Description of Research Area

Stable​ isotopes are a powerful tool for understanding the diet and ecology of past human and animal populations. To interpret the isotopic data we obtain from archaeological contexts, we need to develop an understanding of what processes influence the distribution of stable isotopes in the environment - analogous to Middle Range Theory as applied in experimental archaeology. Some of the specific areas being investigated include:

  • Growth chamber and field studies examining the impact of poultry manure on plant stable isotope values

  • The impact of stocking rate and animal grazing on plant and animal tissue stable isotope values

Opportunities are currently available for graduate students interested in this research area.

Representative Publications

  • Szpak, P., Longstaffe, F.J., Macdonald, R., Millaire, J.-F., White, C.D., Richards, M.P., 2018. Plant sulfur isotopic compositions are altered by marine fertilizers. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. doi:10.1007/s12520-018-0716-5. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak, P., Longstaffe, F.J., Millaire, J.-F., White, C.D., 2014. Large variation in nitrogen isotopic composition of a fertilized legume. Journal of Archaeological Science 45, 72-79. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak, P., White, C.D., Longstaffe, F.J., Millaire, J.-F., Vásquez Sánchez, V.F., 2013. Carbon and Nitrogen Isotopic Survey of Northern Peruvian Plants: Baselines for Paleodietary and Paleoecological Studies. PLoS One 8, e53763. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak, P., Longstaffe, F.J., Millaire, J.-F., White, C.D., 2012. Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry of Seabird Guano Fertilization: Results from Growth Chamber Studies with Maize (Zea mays). PLoS One 7, e33741. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak, P., Millaire, J.-F., White, C.D., Longstaffe, F.J., 2012. Influence of seabird guano and camelid dung fertilization on the nitrogen isotopic composition of field-grown maize (Zea mays). Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 3721-3740. [DOWNLOAD .pdf​]