Practical Considerations and Challenges Regarding Field Paleoimaging

Given the preceding descriptions regarding the various possibilities for physical and biological harm, it would be prudent to adopt a systematic way of preparing for each and every expedition, whether it be in the team's own home country or in some remote location. It is recommended that the research team, institute, or organization conduct a needs assessment regarding the preparation for expeditions and refined guidelines for each and every expedition, the extent of which is dictated by the destination. The needs assessment may begin by assessing your organization's standards of practice in regard to planning and safety. The results of the assessment will lead to training and education plans as dictated by the findings. An organizational safety policy should be written, evaluated, and adopted. This policy should include plans for routine reevaluation of the safety policy as well as implementation procedures. Finally, an honest review of the safety policy should be conducted and based on an annual safety report generated by the organization with the goal of continued refinement.

When preparing for an expedition, one of the most critical considerations is an assessment of the characteristics of the individual team members. A questionnaire can be utilized to ascertain the experience level of the individual, languages spoken, special skills (e.g., survival, first aid, etc.), food allergies, general medical concerns with a more detailed health statement to follow, demographic information, and level of training in the various aspects of paleoimaging. Knowing your team is critical to a safe expedition. These questionnaires can also be used to direct a formal orientation session targeted to the specific expedition.

One or more of the team members should possess special fundamental skills. These skills would include first aid training for all team members, emergency medical technician certification by at least one team member, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation certification by team leaders. An additional fundamental skill would include rudimentary host-country language abilities. Personnel with advanced skills may include a health-care professional such as a registered nurse or a physician as a team member whenever possible.

In addition to the assessment of potential physical and biological hazards, research conducted by the team leaders in preparation for a given expedition should also include an examination of the health-care practices and system (if any) available at the destination.

It is necessary that there be a plan for an alternate "way out." This would include the most expeditious route and the most practical means of transport. Prior arrangements and communication with individuals or organizations that may provide such emergency transport is important as well. Even with careful planning, a secondary and tertiary plan should be developed. The team must be prepared for a long waiting period for unscheduled transportation needs. Also, a plan for in-country communications should be developed. Communication in the native language is a very helpful skill, and understanding the phone or alternate systems for communications is helpful. Radio contact between and among team members is important and requires only a low-technology walkie-talkie system. Additionally, a satellite phone is crucial in extremely remote environments. Researching the road system, regional topography, and/or jungle pathways to the best of one's abilities impacts the safety of the entire team.

A location risk assessment (LRA) document should be developed and presented to each team member. The LRA should begin with a clear statement of the purpose and extent of the research project. Each team member and his or her primary responsibilities to the team should be clearly stated. A day-by-day plan should be present, including the travel plans and dates of the individual team members. Following the descriptive information, the LRA should contain a detailed assessment of a variety of potential risks associated with this specific location. This assessment may be in the form of a checklist using a rating scale or a simple identification of those risks, which appear to be "Main Risks" associated with the stated expedition. The list may include such variables as access, animals, confined spaces, political unrest, flammable materials, general public safety, as well as many more. The main risks are then to be analyzed and described in detail with a statement of what controls will be implemented to minimize them. The LRA is distributed to the team members prior to their orientation and becomes a reference for those orientations and for their informed-consent statements. An example of a complete LRA can be found in Appendix C.

Careful assessment of the regional physical and biological risks is followed by detailed expedition planning. Many obvious needs of the team members, such as food, water, shelter, transportation, and first aid, should be considered. It is often recommended, given the remoteness of an expedition, that each team member carry with him or her the means, supplies, and gear to be self-sufficient for a number of days. The "kit list" will be dictated not only by the identified health and biological risks but also by the need to be prepared for the unexpected. Therefore, personal medical kits and water-purifying equipment will be recommended for each team member. Some of the less common equipment, such as a satellite phone and a global positioning system, should be the responsibility of the team leaders. An example of a kit list prepared and used in a recent expedition to the Central Highlands of Papua New Guinea is included in Appendix D.

Following the extensive preparatory work, the team leaders should plan a formal orientation session or sessions for the members of the expedition. This orientation should include educational materials and Web site links to orient the participants to the geographical location, culture, and the associated health and biological risks. The objectives of the expedition should be clearly presented in detail with specific work tasks for each team member described. Orientation for the members regarding the instrumentation and techniques should be conducted. A specific presentation should be conducted to ensure the participants are aware of the political climate, climatic conditions, and health risks associated with the expedition. The kit list should be covered in detail, giving justification to each item as it relates to specific conditions or risks.

It is imperative that the team leaders be aware of the medical condition of each team member. A statement of medical health, an example of which can be found in Appendix E, should be on file for every participant. Also, following the orientations, a legal waiver and an informed consent consistent with the practices of the sponsoring institution should be on file. These health and consent records and all expedition records of the individual team members should be retained in the expedition record for a period deemed appropriate by the sponsoring institution's legal counsel.

Several orientations may be in order to get the team field ready. This includes ample up-front time to allow for proper immunizations and acquisition of country entry visas that may be required. Subsequent orientation sessions also allow the team leaders to assess the "readiness" of individual team members.

overcoming Field Paleoimaging Challenges

Field paleoimaging applications, while desirable, are often faced with a variety of challenges that should be considered when organizing an expedition. In addition to the cultural traditions and the governmental or political challenges, other "cultures" too may present as barriers to a field paleoimaging expedition. A field imaging expedition team leader may need to contend with museum culture, the culture of scientific hierarchy, and the culture found within academia. Also, an awareness of the technological aspects of paleoimaging impacts the willingness to grant access on the part of these cultures. Unfortunately, all scientific endeavors are not altruistic, and academic maneuvering may be encountered. Regardless of setting or intent, it is critical that paleoimaging researchers hoping to study mummified remains or artifacts in any of the mentioned cultures consider the impact of those cultures prior to conducting the studies. Varied culture concerns may have a direct impact on the necessary paleoimaging instrumentation and supplies required to obtain the data.

Museum Cultures

Museum cultures are varied and must be understood. Museum culture governs the policies and procedures of a museum. Each museum culture is unique and often dictated by the larger environment, be it a large metropolitan, a small regional, or a national culture. The museum's association with an academic institution also influences its culture and, therefore, what research objectives may be accomplished. A small museum in a rural setting that has an interesting mummy is often very willing to allow imaging studies to be conducted on-site with few limitations. Such museums will often allow the work to be done after the museum is closed in order to allow researchers unlimited access to the subject. In contrast, a large metropolitan museum may micromanage a study, making additional demands of the research team. In one museum, an x-ray room had been constructed complete with lead walls and doors. A fixed x-ray unit was in place and allowed only one view of an object, an anterior-posterior view, unless the subject was manipulated into alternate positions. Movement of the subject obviously risks damage to the subject and may cause movement of objects within the subject, altering the original spatial relationship, the internal context, and possibly the interpretation of the data. These constraints limit the obtainable data, and information may be missed or misinterpreted. Another limitation that may arise in the museum setting is a lack of understanding of the nature of x-ray physics. In one museum, following each exposure, a man gowned in lead went into the room with a Geiger counter to ensure that there was no residual stray x-radiation to determine when it was safe to reenter the room. Of course, once an exposure has been made, the x-rays are gone. Understanding these varied museum cultures can help researchers better prepare their research proposals and better prepare for the technology that will be required to conduct the study in a given environment. Interacting with the museum personnel prior to the research is critical to achieving the paleoimaging project goals. Team awareness as well as sensitivity to the concerns of the museum can be achieved by initial written and face-to-face communications regarding the impending project.

The Culture of Scientific Hierarchy

Managing a field research study involves a wide variety of specialists, each bringing his or her expertise to bear on the subjects at hand. Usually, the principal researcher functions as the team leader. At times, experts who are part of the team wrestle for the position of team leader. The culture of scientific hierarchy can impede study progress with unnecessary posturing for project leadership. This struggle for leadership can be driven by ego or the desire for notoriety or be based on the apparent knowledge base of those involved. Each specialist brings his or her unique expertise to the project at hand and should be given the respect due to him or her based on the contributions made by his or her specialty. Generally, studies that allow a level playing field to all researchers progress smoothly. The major decisions, such as whether or not to biopsy, should be made by team consensus or by the project director. Paleoimagers must be prepared to work in cultures in which scientific hierarchy may be a benefit or a detriment to the project.

Academic Culture

Academia can be an unusual place. In academia, there is considerable emphasis placed on academic success as defined by research projects, grant attainments, and publications. At times, a researcher or a research team will gain considerable notoriety based on the outcome of a single study. At some institutions, there is so much emphasis placed on academic achievement that it could mean promotions, tenure awards, increased laboratory space and staff, and increased grant funding for ongoing and future research. With these "rewards" at stake, one can imagine the potential for supporting false or incomplete data, not applying critical thought to a project, or "borrowing" another researchers' data and making it your own.

In the anthropology and archaeology arenas, sensationalizing results is sometimes a tactic used to draw attention to the individual and his or her research endeavors. Fortunately, this aspect of academic culture is the exception and not the rule. A paleoimager must be prepared for this potential within the academic framework and be ready to counteract deviations or leaps in logic from the evidence presented in the imaging data. Paleoimagers need to be very clear regarding the ownership of the data collected and should establish reporting and publication guidelines prior to initiating or joining a joint research project.

Logistical Challenges in Field Paleoimaging

Conducting field paleoimaging research in remote locations requires careful planning. Just reaching the research site can be a daunting task. Considerations regarding the logistics of field research include equipment selection, supplies, permits and customs papers, visas, in-country travel arrangements, food, and lodging.

Although some of these considerations are fairly obvious, the reality is often overwhelming. In planning a paleoimaging field expedition, it is important to consider the environment in which the study is to be conducted. It may be as straightforward as driving to a museum. However, getting to more remote sites can be challenging, and no matter how much planning is done, the unexpected should be expected. Mummies are all over the globe; so, naturally, reaching these locations requires preparation regarding equipment selection to meet the goals of the research objectives within the local environment. Utilities and transportation are both major considerations. Travel time can be deceptive, and time should be allotted for cancellations and delays that can last for days. Security, too, may be an issue.

One example is the planning dictated by the natural environment. Traveling to the sites in the Atacama Desert of Peru and Chile are pretty straightforward, as are lodging and food. Typically, commercial air flights are available, and a hired van can get you to where you need to be. If, however, your destination is a remote cloud forest, such as Leymebamba, Peru, more extensive preparations need to be made. After a flight from Lima to Chiclayo, a hired vehicle transports you on a 14 h journey on poorly maintained roads. The last 4 to 5 h is on a road that hugs a sharply inclining mountain with parts having only a cliff on each side of you. The road is only wide enough to allow one car to pass, and there are few turnouts. While driving at night, drivers often keep their lights off to save the battery life, only to turn them on when a car approaches from the opposite direction. On recent trips to this region, we have experienced mudslides, completely eroded roads, rockslides, and mud tunnels, not to mention farm animals wandering about. The road is quite rough, so packing the equipment to withstand this kind of travel is critical.

When traveling to the Kabayan jungle on the island of Luzon, the Philippines, not only was the road treacherous, security was also a critical issue. As previously mentioned, for this expedition, two Philippine army personnel joined the research team for protection from the environment and potential attacks from terrorists. Fortunately, the soldiers were also willing to help carry the imaging gear, which included a gasoline-powered generator that was required to conduct the research within the caves that served as burial tombs for the ancient Ibaloi people.

We offer these considerations only to demonstrate the need to be prepared by knowing as much about where you are going and what you will be doing as possible. In this way, the logistics, though daunting at times, become workable. As one might expect, working in varied field settings requires the paleoimaging team to prepare for additional technical needs that will be required to initiate and complete the study in a safe manner.

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