JMU professor gets governor’s appointment to museum board

jmuCarole Nash, a professor of integrated science and technology at James Madison University and a proponent of locating a branch of the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Waynesboro, has been appointed by Gov. Ralph Northam to the museum’s board of trustees.

Nash is the second JMU faculty member on the board. Tom Benzing, also a professor of integrated science and technology, chairs the board.

“One of the reasons I was asked to be on the board is to assist with the initiative to bring a satellite museum to Waynesboro, which I’m really glad to do,” said Nash. The region’s abundance of natural and cultural history makes a satellite of the Martinsville-based museum a natural fit, she said.

A past president of the Archaeological Society of Virginia, Nash said the museum has a strong archaeology program and her background as an archaeologist makes her a good fit for the board.

Climate change and its negative effects on archaeological sites around the state is one of Nash’s greatest concerns. Next week, Nash will speak at the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center Regional Science Symposium in New Orleans about the impacts of climate change on heritage resources in Virginia and how scientists are responding.

Along Virginia’s Eastern Shore, archeological sites are being lost to sea level rise. Erosion, brought on by changes in weather patterns, is threatening significant archaeological sites in other parts of the state too. As director of the Virginia Archaeological Technician Certification Program, Nash trains volunteers to help professional archaeologists identify and document archaeologically significant sites before they disappear.

“One of the things we always think about is how do we get the public involved as partners to document what’s being lost,” she said. “The thing that’s really hard about all of this is that it’s not just the sites that we know about that are being impacted.”

Nash is collaborating with another JMU ISAT professor, Samy El-Tawab, to create an iPhone app so the trained volunteers can help document archeological sites before they disappear. Named Heritage Resource Observers (HERO), the app takes photos that are geolocated and gives volunteers a way to provide a description of the resource and assess the threat. The information goes to professional archaeologists who determine what action to take.

“We’re very worried about the archaeology, but the archaeology is also part of something bigger, which is this loss of community identity,” Nash said. “When these places are gone, you can’t bring them back.”

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