Author Archives: Kara C. Hoover

About Kara C. Hoover

I am a bioanthropologist living in Alaska studying human olfactory variation and prehistoric human health and diet.

Market Smells II Participant Results

Thanks to everyone who came out for the Market Smells II study. We had a delay in posting the summary scores because we conducted a second day of testing on 4 August. We are currently analyzing the data and writing the paper. We hope to have a draft available as a preprint by mid- to late September. So, stay tuned!

These data are shared in advance of project analysis and publication for the SOLE purpose of providing participants their olfactory ability scores from the day of testing. These data are copyrighted under the following license: CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives) which overrides the CC-BY 4.0 license listed on this page. This license is restrictive and only permits downloading the data and sharing it with others as long the authors are credited. The data cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.

These scores are not diagnostic. If any participant is worried about his/her sense of smell, please follow-up with a medical doctor for further testing. If you have lost your sense of smell or have a reduced capacity for smelling (or are generally worried), there is a UK-based charity for people affected by smell and taste disorders: http://www.fifthsense.org.uk/whoweare/. Fifth Sense is the first charity in the UK supporting smell and taste disorder sufferers, providing a signpost to potential diagnosis and treatment, and playing a leading role in educating society on the huge role that the sense of smell plays in our lives. Fifth Sense is recognised as a charity for tax purposes by HMRC and our HMRC Charities Reference Number is EW14336.
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Market Smells II: Smell and Tell Walks (28 July Southwark London)

Why join us? We are conducting two Smell and Tell walks in Southwark. Come learn about your sense of smell and its evolution via two flash talks and a series of smell tests. The tests are not clinically diagnostic but provide a rough guide on how your sense of smell performs in different settings.

When: Saturday 28 July at 10am and at 2pm (pick the time you prefer—the sessions are identical!)

How Long: We estimate the walk will take 60 minutes, allowing for a slow pace.

Where: Tate Modern Turbine Hall, assemble starting 9:45amor 1:45am.

How to find us: We will be wearing black aprons with red lettering saying “Test your sense of smell”

What? We are anthropologists interested in understanding variation in olfactory ability in urban industrialized and rural traditional settings (e.g., hunter-gatherers). The Smell and Tell activities are part of this project. We aim to test olfactory ability in the same individuals in three different settings: low odor (Tate), polluted (Southwark Bridge), odor-rich (Borough Market).

Who? Dr. Kara C. Hoover (University of Alaska) is a bioanthropologist focused on human adaptation with particular interests in stress during adaptation to new or changing climates and the evolution of human olfaction. Dr. J. Colette Berbesque (University of Roehampton) is an evolutionary anthropologist focused on hunter-gatherers with particular interests in social status, social stress, egalitarianism.

Your role: You will be asked to complete three separate three-minute odor identification tests. The odors are natural compounds and while some odors may not be pleasant, none are harmful. We will give you an information sheet with your tests scores to take home.

More Info/Expression of interest
Email: kchoover@alaska.edu or Colette.Berbesque@roehampton.ac.uk
Tweet to: @KaraCHoover or @berbesque

Schedule
10am/2pm: Part 1
Brief introduction to the research project and personnel (~7 min)
Divide into two groups (2 guides per group) for Odor ID Test 1

10:25/2:25: Part 2
Stroll in two groups to second test site at Southwark Bridge (~5-10 minutes)
Flash Talks (Group A Flash Talk: Hunter-gatherer smellscapes; Group B Flash Talk: Modern smellscapes)
5-Odor ID Test 2

10:45/2:45: Part 3
Stroll in two groups to third test site at Borough Market (~5 minutes)
Flash Talks (Group A Flash Talk: Modern smellscapes; Group B Flash Talk: Hunter-gatherer smellscapes)
5-Odor ID Test 3

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Filed under Anthropology and Evolution, Evolutionary ecology, Olfaction, Science, Senses, Sensory ecology, Smelling in the wild, urban-rural

Market Smells I: Results

Last summer-fall, my colleague Colette Berbesque (@berbesque) and student Jessie Roberts, and I conducted a pilot field study aimed at getting some initial data on how the human sense of smell is disrupted in the natural (e.g., built) environment. This is the first step in a larger plan to explore the ecology of human olfaction.

Jessie recruited 39 individuals at two markets in the London area (Borough Market and St. Alban’s Market) to complete the four-odor Sniffin’ Sticks test (lemon, rose, mint, clove). The study produced are two key results. First, strong local signals (e.g,. a frying smell at Borough Market, see left) disrupted what was literally under participant’s noses (in this case, rose).

 

 

Second, the ability to detect and identify odors in the wild is drastically reduced compared to detection and identification in pristine settings. To the right is a comparison between a published study on UK odor identification in the lab and our test results. We used a shorter version that included some of the lab odors so this (like the study) is a rough estimate to validate further work. For more info, see the preprint (in review with Chemical Senses) here . But, we can say that most of what we know about human olfaction is from pristine lab environments which are not really telling us how our sense operates in daily life.

This summer, we aim to complete a few more pilot sessions focused on the Southwark area. The general plan will be to recruit 20 subjects on 2-3 occasions for a 2-hour session. We will be using a different set of odors and conducting repeat testing on the same individuals at three locations (the sensory rich Borough Market environment, the polluted street environment, and the clean art museum environment). We also aim to take local air samplings to determine the pollution level at each location as well as the odor compounds in the at the time of testing. We are still firming up details and hoping to get a bit of funding to provide a breakfast for participants. Stay tuned!

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Smelling in the Wild Pilot Study Schedule

The first pilot study for Smelling in the Wild is taking place during the week commencing 28 August. We are going to be at two London markets (Brixton and Borough markets) asking for volunteers to assist us in understanding how the local smellscape impacts one’s sense of smell. Volunteering should only take about 10 minutes to take two smell tests (odor detection threshold and short odor identification) and a stress survey.

If interested, come to the market and look for the black aprons that say “TEST YOUR SENSE OF SMELL”. We will be at the tube stations for a few minutes at the start of the day and then will Tweet our locations regularly if you are having trouble finding us (@KaraCHoover and @Berbesque).

Pilot Study Schedule
30-Aug/Wednesday: Borough Market (10:30am-5pm)
31-Aug/Thursday: Brixton Market (noon-5pm)
1-Sept/Friday: Brixton Market (noon-5pm)
2-Sept/Saturday: Borough Market (10am-4pm)

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Filed under Evolutionary ecology, Olfaction, Sensory ecology, sensory inequities, Smelling in the wild, stress, Uncategorized, urban-rural, Well-being

Smelling in the Wild

With colleague Dr. Colette Berbesque (University of Roehampton), I am about to start two exciting new projects that focus on the human sense of smell in natural environments.

One project will focus on how our sense of smell may be influenced by subsistence. Our project is a corollary study to work by the Sorokowskas and co-workers (here and here) that argue for a relationship between odor acuity and discrimination relative to diet. We are interested in testing the hypothesis controlling for ecology (the other studies used disparate populations which introduced other explanatory variables) and genetics.

The other project will focus on how our sense of smell is influenced by modern living. My work on sensory inequities and our sense of smell in jeopardy were featured in the news media this past year (see here and here and here) and on radio (BBC Radio 5, BBC Radio Ulster, Dermot and Dave on Today FM Ireland, and Talk Radio Ireland) and form a platform for this project that generates supportive empirical data. We are interested in understanding how the human sense of smell is affected by modern living and how well-being is impacted by environmental effects.

Stay tuned at Smelling in the Wild for details of our upcoming pop-up pilot studies and how to get involved!!

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Filed under Anthropology and Evolution, Evolutionary ecology, Olfaction, primate social life, Senses, Sensory ecology, sensory inequities, Smelling in the wild, stress, Uncategorized, urban-rural, Well-being

Higher Education in crisis

I am currently doing a certificate in academic practice at Durham University. My two projects for the certificate have focused on the intrusion of neoliberal values into higher education in the US and the UK. Put as succinctly as possible, one project focused on the challenges I face (as a result of these values) as a researcher-educator and the other on finding out if students have internalized these values (they have).

The crisis in the US has been emerging for quite some time. Having served on several hiring/tenure review/grant committees and gaining insights into what colleagues find of value in a CV (b/c that is what you are at application), I have become increasingly nonplussed at what counts as value: money first and pubs second but with enough money, pubs are assumed to come after (often doesn’t happen because they are busy writing next grant). What about teaching? The same is true now in the UK despite the upcoming TEF. Unis are firing staff/faculty (or inviting them to apply for voluntary redundancy–Durham, Manchester, anyone else?). Decisions are made on the REF-line and accountability is taking over the real job of the uni–education first, research second.

Since when do scholars have to fund the university? Is this a new vanity biz?  Oli Mould tweeted about a gig economy for HE recently and Lorna Richardson suggested Lecturoo. While it sounds funny to think about academics biking about with big packs of books and teaching supplies on their backs for a quick lecture, maybe it isn’t too far from the truth given the value of teaching in HE right now.

If you have a stack of grants, your output and teaching record are secondary, if at all, considerations. But, consider this, grants are not peer reviewed by more than a handful of people in the field (who may even have a vested interest in what you propose to do). Publications are not only peer-reviewed but then open to the public (see scihub for almost anything behind a firewall)–a lasting record. With grants, there is no endorsement of quality by the community writ broad. At the end of your career, will you be remembered as that scholar who pulled in 2 million, 5 million, 10 million a year but are you someone who changed things, advanced knowledge, broke a mold, caused a paradigm shift, shook the world (or at least those into your area of research)? History has proven the latter are remembered regardless of where they are and what they have had funded. Will the future leaving parties of retiring profs be a read-out of the numbers they have brought in? And, we say goodbye to Prof X who raised 80 million in her career. Doing what? No one cares anymore.

The words you write and those they reach are at the heart of the enterprise. Basic research has its place but without a voice–a person–to communicate it, it loses value. The future of our universities in the US and the UK are terrifying. IN the UK, the REF has inculcated a terror in my colleagues worse than the terror some US scholars feel with tenure–keep your head down and get your REF-able work out and your REF-grants in and focus on the bottom line…of the budget.

What happened to supporting and celebrating the best minds? Actually, I think there is more celebration and support for creative thinkers and scholars in various industry outlets–at least there the neoliberal values are apparent and expected.

The Titanic is sinking.

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The magic of Irish mince pies

After a warm-up in Co. Durham before Christmas with my short pastry and a friend’s filling, I have now made 36 mince pies of my own this season. My Irish pies have Powers single pot whiskey in them rather than the brandy many English pies contain. I also use Irish butter (Kerry Gold Unsalted) not margarine. A special ingredient that sets my pies apart is candied peel and fresh juice from fruit freshly harvested the day of making from my father’s orange tree in Lexington, Kentucky–the tree overwinters indoors. I grate my own spices, as seen below top left and right with aromatic fresh citrus zest.

The final mince (below, bottom) contains Granny Smith apples and zest for tart, mixed fruits for sweet, and nuts for crunch (the trigeminal component that  makes a perfect match for taste and smell!). The whiskey and butter hold it all together in a perfect matrix of deliciousness!

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The final step is short crust which takes time and can be frustrating to roll. Still, the fatty floury pastry is a perfect complement to the mince. Here they are almost ready to go (left) and done (right)!

 

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