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Dr Ellen Kendall

The Institute for Medical Humanities (IMH) are delighted to announce that Dr Ellen Kendall has been awarded a Wellcome Trust Early-Career Fellowship for the project titled: ‘Bodies of Water: Health Trade-offs and Climate Change in British Wetlands during the First Millennium AD’. The project will investigate trade-offs in human health in British wetlands during the Roman and medieval periods, with the aim of facilitating distinct insights into the benefits and risks of wetland environments.

Based in the Department of Archaeology, Dr Ellen Kendall is currently a Teaching Fellow in Biomolecular Archaeology and serves as the Treasurer for the Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past (SSCIP). Ellen has research interests in early life health and diet, isotopic analyses, and lifecourse approaches to understanding human health in skeletal remains. Ellen also completed her PhD at Durham in 2019, where she investigated the intersection of infant palaeodietary histories and disease in the early medieval Fens.

The Wellcome Early-Career Awards Scheme funds early-career researchers from any discipline to develop an independent research identity through innovative projects which “deliver shifts in understanding that could improve human life, health and wellbeing”.

Beginning in early 2023, the ‘Bodies of Water’ project will aim to explore trade-offs in human health in British wetlands during the Roman and medieval periods in times of climatic stability and crisis. Wetlands are essential to the health of the planet, and important contributors to human economies; however, their role in past human health is not well understood. As childhood is a period of heightened sensitivity to environmental stressors, the project will focus on evidence for childhood health using a range of skeletal and biomolecular indicators, disruptions in metabolism, growth, and development, as well as evidence of malarial infection. The project hopes to produce unique insights into the risks and benefits of living and working in wetland environments, and will clarify the role of climate in altering their balance.

On the receipt of her award, Dr Ellen Kendall said:

“I am absolutely delighted to receive this funding. Traditionally, wetlands have been viewed as unhealthy places, and in Britain this viewpoint reflects a lot of the tensions between factual reality and power structures with an interest in transforming the landscape over the last two millennia. While wetlands can present several disease risks, they also have the potential to offer substantial benefits to health, particularly in times of environmental crisis. It’s really exciting to get an opportunity to investigate both risk and benefit, and better understand those trade-offs for health.”

IMH congratulate Ellen on her excellent achievement and look forward to collaborating further through this project.