Deeper-time records of small mammal diversity give perspective on short-term (years to decades) fluctuation in these species. I study deposits accumulated by woodrats, owls and raptors, and mammalian carnivores.
Woodrats collect plant material, bones, carnivore scats, and raptor pellets in their nests. Sand and sediment bury and preserve the material. In a protected environment like a cave or rock shelter, these nests can accumulate for thousands of years. I excavate sites like these in stratigraphic layers, radiocarbon date each layer, identify the bones I find, and end up with a chronology of faunal change through time. I also analyze the pollen contained in rodent scats, which provides a chronology of local floral change contemporaneous with the faunal data.
Listen here to a 2019 Science Moab interview on on Holocene mammals of Utah.
New San Juan Co., Utah Localities:
Learn more about ECR2 and RBA here
Upcoming excavation: South Plain Cave