Anthropology professor Sandra Peacock provides hands-on student learning opportunities in Tanzania
December 16, 2015
Okanagan (Kelowna, BC)
PhD, Interdisciplinary Studies; Environmental Studies, Geography and Anthropology, University of Victoria, (1998)
MA, Archaeology, University of Calgary (1992)
BA, Honours, Archaeology, University of Calgary (1988)
“The small group size and location of Go Global Tanzania really help the students to connect with me, the material, each other and the community.”
ANTHROPOLOGIST SANDRA PEACOCK believes in being open to opportunities that sometimes can change the course of life or work.
Tanzania was one such opportunity for her.
Peacock has always been fascinated by the story of our human origins, so when she heard of a National Geographic-led trip to Tanzania to study human origins with a world-famous anthropologist, Don Johanson, she jumped at the chance to go.
“I never envisioned that Tanzania would be somewhere I would teach and do research,” she says. “But there is so much cultural diversity and human history there. After spending just a couple of days in Tanzania, I knew it would be an amazing place for students to learn.”
Through UBC Okanagan’s Go Global program, Peacock now brings groups of undergraduate students along with her to research and study the East African country’s land and people, and to join in community projects and research, giving students hands-on experience in the field.
Peacock loves anthropology because it is so interdisciplinary and lets her explore things she’s passionate about—human cultural and biological diversity, both past and present. She says the strength of UBC Okanagan’s Anthropology program is in the breadth of specializations of the faculty members, who cover anthropological archaeology, biological, cultural, and linguistic anthropology.
As an anthropological archaeologist, Peacock uses anthropological insights to interpret the remains of past human activities and specializes in ethnobotany (the relationship between people and plants) and paleoethnobotany (the recovery, identification and interpretation of ancient plants).
Using the Okanagan Valley and parts of Alberta as a living lab, Peacock studies the ancient use of roots as a food source by indigenous peoples, and examines the role wild plant foods played in past cultures.
Many people mentored Peacock throughout her studies, but Piikáni Nation Elder Margaret Plain Eagle stands out.
“For my master’s degree,” Peacock says, “I worked with the Piikáni Peoples in Southern Alberta and Montana to record their traditional plant knowledge. Margaret took me under her wing, introduced me to her family and other elders, and was incredibly generous in sharing her time and knowledge.”
Connection is a strong theme for Peacock. She values the connection she makes with the land and peoples she studies; she also points to the connections she’s able to make with her students as one of the things she enjoys most about UBC Okanagan.
“I appreciate so much the research space and opportunities available at UBCO. Working with the Go Global program to move students out of the classroom and into the field is remarkable and rewarding.
“The small group size and location really help the students to connect with me, the material, each other and the community—and it allows me to see their ‘aha’ moments that aren’t always so visible in the classroom.”
—by Deanna Roberts