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Description of Research Area

People living on the west coast of North America have exploited the rich marine ecosystems for thousands of years. I am interested in studying the nature of these coastal ecosystems and how humans interacted with and potentially impacted them. My primary area of research is the nearshore kelp forest ecosystems of British Columbia and southern California, using stable isotope analysis to quantify the contribution of carbon derived from kelp. Specific research questions being investigated include:

  • How did the productivity of kelp forests change through the Holocene?

  • Do we see evidence of the depression of marine resources driven by human harvesting?

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

Representative Publications

  • Braje, T.J., Rick, T.C., Szpak, P., Newsome, S.D., McCain, J.M., Smith, E.A.E., Glassow, M., Hamilton, S.L., 2017. Historical ecology and the conservation of large, hermaphroditic fishes in Pacific Coast kelp forest ecosystems. Science Advances 3, e1601759. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak, P., Orchard, T.J., Salomon, A.K., Gröcke, D.R., 2013. Regional ecological variability and impact of the maritime fur trade on nearshore ecosystems in southern Haida Gwaii (British Columbia, Canada): evidence from stable isotope analysis of rockfish (Sebastes spp.) bone collagen. Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 5, 159-182. [DOWNLOAD .pdf]

  • Szpak, P., Orchard, T.J., McKechnie, I., Gröcke, D.R., 2012. Historical ecology of late Holocene sea otters (Enhydra lutris) from northern British Columbia: isotopic and zooarchaeological perspectives. Journal of Archaeological Science 39, 1553-1571. [DOWNLOAD .pdf​]

  • Szpak, P., Orchard, T.J., Gröcke, D.R., 2009. A Late Holocene vertebrate food web from southern Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands, British Columbia). Journal of Archaeological Science 36, 2734-2741. [DOWNLOAD .pdf​]

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