Just published: Are raptors picky eaters or our best sampling vectors?


Take a look at this hot-off-the-presses paper lead by Maria Viteri, “Assessing the reliability of raptor pellets in recording local small mammal diversity.” We show that raptors select their prey in proportion to local small mammal abundance, rather than preferentially choosing their favorite meals–great news for those of us who use raptor-accumulated deposits to reconstruct past small mammal communities.

Just Published: Bears Ears National Monument paleontological resources review


Our paper on the history of paleontological research, and paleontological resource protection in Bears Ears National Monument is now published in Geology of the Intermountain West. You can find it here.

From the Natural History Museum of Utah write-up:

“The fossil record within BENM is one of the best places in North America to study several key paleontological intervals including the Carboniferous-Permian icehouse-greenhouse transition, the beginning of the age of dinosaurs, and how ecosystems in dry climates respond to sudden temperature increases. In other words, the big stuff: evolution and global climate change.  The institutions and teams — NHMU is just one of many — researching the geological time scale in this land need time, and access, to continue their research. And the stakes are high: protection and preservation of these natural and cultural resources will increase our knowledge and understanding of our planet’s history, and all who lived here.” Beth Mitchell, Natural History Museum of Utah

Read the full piece here.

Humans Have Changed North America [faster than during the last] an Ice Age


“New research, which was presented this month at the virtual annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, solidifies that theory. […] By looking at shifts in fossilized pollen records gleaned from records of sediment cores, they were able to determine what types of vegetation lived in different locations across North America at different times. In particular, they looked for signs of abrupt, system-wide transitions […]”

“The researchers looked at how the pollen records changed over 250 year-long periods. Throughout the Pleistocene, they observed an average of 10 abrupt shifts across 100 sites in each 250 year stretch. That’s a massive amount of fast change, but even more change followed once humans showed up in force. Between 1700 and 1950, the researchers observed 20 abrupt changes per 100 sites.”

Read the Gizmodo article about my research with Dr. Trisha Spanbauer here.



Science News: Humans have altered North America’s ecosystems more than melting glaciers


“Recent human activity, including agriculture, has had a greater impact on North America’s plants and animals than even the glaciers that retreated more than 10,000 years ago. Those findings, presented this week at the virtual annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, reveal that more North American forests and grasslands have abruptly disappeared in the past 250 years than in the previous 14,000 years, likely as a result of human activity. The authors say the new work, based on hundreds of fossilized pollen samples, supports the establishment of a new epoch in geological history known as the Anthropocene, with a start date in the past 250 years.”

Read more about my research with collaborator Trisha Spanbauer (University of Toledo) here.