Virginia Butler

Dr. Virginia L. Butler

Professor and Chair of Anthropology
PhD, University of Washington, 1990
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Dr. Butler received her B.A. in Anthropology at the University of Georgia, and her Masters (Anthropology) and Ph.D. (interdisciplinary studies) at the University of Washington. Virginia joined the Department of Anthropology at Portland State University in 1994. Her main research is in zooarchaeology (the study of animal remains found in archaeological sites) and is particularly interested in the role of fish in past human societies. Over the last 15 years, working on her own and in collaboration with others, she's studied fish remains from sites throughout the Pacific Northwest, the Great Basin of Nevada and California, and Oceania. Virginia's research falls in these main areas: taphonomy (the processes that control the deposition and preservation of animal remains), evolutionary ecology, applying ancient bone records to contemporary issues in conservation biology and public outreach.

Along with several collaborators (including Professor Sarah Sterling from PSU, others from Western Washington University, and University of Rhode Island), she was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant. This 3-yr project will examine community response to abrupt environmental change through analysis of animal remains as they reflect subsistence practices and environmental conditions, from Tse-whit-zen, a previously excavated Lower Elwha Klallam village on the northwest coast of Washington. Among other values, the project will contribute to the development of a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal cultural center and outreach materials for the City of Port Angeles to use in informing the public about future hazards associated with earthquakes.

Dr. Butler has also been pursuing work linking zooarchaeology to K-12 education. Working with a team of researchers and education specialists from PSU, Lewis & Clark College and Portland Public Schools, in the past year she has submitted two large proposals (to the U.S. Dept. of Education; the National Science Foundation) to fund the development and launching of curriculum models incorporating zooarchaeology in middle grade science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) curriculum. She co-authored a paper published in 2012 in Science and Children (first author, former student Molly Moore) that introduces a curriculum for 2nd-3rd grade students. She also co-authored a paper to be published soon in the Journal of Coastal Research on the effects of earthquake activity in Northwest Washington.

Recent Publications

Moore, M., D. Wolf, V.L. Butler (2012). Bones and zooarchaeology: students use inquiry science to help solve the mystery of the bones. Science and Children. April/May: 40-45.

Thornton, Thomas F., Madonna L. Moss, Virginia L. Butler, Fritz Funk, Jamie Hebert (2011). Local and Traditional Knowledge and the Historical Ecology of Pacific Herring. Journal of Ecological Anthropology 14(1):81-88.

Miller, J.A., V.L. Butler, C. A. Simenstad, D.H. Backus, A. Kent (2011). Comparison of life history variation in post- and pre-development populations of Columbia River Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) using modern and ~500-yr-old archaeological otoliths. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 68:603-617.

Huber, H.R., J.C. Jorgensen, V.L. Butler, G. Baker, R. Stevens. (2011) Can salmonid (Oncorhynchus spp.) vertebrae be identified to the species level using vertebral morphometrics? Journal of Archaeological Science 38(1):136-146.

Curriculum Vita

Full list of Publications

Recent Projects