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Anthropology Graduate Student Heads High, Low to Chronicle Film Process

Melony Stambaugh shot photos as a documentary crew descended on the UC campus and into Sheriden Cave.

Date: 2/6/2008
By: Britt Kennerly
Phone: (513) 556-8577
Photos By: Melanie Cannon and Melony Stambaugh
Anthropology graduate student Melony Stambaugh is not particularly fond of scaling heights, and the closeness of caves makes her feel just a little claustrophobic.

She jumped at the chance, however, to shoot photos of both of those situations as footage for a National Geographic documentary film project was lensed in the Tristate earlier this year. Portions of the as-yet-unreleased film, which recruited the talents of the anthropology, biology and geology departments, were shot at Sheriden Cave in Wyandot County. Some of Stambaugh's photos of the documentary-making process will be displayed in the UC Department of Anthropology.

Anthropology graduate student Melony Stambaugh


The opportunity for Stambaugh to serve as a production photographer came through previous work documenting dance and regalia at Native American Indian powwows, a study Stambaugh did at Northern Kentucky University with Ken Tankersley, now of UC, as her advisor. As she's a cultural anthropologist rather an archaeologist, Stambaugh said, "my photography background and cues from Dr. Tankersley and the other workers helped me to capture the work that has been done."

Filming on the UC campus included shots with David Lentz, field service professor of biology, inside the Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope laboratory. Additionally, Tankersley said, Warren Huff, professor of geology, provided invaluable assistance in the x-ray diffraction analysis of heavy mineral sediment samples.

Stambaugh, a native of Grant County, Ky., earned her bachelor's degree in applied cultural studies at NKU. She's on track to receive her master's in anthropology in 2008 and has enjoyed her time at UC.

Graduate student Melony Stambaugh shot behind-the-scenes photos as a documentary was filmed.

"The emphasis on culture and research really appealed to me and I was hooked after my first anthropology class with Dr. Sharlotte Neely," she said. "I have always been interested in how people are organized, whether as a family, business or community. Naturally, my interests are in social organization and the Ohio Valley region has plenty to choose from with the diversity of people, communities, and businesses. My thesis is a study of the social network of nonprofit organizations in Cincinnati, which is really exciting for me to study."

Stambaugh's research with Ken Tankersley at UC and NKU has reaffirmed her choice of research areas. The professor's excitement about his own work and that of students is contagious, she said.

"His enthusiasm and encouragement are what has enabled me to see that students at any level can do research that is meaningful and can in many cases give a new perspective," she said. "He encouraged me to present my work at several conferences where it was well received."

Sheriden Cave was used as a filming site for an upcoming National Geographic documentary.

The mother of two adult children and a 5-year-old, and the grandmother of a 4-year-old, Stambaugh juggles a hectic schedule. In addition to positions in several professional organizations, she works as a Taft-Niehoff Community Scholar at the Niehoff Studio through DAAP. There, her role is to "research the social capital of Uptown by looking at nonprofit organizations, business associations and community development organizations to understand what work they are doing and how they are connected through people and projects."

And if her career path goes as planned, Stambaugh will be doing a lot more of that: "I am currently looking for a position to do social research and to teach," she said.

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