New Research Associate: Dr. Gabriel Sanchez

Dr. Gabriel Sanchez portrait

The Department of Anthropology is pleased to welcome Dr. Gabriel Sanchez, who joins us as a Research Associate after completing his doctorate in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Sanchez is part of the inaugural class of the College of Social Science Dean’s Research Associate Program. This program promotes an inclusive scholarly environment, in which outstanding scholars in the social sciences support the advancement of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the academy.

Dr. Sanchez became interested in anthropology during his first semester of community college following his discharge from the United States Army. He was attracted to the field and its study of the human experience and culture, especially of marginalized communities. The next semester, Dr. Sanchez applied for a variety of jobs and was hired as an archaeological technician for the United States Forest Service. In this position, he met the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer (THPO) of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and became an intern at the THPO office. These experiences shaped his interest in indigenous archaeology and collaborative research.

During his undergraduate education at the University of Oregon, Dr. Sanchez earned a position in the McNair Scholars program, a federal initiative to increase the attainment of advanced degrees by underrepresented students. As a first-generation student raised in rural California by a family of undocumented farmworkers, he believed it was important to receive an education to better his life and that of his family. Dr. Sanchez was particularly drawn to conducting field and laboratory research in environmental anthropology that could provide benefits for indigenous collaborators and federal and state agencies.

Dr. Gabriel Sanchez discusses coastal ecology with members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and University of California, Berkeley students
Dr. Sanchez (center) with members of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and University of California, Berkley students

An indigenous and environmental anthropological archaeologist, Dr. Sanchez investigates human-environmental relationships from the Terminal Pleistocene and throughout the Holocene. Long-term environmental data from archaeological sites have relevancy beyond archaeology by providing historical baselines that can inform modern resource management and stewardship through the documentation of historical ranges of variability. Currently, Dr. Sanchez is collaborating with the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and California State Parks to investigate the native range of California’s endangered salmon species, which are vulnerable to extinction or extirpation. This research will define which salmon were native to coastal streams to help resource managers prioritize stream protection, restoration, and water allocation, as well as inform land-use practices.

At this time, Dr. Sanchez is mentoring nine MSU undergraduates in archaeological methods and laboratory analyses of two archaeological sites he excavated with students from the University of California, Berkeley, and stewards from the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. Together they hope these data will provide information to help define which salmon species used specific coastal streams and, through genetic analyses of ancient and modern salmon, identify the stocks that should be used to guide the restoration of these species. In this role, Dr. Sanchez enjoys training undergraduate and graduate students in field and laboratory methods, archaeological method and theory, and community-engaged research strategies. Dr. Sanchez recently published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports that investigates ancient stewardship of California’s marine and estuarine fisheries through selective harvesting techniques, such as gill nets.

Outside of work, Dr. Sanchez enjoys playing music from the genre Son Jarcho—Afro-Indigenous music from southern Mexico born out of the Spanish colonial era. He also appreciates exploring the state of Michigan with his wife, Janae, and they are eagerly awaiting the birth of their daughter who is due in March.

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