Celebrating the MSDS Marine Women – International Women’s Day 2019

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MSDS Marine are a growing company with a young team of heritage and diving professionals. We are a responsible employer who recognise that collective action and shared responsibility for driving a gender-balanced world is key. International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women – while also marking a call to action for accelerating gender balance. We support the #BalanceforBetter campaign and recognise that the world expects balance and balance drives a better working world.

Nearly 65% of the team are women and International Women’s Day seems like a fantastic opportunity to profile some of the wonderful women who work at MSDS Marine and to celebrate their achievements.

Alison James, Director

Alison is a Director of MSDS Marine. She has a MA in Archaeology and has worked in maritime archaeology for the last sixteen years and manages various projects for MSDS Marine.

I am incredibly lucky to be doing the job that I am – its not everyone who can go to work every day and genuinely say they love it. I always knew I wanted to be an archaeologist from the age of 7 when my primary school class was shown around a Romano British Farmstead on the village where we lived in Irby on the Wirral. The site director made a simple muddy post hole wonderfully interesting and had me hooked. I fell into maritime archaeology though almost by accident having learnt to dive with my dad when I was 18 and just going off to the University of Liverpool to study Archaeology. When I was 12 my parents moved to landlocked Derbyshire so becoming a maritime archaeologist was probably quite an unusual step but I love to talk to school children today and tell them about my job as I really think it proves you can do anything if you set your mind to it!

I joined MSDS Marine in June 2018 having spent the previous ten years working for Historic England. Whilst at Historic England I got to work with some wonderful people and help support the work of volunteers on England’s protected wreck sites. Now I am at MSDS Marine I am lucky enough to be able to carry on working with volunteers which is something I love. We are currently working on a project to help encourage a new generation of volunteers to come forward to work on England’s protected wreck sites. It’s a great opportunity for people to become involved with some fantastic wreck sites and get hands on archaeological experience.

In the course of my career I have worked on various shipwreck sites and large scale excavation projects, dived on a Mesolithic site, been instrumental in developing virtual access to wreck sites and been filmed for various TV and radio programmes. Bringing maritime archaeology to a wider audience is what really drives me. As a PADI Diving Instructor I would love to be able to teach the world to dive but realistically this isn’t always going to be possible! At MSDS Marine we hold lots of open days and events, visit schools and strive to develop new ways for the public to access maritime archaeology. If one child comes back to me twenty years from now and is working in archaeology, then I will know that I have done my job well!

Through the course of my career I have worked with many inspirational people, many of whom have been women, in all areas of archaeology and related disciplines. We have a wonderful team at MSDS Marine and I am delighted to be able to say that nearly 65% of them are women. We offer flexible working and help to ensure that team members with young families are able to maintain a great work life balance with our support. Having two young boys aged 7 and 5 I know that juggling a young family and working full time in a job that can have irregular working hours can have its challenges! The International Women’s Day #BalanceIsBetter campaign makes such sense and as a Director of a successful business I am pleased to be able to support it.

Happy International Women’s Day 2019!

Sally Evans, Senior Project Manager

Sally is a Project Manager at MSDS Marine. She has an MA and is studying for a PhD in Archaeology. Sally has worked in marine and terrestrial archaeology for around 10 years and manages development control projects for MSDS Marine.

I’ve spent the last 5 years researching cetaceans in the North Atlantic. My PhD research, which is based on archaeological sites on the Scottish Western Isles, focuses on investigating whale exploitation in the prehistoric and Viking periods. A major part of this involves identifying the cetacean species present on the sites, and using this information to look into patterns of exploitation and means of procurement (hunting or strandings). Identifying cetacean species from bone is a little difficult, but can be achieved using protein (collagen) analysis and bone morphology (when we are lucky enough to find whole bones – though this is rare on archaeological sites). For fragmented whale bone I take small samples and analyse the bone using Zooarchaeology by Mass Spectrometry, which essentially looks at the collagen composition of the bone to identify different species. I’m also creating a whale bone identification guide to identify complete bones, and run an identification service (send me a message on the Finding Moby: North Atlantic Whale Bone Identification page on Facebook if you have any bones to ID! (https://www.facebook.com/northatlanticwhaleboneidentification/)). I hope that my research will allow a greater understanding of the origins of whaling, and thus will allow an understanding of when different populations began to be altered by human actions.

The rest of my time is spent working for MSDS Marine. I love my job – every day is different! One day I can be meeting with clients, specialists in geology, geophysics and 3D modelling to find solutions to allow offshore development to go ahead while investigating and minimising impacts to archaeology, and the next I can be on the foreshore surveying wreck sites alongside enthusiastic volunteers.

I now spend a large part of my time working on offshore windfarm projects, but over the past couple of years I’ve also worked with ecologists to investigate the connection between heritage and ecology on wreck sites, and with 3D designers, archivists and divers to tell the story of a wrecked First World War submarine. Before that I lived in Shetland – an absolute haven for wildlife and archaeology- and excavated sites, snorkelled for crannogs, dived on historic wrecks and did a fast-paced survey of Fair Isle (jogging with a GPS, ranging rods and a great friend – another woman in archaeology!) to allow the local community to build a turbine to generate their own energy (and have electricity past 11pm!).  I feel incredibly lucky to have had such fantastic opportunities in my career, and have found myself working alongside some truly inspiring women (and men!).

Happy International Women’s day everyone!

Kim Roche, Conservator

Kim is an archaeological conservator specialising in the conservation of marine materials. She holds an MSc in Conservation Practice from Cardiff University and has treated artefacts from marine and terrestrial sites in Britain, America and Italy. She is currently the Project Conservator for the Rooswijk project at MSDS Marine.

Every day in conservation is an adventure! Archaeological conservation is a unique blend of archaeology, science, technology, craft skills, and even manual labour. Artefacts from a marine environment, in particular, can often be quite large and heavy and are frequently made of multiple materials. These factors present interesting challenges for conservators in the laboratory. However, if there’s one thing conservators love most, it’s problem-solving! Logistical or treatment related problems just provide us with an impetus to come up with fun, creative and, sometimes wacky, solutions.

My first experience with marine archaeological conservation was through an internship at the conservation lab of the United States Navy’s Underwater Archaeology Branch. My daily tasks ranged from condition assessments, artefact treatment, analysis and material identification, packaging and transporting large artefacts, and lab maintenance. Subsequent work on large artefacts from the USS Monitor highlighted the importance of teamwork and collaboration when treating such objects. At both organisations, I worked closely with the conservators and archaeologists in the department, and this collaborative approach remains fundamental to my philosophy as a conservator.

In my current post as the Project Conservator for the Rooswijk excavation, I work with specialists from MSDS Marine, Historic England, and RCE (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed; the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands) to assess and stabilise the large assemblage of over 2,100 artefacts from the site – wood, leather, glass, ceramics, iron, copper alloys, lead, pewter, and silver artefacts. I have a love for all things iron and corrosion, so I’m particularly excited by all of the cannon balls and bar shot from the site! Some days are spent in the lab testing different cleaning methods and documenting treatments, and other days are spent operating a floor crane to move large artefacts around. It is always exciting to get to share our work on this project with the public, whether it’s through teaching courses or working with volunteers in the lab.

I feel extremely fortunate to have the personal and professional support of women who can offer different perspectives and insights on a range of topics. I wish to thank all of my past and present mentors who have selflessly dedicated their time and knowledge toward my training and professional development. Finally, to all my brilliant female colleagues at MSDS Marine and Historic England – Happy International Women’s Day!

Nicole Schoute, Archaeologist

Nicole is a maritime archaeologist who is part of the early career team of MSDS Marine. After graduating with honours in Archaeology in the Netherlands, she moved to Denmark to get her master’s degree in Maritime Archaeology. Right after she graduated in 2017, she started working for MSDS Marine, with a main focus on the Dutch VOC ship Rooswijk.

Since I started working with MSDS Marine, every day has been different. Some days I am in the office reading reports, filling in spread sheets and making sure all the information is still up-to-date. The next day I might spend in work clothes and wellies or safety boots in a tank lifting artefacts with a crane or deconcreting artefacts and the next day will be totally different again. The project I am currently working on is the Dutch VOC ship Rooswijk, which was excavated in 2017 and 2018 on the Goodwin Sands, in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) and Historic England. All the material has been stored at Fort Cumberland in Portsmouth where the Historic England conservation team are based. At the Fort everything will be conserved before the artefacts are returned to the Netherlands.

All of the material will need to be desalinated and cleaned, which will be done by removing concretions using an airscribe, an air-abrasive, scalpels, toothbrushes or other tools. Next, the artefacts need to be conserved by giving them the right (chemical) treatment. Finally, the artefacts need to dry before they are stable enough to go back to the Netherlands. All of these steps involve careful planning, research, and often a very stable hand to prevent making any scratches on the objects. Soon we will be able to make a start with the conservation of the bigger objects, such as chests, boxes and casks.

It is absolutely amazing to be part of this excavation, as I have always wanted to be part of a VOC shipwreck excavation. This is my first project right after my graduation, so it almost can’t get any better! I am very excited to see what else there is to discover within the large artefacts and when we find out the contents, we will let everyone know by posting it on social media (#Rooswijk1740)!

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