Research Labs

Bioarchaeology & Stable Isotope Research Lab (BSIRL)

Kristina is wearing glasses, a lab coat, and gloves. She is using an unseen pipette to put clear hyrdochloric acid into vials with bone fragments in them.
Kristina adding HCl (hyrdochloric acid) to archaeological bone samples.

The Vanderbilt Bioarchaeology Stable Isotope Research Lab (BSIRL) prepares bone and dental samples from humans and animals and plants from various archaeology sites in the Americas, primarily from Peru, Bolivia, and Guatemala, where many of our faculty and graduate students conduct research. We prepare bone collagen for carbon and nitrogen isotope analyses, bone apatite (carbonates) for carbon and oxygen, and dental apatite (carbonates) for carbon and oxygen.

Tung and her students and colleagues are conducting stable isotope analyses of archaeological human and animal samples to address questions about ancient dietary practices (using carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur isotopes) and migration patterns (using oxygen isotopes). Modern plant (carbon and nitrogen) and water (hydrogen and oxygen) samples are also examined. The oxygen isotope data also aid in reconstructing the climate from the eras to which the human and animal samples belonged.

The stable isotope research is conducted in the Bioarchaeology and Stable Isotope Research Lab on Vanderbilt campus, and much of the skeletal analysis is conducted at field lab sites in Ayacucho and Arequipa, Peru.

  • There are two glass boxes. The one on the left (desiccator C) has two blue trays with vials in them and the one on the right (desiccator B) has three yellow trays with vials in them. There is enamel powder in them.
  • Eleven people are standing around the lab having conversations and walking around.
  • Two rows of vials with enamel powder inside. They have labels with numbers on them. They are in a purple tray and it see through enough to see the powder.
  • Two long glass vials with collagen samples- a white cotton-like substance- in the bottom. There is the edge of a ruler at the bottom.
  • A student, Keitlyn, another student, Tiffiny, Maya, Anna, Tom, and another student who help in the lab at an indoor GoKarting place. They are all smiling into the camera. The ground is concrete and the walls are made of cement bricks. The wall is painted blue most of the way up and then white the last of the way. There are two blue GoKarts behind the group. The first student, Keitly, Maya, Anna, and the student on the far right are holding blue and black helemets. The first student is wearing a gray tshirt, black shorts, red shoes, and glasses. Her blonde hair is in a braid. Keitlyn is wearing a red jacket, jeans shorts, and black shoes. Her foot is up on a black tire. She has shoulder length brown hair. The next person is wearing a blue shirt and has curly blonde hair. Tiffiny is wearing a black jacket, white undershirt, and jeans. She has short brown hair. Maya is wearing a white tanktop and black pants. She has long blonde hair. Anna is wearing a longsleeved gray shirt, jean shorts, and black and white shoes. She has bleach blonde cin length hair. Tom is wearing a blue polo, khaki pants, black shoes, and glass. He has short brown hair. The last student is wearing a green shirt with gray and light green designs on it, jeans, brown shoes, and glasses.

2019-2020 BSIRL Undergraduate Team

Sophie Stark is a senior double majoring in Anthropology and Studio Art. Sophie enjoys creating sculptures and paintings and lifting weights in her free time.

Katie Radulovacki is a junior majoring in MHS with a minor in Creative Writing. When she isn’t working in the bone lab, she enjoys playing ultimate frisbee on VUDU (the Vanderbilt women’s team), planning events for her musical theatre group VOB, volunteering with VSVS, and leading tours as a Vanderbilt tour guide.

Maria Seller is a junior double majoring in Anthropology and Biology. In her free time, she loves to swing dance. In the summer of 2019, Maria attended an archaeology field school in Scotland through HARP archaeology. On this trip, she completed a pedestrian survey of General Wade’s military roads from the Jacobite era. Fun fact about Maria: she is originally from Greenville, SC where she raises two chickens.

Lane Chesler is a junior double majoring in Anthropology and Mathematics with a minor in Japanese.  She loves to travel and has lived in Japan, India, Austria, and Canada! When she’s not in the lab, Lane likes to play softball and cycle Nashville, and has been a member of Vanderbilt AcFee and Lakshya.   Fun fact about Lane: she is a published author and avid fisherwoman!

Sarah Cole is a junior majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Spanish. Fun facts about Sarah: she used to live in England, has broken 7 different bones, and has traveled to 5 different continents.

Alyssa Bolster is a sophomore working on double majoring in Law, History, and Society and Anthropology with a focus on biocultural foundations of genetics and forensics. She has always seen herself working in law enforcement or legal sciences, and she hopes to take her education and experience from the lab with her onwards! Fun fact about Alyssa: her on-campus dorm roommate is a leopard gecko named Poca.

Maya Diaz is a freshman majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Biology. In her free time, she enjoys playing the cello with the Vanderbilt Commodore Orchestra.

Farrah Hasan is a sophomore majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Health Policies and Economies. In her free time, she loves to write and watch Netflix. Fun fact about Farrah: she can speak four languages!