Principal Investigator

Ph.D. Western University, 2013

B.A. (Honours) McMaster University, 2007

Paul Szpak has worked at Trent University as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Tier II Canada Research Chair in Environmental Archaeology since 2016. As an undergraduate Paul worked at the Stable Isotope Biogeochemistry Laboratory at McMaster University and performed isotopic research on Pleistocene mammoths and marine fauna from British Columbia. Paul completed his doctoral studies in the Laboratory for Stable Isotope Science at Western University in 2013. His dissertation involved isotopic applications in the Andean region, specifically related to plant ecology, controlled studies examining fertilizers, and animal management practices. Paul held SSHRC, Killam and NSERC Banting postdoctoral fellowships in the Department of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia from 2013-2016 using isotopic analysis to investigate the palaeoecology of Arctic marine ecosystems.

Paul directs a diverse research program centered on stable isotope analysis, supported by several major grants from the Tri-Council, which included a SSHRC Insight Grant to investigate agricultural intensification and animal management practices in the Andes (2019-2024), an NSERC Discovery Grant supporting research into long term variation in Arctic marine ecosystems (2020-2025), and a SSHRC Insight Development Grant to advance our understanding of the diet and mobility of the ancestors of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes in the American Plains (2020-2022). These projects correspond to Paul’s broader research focus on applying chemical analyses to archaeological materials to better understand the interactions between humans, animals, plants, and their environments. He is involved in isotopic research all over the world, but presently focuses on two geographical areas: the Andean regions of northern Peru and Chile and the North American Arctic (Canada, Alaska, Greenland).


Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-)

Ph.D. Western University, 2017

M.A. Western University, 2010

B.Sc. (Honours) Laurentian University, 2005

Project: Exploring ancient human diet using isotopic analysis and novel biomarkers. 

Matt began his post-secondary studies at Laurentian University, completing a B.Sc. (Honours) in Biology and specializing in Forensic Science, a field that has been a life-long interest to him. Matt completed a Master's Thesis at Western University, titled: Testing the Efficacy of Aspartic Acid Racemization for Aging Adult Human Skeletal Remains. He continued his graduate studies at Western, completing a dissertation focused on identifying the prevalence of osteoporosis in a past population using micro-CT (µCT) analysis of the first metatarsal. His current post-doctoral research is aimed at applying stable isotope analysis to the same population, as well as humans from the Cape Region of Baja California Sur, in order to compare the two desert populations and their vastly different subsistence strategies. Matt is conducting stable isotope research on remains from Louisberg, and a project involving ancient remains from Jordan. He is also working on a methodological project using variable sodium hydroxide treatments to test the optimal conditions for humic acid extraction. When not in the lab, Matt enjoys reading fiction, cooking, movies, and playing and watching sports. After a disappointing game five loss (the most recent in a series of disappointing post-season exits), Matt would like to distance himself from earlier comments made in favour of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He continues to incorrectly assert that raisins are not only edible, but are superior to chocolate chips or nuts in baked goods.


Environmental & Life Sciences Ph.D. Candidate (2016-)

M.A. Western University, 2003

B.Sc. (Honours) Trent University, 2000

Project: Organic Residues in Middle to Early-Late Woodland Ceramics in the Kawartha Lakes Region.

Kate joined the Department of Anthropology in 2003 as a full-time teaching assistant, and now holds the position of Curator and Demonstrator/Technician. For her master's research at Western University, she reanalysed a Middle Woodland burial mound located on Rice Lake, focusing on skeletal biology, demographics, and mortuary patterning. After a three-year detour working in Greece, followed by some extensive work at Jacob Island in the Kawarthas and a few settler historical archaeology projects, she began part-time doctoral studies in 2016. Now a PhD candidate in Environmental and Life Sciences, her research uses organic residues preserved in pottery to examine diet shifts (hunter-fisher-forager to food production) in the Middle to Early-Late Woodland period in the Kawartha Lakes region.


Environmental & Life Sciences Ph.D. Student (2020-)

M.A. Student (2018-20)

M.A. Trent University, 2020

B.Sc. (Honours) Trent University, 2018

Project: Sulfur isotopes in Arctic marine ecosystems.

Jen is currently in the second year of her graduate studies, having previously completed a B.Sc. (Honours) in Anthropology at Trent University. Jen's main research interests involve the use of stable isotope analysis for paleoclimate reconstruction. During her undergraduate degree, Jen was involved in research that utilized stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis to examine the impacts of changing sea ice conditions on polar bear ecology in Lancaster Sound (Canadian High Arctic). For her MA thesis project, Jen has performed stable carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen isotope analyses on ostrich eggshells from the Gobi Desert to determine the importance of climatic shifts in the local extinction of this species from this region.


Anthropology M.A. Student (2019-)

B.A. (Honours) The University of British Columbia, 2019

Project: Exploring camelid wool trade networks through carbon and nitrogen isotopic analysis of archaeological textiles from the Atacama Desert, northern Chile

Tessa's interest in archaeological science began when she took a class in nutritional archaeology at the University of British Columbia. Her undergraduate thesis put these analytical techniques into practice when she used X-Ray Fluorescence on Coast Salish weavings to identify mordants (metallic compounds that bind dyes to fibers) which impact the blankets' preservation and optimal conditions for curation. This thesis is now moving toward publication. Tessa has completed the first year of the MA program at Trent University and all the course work that entails.  Moving into her second year, she is spending a lot of time in the lab, generating data and perusing her hopes and dreams in stable isotope analysis.  Tessa has been disappointed in the low abundance of carnivorous plants in Ontario and feels their purported prevalence may have been exaggerated.


Anthropology M.A. Student (2020-)

M.A. Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, 2019

B.A. Universitat de Barcelona, 2016

Project: TBD

Adrián is a half Spaniard-half Uruguayan Andean archaeologist with fieldwork experience both in Spain and Peru, ranging from Spanish Palaeolithic and Andean first settlers to Spanish Civil War sites and a brief experience in underwater archaeology. After completing his Bachelors degree in Archaeology at the University of Barcelona, he moved to Peru, where he completed an MA in Archaeology with a major in Andean Studies. He has supervised fieldwork on the Cerro de Oro Archaeological Project (Cañete, Peru) since 2018. His research interests include food and diet studies in pre-Hispanic societies, stable isotope analysis, and early settlements in the Andes. Adrián’s proposed research project is identifying the use and impact of natural fertilizers through isotopic analysis of macrobotanical and zooarchaeological remains at the Cerro de Oro archaeological site during the Early Intermediate and Middle Horizon


Archaeology B.Sc. Student (2019-)

B.Sc. Trent University, 2021 (Anticipated)

Project: TBD

Delaney joined the TEAL Lab during the third year of her undergraduate degree in 2019. In her capacity as a research assistant, Delaney provided the other laboratory members help with sample preparation and general laboratory maintenance. Now a seasoned veteran, Delaney will be starting an undergraduate thesis project under the supervision of Paul Szpak. She will be determining the isotopic composition of plant remains from Inca and Spanish Colonial archaeological sites in the Zaña Valley, northern Peru to investigate agricultural intensification. Originally from the Kitchener/Waterloo area, Delaney is an avid consumer of literature and movies. When wanting to relax her scientific curiosity, she often expresses her artistic side through painting and baking. Delaney was the recipient of the Anthropology Faculty Prize (2017-2018) as well as the Norma Miller Prize this past year. She is currently the Secretary for the Trent Anthropology Society and hopes to pursue graduate school after she graduates from Trent University.


Forensic Science B.Sc. Student (2020-)

B.Sc. Trent University, 2021 (Anticipated)

Project: Examining the impact of demineralization methods on the stable isotope composition of bone collagen

Tess joined the TEAL Lab in the summer of 2020. She is completing an honours thesis project in forensic science after a long and winding road of project planning that began in the fall of 2019. Her project involves a mix of modern and ancient bones, including kangaroo, muskox, pig, and cow; as a vegetarian, this is most time she has spent handling animal bones in a very long time. Some of her favourite animals include the sloth, tenrec, and blobfish, but none compare to Nelson, her miniature Australian shepherd. Aside from completing her thesis research, Tess works as a research assistant in the TEAL Lab. After completing her undergraduate degree, she hopes to pursue graduate studies in the field of ancient DNA. 


Lab Mascot (2017-)

No known degrees

Project: Diet-tissue discrimination factors for canids provisioned with a wide range of meats and cheeses.

Joy's past is shrouded in mystery but she joined the group from Istanbul, Turkey in 2017. She has a cauliflower ear and a friendly disposition. Her favourite piece of anthropological literature is "How Dogs Dream" by Eduardo Kohn, although she admits that she doesn't really understand it. Her primary research interests include the anthropology of sleeping and laziness, experimental archaeology focusing on the taphonomy of large mammal bones exposed to carnivore gnawing, and the behavioural ecology of squirrels, chipmunks, and rabbits. Her main contribution to the lab is the initial processing of animals bones that are used in methodological studies such as the VIP and DATA graduate class projects.

© 2020 by Paul Szpak. 

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