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Our Year in Review

Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Should auld acquaintance be forgot and…


Oh, pardon us, Xplorers! We’re just ringing in the New Year with a song. We simply couldn’t help ourselves!

2022 has been a banner year for TerraX — we have much to celebrate, and we’re so very grateful. We turned a whopping 10 years old this year, we’ve hired an “assemblage” (a little archeology joke for you all) of new people, we got to connect with our Xplorers when we launched our blog, Dig Deeper, and — best of all! — our own Co-Founder and Senior Archaeologist, Paul, became a grandfather! (True to TerraX form, we’re all referring to him as “Grand-Paul” now! He loves it.)


Yup, we have much to be grateful for and much to look forward to. Right here – at the end of the year – seems like the perfect time to pause and reflect. So please — join us for a little walk down memory lane, won’t you?


From Humble Beginnings …


If you’ve been exploring with us here at Dig Deeper since our very first post, you know a little bit about TerraX history. But for those who may be new to our crew, we’ll give you the sparknotes version.


Way back in the long-ago age of 2012, our fearless leaders Paul, Kristi, and Kenny struck out on their own to launch something new. (Cough, cough, the toddler years of TerraX.) The early days were a little bit scary. How scary? Their very first lab was in a closet — yes, a closet! It was a literal tight squeeze, and no one knew if this new venture would be completely successful. (Spoiler Alert!) Heck, Paul was basically subsisting on caffeine in those days! (Well, maybe not really, but it felt like it sometimes!)


They completed about 40 projects in that first year, and for such a young operation, that ain't half bad! But now, just look at how far they’ve come! TerraX finishes hundreds of projects every year for dozens of clients, and we’re getting bigger and better all the time.


We are a continuously growing company with over 50 employees, a full working laboratory, and thousands of completed projects – it’s all pretty impressive, if we do say so ourselves.


… To a Beautiful Present …


Here’s the thing, though: Numbers and big picture stuff — that’s all great. (And Lord knows we’re grateful to be out of that closet!) But the truth is, so much of our growth has been step-by-step, piece-by-piece, one hard working member of our team after another. Each of our departments has grown by leaps and bounds this year alone, with a couple departments having just sprouted legs! We couldn't have done it without a single one of them.


The Writing Department (and its EPIC leader, Sharlene O’Donnell!)


We cannot emphasize this enough — our writing department kicks butt, y’all. These incredible people may not be out in the field, but they’re definitely putting in the effort and the hours to make TerraX a success. From researching to writing to formatting, and most importantly, communicating with Principal Investigators, clients, and SHPOs it can be a lot! These reports don’t write themselves, ya know! So, to the writing wizards (or should I say witches?) we are eternally grateful.


Margaret, Rachel, Sophie, Sam, Liz, Alexis, Annabelle, and Heather — you ladies are killing it.


But the writing department would be nothing without its AMAZING and TALENTED Lead Writer, Sharlene O’Donnell. Yes, if you want to get technical, Sharlene technically serves to coordinate writing assignments among her staff, but the truth is, her role is more like… Writer-Trainer-Mentor-Organizer-Sanity Keeper (the list goes on). Sharlene not only bends over backwards to make sure TerraX is putting out the highest quality deliverables for our clients, but she is consistently moving mountains to take care of her team as well. Yeah, she pretty much rocks.


And we can't stop, won’t stop there…


History


And our History department, y’all! This year, Emma Jackson Pepperman has stepped up as a true leader in the department. Alongside Margaret Schultz, Rachel Smith, Sharlene O’Donnell, and Steve Filoromo, TerraX’s capacity for historical research has grown… oh, we don’t know, like a millionfold!


Sometimes Emma likes to get creative with the visual aids!

One of the biggest goals of the history department has always been to perform efficient research and then to communicate that research in a clear, accurate, and approachable way. This year, the department has done as much and then some! Remember our day at Moundville? With Emma as our local leader, our team had a blast volunteering at the museum, interacting with attendees and offering historical and archeological insight to all who would listen. And bonus! We got to interact with some incredible kiddos that day! It is truly the beginning of something great as we hope to become more involved with our community and continue to share what we have learned with the public more often.


We also managed to snag our very first historic contract this year! That’s right — TerraX is in the process of producing a comprehensive report which documents the entire history of the town of Brookhaven, GA. Emma and Margaret have been working tirelessly to conduct research, perform interviews, and write thoroughly to ensure the most accurate and complete account of how the town came to be and what it has accomplished in its first ten years of cityhood. We’re confident our department is more than up to the task!


Architectural History


We’re also confident that the Architectural History department is CRUSHING IT. The team completed a lot of projects this year (a lot!), but perhaps the biggest was a series of surveys they did for the Florida Division of Historical Resources. Having to survey almost 2,000 resources across four counties in Florida using ArcGIS’ Field Maps application, our team worked on this project from the end of January all the way until the end of August. (That’s almost 8 months!) Big kudos to the AH team — we salute you.


Along with Architectural Historians from LG2 Environmental Solutions and SWCA Environmental Consultants, we evaluated residential and commercial buildings and districts, cemeteries dating all the way back to the Civil War, pioneer century farms, lumber camps, and governmental buildings. To say that the department was busy this year would be an understatement! We’re incredibly proud of them, and we can’t wait to see what they do next year.


We Attended Conferences, Too!


Continuing our efforts to share everything we’ve learned with the public, TerraX has also attended conferences this year! Our biggest event was SEAC — the Southeastern Archaeological Conference, which happened just a few weeks ago in Little Rock, Arkansas. TerraX showed up with not one, not two, but three presentations, and we could not be more proud or excited about what we were able to share.

Our own Paul Jackson and Kevin Rolph gave a presentation called, “Archaeological Excavations of the Trinity Site (40CH210): Evidence of Communal Activities During the Middle Mississippian Period.” They talked about, among other things, feasting traditions (You know all about those!) during the era just prior to European contact with Native Americans. According to attendees, the presentation was very well received — and of course it was, Paul and Kevin are the best of the best!


Then, Steve and Austin Tranberg (who works out in the lab) gave a presentation titled, “Eroding Heritage: Environmental Changes and Resource Management in the Black Warrior Valley, Alabama.” Steve describes it like this: “This was a climate change-oriented and risk-management presentation that Austin knocked out of the park, looking at erosion and river sinuosity at Mississippian sites in Tuscaloosa County.” (Don’t worry Xplorers, we had to look up “sinuosity” too — in this context, it basically just means a curve or bend in a river.) Another hit for TerraX!


Finally, Steve and a few friends from outside the company gave our third and final presentation — “Beyond Buildings: (Re)envisioning Social Landscapes in the American Southeast.” For this one, Steve got to pull out his insightful geophysical research at a contact-period village associated with the Moundville Chiefdom. This one was particularly close to home for us! Steve gave this presentation at a symposium we co-hosted, and we were proud and excited to have a wide range of participants and presentations.


As you can probably tell by now, SEAC was incredibly exciting for us, but it wasn’t even our only conference! We also attended the Louisiana Archaeological Society’s annual conference, and Paul and Steve both got to do invited talks and guest lectures — what can we say? Our people are in high demand.


Seriously, congratulations to all of our presenters this year. Everyone did such a great job, and it was a real pleasure and privilege to get to share some of our research with our friends and partners in the CRM world!


The Lab


Um, did we mention that the lab MOVED?! Okay, fair, we’ve definitely mentioned it a few times, but seriously, this was a monumental effort. Shout out to Raychel Durdin, our lab director, for all the hard work she put in this year. Not only did she get about a billion artifacts (maybe not a billion, but definitely many hundreds!) safely transferred from our old lab space to the new one, but she managed to keep our projects right on track and running smoothly that whole time. It wasn’t easy, but she did it!



Of course, she did have help! Joanna, the TerraX Lab second-in-command, has been a reliable, diligent member of this team this year, and Kelsey and Mike, our Lab Technicians… we don’t even want to think about what it would have been like to catalog and analyze all the artifacts we’ve recovered without them. And our newest member of the Lab Staff, Julia — this girl is killing the game and keeping Raychel sane as we manage the safe curation of all the artifacts that come our way.


This year alone, we’ve completed over 30 projects that recovered archaeological artifacts, including two mitigations. (Reminder — mitigations are huge.) That’s tens of thousands of artifacts, Xplorers, and just like reports (and the writing thereof), they sure don’t analyze, catalog, and curate themselves!


Geophysics


Have you read our post about geophysics yet? (If not, you definitely should!) Geophysics has become a huge part of what we do this year in particular (We have a whole department dedicated to it now!), and we couldn’t be more excited to offer a wider range of services because of it!

Steve Filoromo is our geophysics expert, and with his help, we’ve been able to do some pretty amazing projects. He’s skilled at magnetometry, ground-penetrating radar, and electrical resistivity testing, and as you may remember from the post, that actually allows us to, among other incredible things, detect graves that are unmarked.


It’s difficult to overstate how important this is — as a firm, TerraX is truly unmatched in our ability to perform cemetery services. By using GPR (We got all new equipment for that this year, by the way,) we’ve been detecting graves without actually disturbing them, and we’ve been able to carefully and respectfully move human remains to more appropriate cemeteries where their graves will be properly marked and cared for. HUGE shout out to April Smith, by the way, who has done a lot of that work for us.


From backswamps to urban landscapes, geophysics has become standard practice on our project sites, and we use these techniques to perform higher quality work than ever before.


On the Administrative Side of Things


We’re SUPER SUPER SUPER excited (Can you tell?) about our expanding range of services we can offer, but none of it would be possible without our administrative team keeping the ship afloat behind the scenes. Kristi Jackson, our President, and her teammates Cindy, Bernadette, and Tina have done such a fantastic job this year. Says Tina, “On the corporate side for 2022, we were able to reorganize our administration staff, make timesheets easier and digital through Paylocity, and began offering PTO to full-time employees along with added vision insurance benefits.” That’s right — PTO and vision benefits! It was a big year for the TerraX staff, and we’re grateful to our office staff for making it happen!


… And a Bright Future!


Yeah… 2022 has been pretty great.