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CAMAS and the CAMAS Archaeometry/Paleoecology Program

Benefitting from a string of successful MRI and Senior Researcher grants from NSF and committed institutional support, CAMAS represents a suite of physical locations on the ISU campus where instrumentation and supplementary equipment is housed and supported by membership from STEM disciplines of Geology, Chemistry, Biology and Physics, as well as the Anthropological and Archaeological Sciences. Formal establishment of CAMAS thus created a unique institutional resource with a clear and primary commitment to collaborative, theoretically-based science with a strong component of archaeologically-oriented research.

CAMAS was formally established by the Idaho State Board of Education on the ISU campus in September 2008, under the leadership of Founding Director Herbert Maschner (Anthropology). Other founding members represented the Biological Sciences (2), Geological Sciences (2), Anthropology (4), and Chemistry (2). CAMAS’s primary purpose is to promote intellectual exchange and to foster interdisciplinary collaborations among faculty and students with different fields of expertise under the auspices of a single location, multi-instrument facility with coherent administration, infrastructure and coordination.

In part, CAMAS initially formalized pre-existing collaborative relationships on the ISU campus, and provided a necessary critical mass of support instrumentation and personnel for fostering collaborations without the attending ‘turf wars’ that occur with infrastructure managed by a single individual or department. The founding members had collaborated on a string of successful NSF-MRI proposals that brought a field-emission environmental scanning electron microscope with energy dispersive x-ray analysis capability (FEG-ESEM-EDS), a quadrupole inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer (ICP-MS) with integrated laser ablation system, a stable-isotope mass spectrometer with combustion device and gas bench sample introduction, and LCMS and GC instruments. Other funding sources were tapped for a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer (pXRF), hydrogen and oxygen water analyzer, and cleanroom facility for ancient biomolecule extraction, digital petrographic and metallographic microscopes, and solid sample preparation equipment. The establishment of a center around this infrastructure cemented the partnerships between departments, divisions and colleges and permitted a new state funding line for facility upkeep and a small fund for equipment maintenance. Since its founding in 2007, CAMAS has received continued support from the Office of Research and Economic Development (ORED) at ISU. The ORED supports a full-time IRMS technician’s position and a half-time ICP-MS/ESEM technician. They have also recently funded infrastructural improvements of laboratory space, including a 1500 square foot laboratory annex for sample preparation, secure storage and a dedicated scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive x-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDS) laboratory in a class 1000 cleanroom.

CAMAS members help support the center through a variety of internal and external grants and research and commercial contracts. Founding Director Herb Maschner negotiated that the indirect cost returns on his grants through the Anthropology Department and Idaho Museum of Natural History would be designated in a local account for CAMAS consumable supplies and equipment maintenance. Similarly, current Director John Dudgeon established a partnership between the founding CAMAS academic departments to create a user recharge system for student and faculty use, to provide for consumable supplies and to offset analysis costs in the center. Its members have also strived to promote and foster collegial relations between the academic colleges and divisions on the ISU campus and the Center by promoting original research activities and providing analyses to students who present research conducted as part of their coursework or professional development. Associate Director Bruce Finney (Biosciences), Director John Dudgeon (Anthropology) and founding members Michael McCurry (Geosciences) and Rene Rodriguez (Chemistry) have all supported student research activities in CAMAS as a regular part of laboratory coursework or for student professionalization opportunities (ISU Student Research Symposium, Archaeological Sciences Research Symposium, Biosciences Research Symposium).