference was an excellent opportunity to get critical feedback on my work as the attendees are closer to my field of study and methodology than is often the case at larger conferences. One attendee at my talk asked me to expand on how my research applied to the Grand Challenges theme of this conference. This question provided me with the opportunity to think on the relevance of my research beyond questions about how humans behaved in the past and how these results can inform our understanding of the sustainability of human systems in the present and future. The Association for Environmental Archaeology was important for my presentation for the following two reasons: 1) there was only one session at a time so all attendees could attend all talks and 2) Coffee breaks between all sessions provided a lot of time to discuss research beyond the question and answer sessions. As a result of these informal breaks, I made a number of important contacts. I was able to listen to all the presentations and engage all the speakers on their methods and a priori assumptions, which enabled me to contemplate my own research choices. I walked away from this conference inspired to continue my dissertation research and writing. I have since presented these research findings (with improvements from the conference feedback) to faculty and graduate students in my department.

I have encouraged the undergraduate student researchers in my lab and my fellow graduate paleoethnobotanists at The Ohio State University to look into the conference and the organization. I certainly plan to continue contributing to both over my academic career.

To have your say or to highlight some of your own research email ?