Jane Holmstrom is looking forward to a career that looks back in time when she graduates this weekend with UCF’s first integrative anthropological sciences doctorate degree.
Her journey to Saturday’s hooding ceremony began twelve years ago when she took her first anthropology classes as an undergrad at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University. That ignited a passion for studying skeletal remains that took her to the south of France to study the bones of an order of Benedictine monks called Cluniacs.
Four years of research and doctoral work produced her dissertation, “Examining Diet, Mobility and Social Dynamics in Southern Medieval France Using a Multi-Isotopic and GIS Approach.”
The dissertation details what she learned about the diet and migration patterns of the ninth-13th century individuals who lived and worked at the site in Laudun, about 90 minutes northwest of the Mediterranean city of Marseilles. The history of Laudun includes a Roman settlement.
The “integrative” aspect of her terminal degree comes from the different disciplines applied to unlock the secrets held by the bones. Stable isotope analysis of bone fragments reveals what people ate during that time and what percentage of the population were locals versus migrants. She also incorporated GIS mapping to provide a more complete picture of site location.
Funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, Lambda Alpha Research Grant and Rust Family Foundation kept the work buoyant, along with UCF’s Doctoral Research Support Award and the Trevor Colburn Anthropological Endowment Fund.
“Being able to secure a project that I was genuinely interested in and getting the grants are definitely highlights from the past four years,” she says.
Holmstrom’s advisor Senior Associate Dean Tosha Dupras praised her ability to navigate an international research project during a pandemic. Dupras also commends Holmstrom’s commitment to the Department of Anthropology beyond research, including co-founding an Anthropology Mentorship Program.
“It has been a fantastic experience serving as Jane’s advisor, and I am proud to now have her as a colleague,” Dupras says.
This weekend will bring celebrations with her family, including parents, a husband and twin daughters. Then six months of publications and pursuing funding before starting her next project, a similar study of medieval Cistercian nuns in Hyères, France. A pilot study on the remains has already provided promising results, and Holmstrom is excited to begin radiocarbon dating the bones.
“I can’t wait to get there,” she says.