Friday, June 1, 2007

Archaeologist John Seidel Appointed Director of Washington College's Center for the Environment and Society

Chestertown, MD, June 1, 2007 — Washington College has announced the appointment of John L. Seidel, associate professor of anthropology and environmental studies, as director of the college's Center for the Environment and Society (CES).

Located in the historic Custom House along the Chester River, the Center supports interdisciplinary research and education, exemplary stewardship of natural and cultural resources, and the integration of ecological and social values.

Seidel, who has taught at Washington College since 1998, has been serving as the Center's interim director during the nationwide search for a new director following the retirement of CES head Michael Chiarappa in 2006. As he now becomes the Center's official director, Seidel concomitantly assumes the Lammot duPont Copeland Professorship.

"John's tenure as Interim Director of the Center for the Environment and Society convinced me that he represented precisely that blend of academic accomplishment, administrative skill and thoughtful vision that the Center most needed," said Washington College President Baird Tipson. "I am delighted that he will continue to lead the Center in the years ahead."

"John Seidel has put together a record at Washington College of superb teaching, innovative programming, successful grant-writing and interdisciplinary research," said Christopher Ames, Provost and Dean of the College. "His diverse talents will serve us well as we develop the Center for Environment and Society into a locus for creating and promoting socially aware solutions to environmental challenges."

Since his arrival at Washington College, Seidel has worked to expand course offerings in environmental studies and has taught courses in environmental archaeology, world prehistory and history, maritime and underwater archaeology, historic preservation and resource management.

With grant support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and other donors, Seidel helped to introduce a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) program at the college for research, teaching, resource management and facilities management.

In addition to spearheading multiple CES environmental initiatives, Seidel also regularly teaches summer field schools in archaeology and directs a variety of research projects out of the Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory, located on the ground floor of Custom House.

Recent archaeological investigations include digs at the Harriet Tubman birthplace, the 18th-century Hermitage estate, the Poplar Grove slave quarters, the Custom House and the Charles Sumner Post G.A.R. Lodge.

In collaboration with Eastern Shore Heritage, Seidel organized a team to develop a heritage tourism management plan for Kent, Queen Anne's, Caroline and Talbot counties, which now have gained official state recognition as a Certified Heritage Area.

"I couldn't be happier with this appointment and am very excited by the prospects in front of the Center," said Seidel upon learning the news of his appointment as CES Director. "We have the great good fortune to be situated on the nation's largest estuary, an unparalleled natural laboratory. It is a wonderful place to study, and also a wonderful place to live. We all recognize, however, that the Chesapeake is under growing pressures from development and a host of other threats. The Center is uniquely situated to help shape responses to these pressures in productive and effective ways."

Seidel received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, and holds a B.A. from Drew University as well as master's degrees in anthropology and American civilization from the University of Pennsylvania. He has taught archaeology at Rutgers University and at the University of Maryland. He joined the faculty of Washington College to develop the regional program in environmental archaeology and was awarded tenure in 2002.

Prior to joining the faculty of Washington College, Seidel worked in the private sector as an underwater archaeologist for R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, one of the largest cultural resource management firms in the nation.

His academic research has included classical archaeology in the Near East, investigations of the ancient Maya in Guatemala, surveys of shipwrecks in the Dry Tortugas and Biscayne, Florida, and work on a variety of Eastern U.S. sites dating from the 19th century to 12,000 years ago.

His current research continues to focus on the relationships between humans and their environments in the Chesapeake Bay region and the development of an environmental model for archaeological site locations on the Eastern Shore. The work provides vital information on both natural resources (oyster bars, bottom types, etc.) and cultural resources (shipwrecks, old wharves, fish weirs, inundated terrestrial sites, etc.) to planners and resource managers.

Seidel resides in Chestertown with his wife Liz, who is also an archaeologist and oversees the Washington College Public Archaeology Laboratory.

"John Seidel has the skill to develop local environment solutions with global applicability," said Dean Ames. "That talent will allow the Center to work closely with the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding communities and still have a broader environmental impact."

"I'm convinced that the approaches we develop here in the Chesapeake have a much wider application to coastal zones throughout the rest of the world, areas that are under increasing stress," Seidel remarked. "Washington College has a long tradition of exploring our environment, a tradition that stretches back to our founding. I'm delighted to have an opportunity to continue on that course, and over the next few months I think you'll see some interesting new developments."

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