Volunteer Spotlight:
Melanie Damour and Don Munroe

Melanie Damour

Melanie is a first year graduate student in Florida State University’s Program in Underwater Archaeology. She received her BS in anthropology from FSU in 1998.

Raised in Weare (yes Weare) New Hampshire she has relocated to the warmer regions of the Eastern seaboard for her education. While truly interested in shipwrecks from the Age of Discovery and Colonial times she has paid her Paleoindian dues on the Aucilla River and at the Jefferson site in northern New Hampshire.

Melanie has been involved in every ARPP field season since the summer of 1997, including being part of the “lifers” group in the summer of 1998. Barely two weeks after that expedition ended she reported (along with fellow “lifers” Joe Latvis and Bill Gifford to the Clovis Underwater ‘98 project based at FSU’s Turkey Point Marine Laboratory (see “Field campaigns beyond the Aucilla”).

While volunteering on the Aucilla River Prehistory Project Melanie has made the shift from screen deck surface crew to diver as well. She has made several exciting archaeological finds during her Aucilla work including: a broken barbed fishhook, the first fishhook found underwater by us, a groundstone axe and her first projectile point (an expedient Kirk like point made on a flake). (See “Sloth Hole site update” for more information about some of these finds).

Don Munroe

Don Munroe was born in Miami, Florida and moved to Ocala in the early sixties. After spending time in the US Air Force, he moved to Gainesville to attend the University of Florida and earn a degree in Nuclear Engineering Sciences. He also earned a Masters degree in Health Physics from the Nuclear Engineering Department. Since 1981 he has been Radiation Safety Officer for the University of Florida.

While attending the university, Don would go canoeing with friends on local rivers such as the Santa Fe, Suwannee, and Waccasassa. During one trip on the Waccasassa he found an arrowhead and horse tooth in a gravel bar. He was hooked, and began collecting fossils and artifacts from the local rivers. His searches were limited to shallow water since he was snorkeling. He also began reading books and journals about Florida archaeology and fossils, and loved going to the Florida Museum of Natural History to study the displays of indian artifacts. One day his job took him downstairs to the vertebrate paleontology lab where he met Dr. Webb and Russ McCarty. They showed him some interesting fossils and artifacts and mentioned the ARPP.

After learning of the ARPP and reading early issues of the Half Mile Rise Times (now known as the Aucilla River Times), Don decided to learn how to SCUBA dive so that he could volunteer as a project diver. In January 1994 he took his first SCUBA class at the University of Florida and became certified as an openwater diver. Later that year he took additional scuba classes including Advanced, Deep Diving, and Cavern.

Don was accepted as a volunteer diver for the October 1994 field session. Unfortunately, a hurricane blew onto the gulf coast and flooded the region. After a couple of days of watching the river rise and surrounding land flood, the session was cancelled and everyone sent home. The adverse conditions didn’t dampen Don’s enthusiasm.

Now that he was a certified scuba diver he began diving in the local rivers. His love of the hobby allowed him to ignore to a certain extent the spookiness of diving in dark river water.

In 1995 Don was able to complete his first dives on the project. It was fortunate that he had experience in diving dark water, because the Aucilla River can be as cold and dark as a black hole. It can also be almost as clear as spring water. Since 1994 he has been able to spend at least a week at each field session. Don reports “They have all been very interesting learning experiences since there have been different field Scientific Directors overseeing the research. Being a safety diver isn’t one of the more exciting duties assigned to scientific divers, but it sure is more exciting than holding the underwater light while Joe Latvis films the underwater excavation.”

In summary, Don reflects that “As an avocational amateur archaeologist I enjoy participating in the ARPP. You can only learn so much from books and journal articles. Listening to and learning from professionals and more experienced amateurs really helps your understanding of the varied fascinating aspects of Florida prehistory.”