20 August 2011

The Gravestone Project

All that nonsense about not doing any more cemetery stuff until the weather gets cooler pretty much went out the window last week when I discovered The Gravestone Project, courtesy of EarthTrek (although I'd like to point out that I did admit that decisionw ould probably only last until I saw something irresistibly interesting).

For the record, I'm an enthusiastic, if recent, fan of "citizen science" programs in general, partly because they're a clever and cost-effective way for researchers to gather certain kinds of basic but important data, partly because they're a really great hands-on public relations and educational tool, and partly because they're a nice combination of fun, worthwhile, and interesting (I'm working on a whole other blog post about the social and cultural implications of programs like EarthTrek, sites like Find-A-Grave, and other sites and programs that link online presence with offline task completion).

The Gravestone Project aims to plot global patterns in the severity of "acid rain" based on erosion of marble, which is particularly susceptible to its effects. This is accomplished by measuring marble gravestones and comparing their thickness at the base (which is less exposed to rain), the sides about midway up (which are slightly more exposed to rain) and the top (which is the most exposed), and comparing the difference in thickness (the amount of erosion, in other words). That difference, based on the age of the gravestone, lets the researchers calculate the extent of acid rain erosion during that time period in that location.

It seems like a worthwhile project, and I expect that seeking out marble gravestones and taking the measurements will give me something additional to do on cemetery outings, along with Find-A-Grave requests and my own iconography studies. If anyone is already involved in Find-A-Grave, this might be something worth considering.

I got a nice shiny set of digital calipers on Amazon (for about ten dollars including shipping); they just arrived in the mail today, so I'm all set to get started. I'm excited; I haven't measured things in the field since graduate school.

(cross-posted on my personal blog, One Day at a Time, and my pseudo-academic blog, Books, Bones, & Stones)


  1. As a biology major I always found field work fun. As an older person (now) and a genealogist this field work sounds great!
    Have fun!
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. Thanks! I'm eagerly looking forward to getting started this weekend.