WEBCAST: How Bones Reveal Environmental Health

Watch the archive of the webcast with Smithsonian physical anthropologist Dr. Sabrina Sholts. In the show, Sabrina explains how the environment leaves its mark on bones.

Smithsonian Science How: How Bones Reveal Environmental Health

Featuring Anthropologist Sabrina Sholts

Meet Dr. Sabrina Sholts, an anthropologist at the National Museum of Natural History. What information can an expert read from a skeleton? See how Sabrina studies skeletons, particularly human skulls, to understand environmental health. Learn about how a variety of environmental pollutants can affect bone and tooth formation. Get a glimpse into the technology used to analyze bones for evidence of chemical exposure. Understand how the science of bioarchaeology links the past to the present through evidence recorded on ancient bones.

Watch a recording of the Feb. 11, 2016, webcast using the player above. The show aligns with national science standards

How do you participate in the webcast program?

1. WATCH the archive video above

2. Get TEACHING RESOURCES for the webcast

3. Design an ASSESSMENT for your students


The Bones and Environmental Health webcast package supports students in meeting the following middle school NGSS Performance Expectations by offering a set of resources that integrate science concepts with science practice skills.

MS-LS1 From Molecules to Organisms: Structures and Processes

  • MS-LS1-1 Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells
  • MS-LS1-5 Construct a scientific explanation based on evidence for how environmental and genetic factors influence the growth of organisms

MS-PS1 Matter and its Interactions

  • MS-PS1-2 Analyze and interpret data on the properties of substances before and after the substances interact to determine if a chemical reaction has occurred


The Forensic Anthropology resources align with the following Social Studies standards listed below that integrate anthropology concepts with anthropology skills. 

Time, Continuity, and Change

  • Studying the past makes it possible for us to understand the human story across time. 
  • Knowledge and understanding of the past enable us to analyze the causes and consequences of events and developments, and to place these in the context of the institutions, values and beliefs of the periods in which they took place. 
  • Knowing how to read, reconstruct and interpret the past allows us to answer questions such as: How do we learn about the past? How can we evaluate the usefulness and degree of reliability of different historical sources?

People, Places, and Environments

  • The study of people, places, and environments enables us to understand the relationship between human populations and the physical world.  
  • During their studies, learners develop an understanding of spatial perspectives, and examine changes in the relationship between peoples, places and environments.