Human Natural Systems and Ecological Processes

This team will develop methods for understanding trajectories of socioecological processes over time. With this, we can identify cases where those processes became unsustainable, helping then lead to our current state today of living in the anthropocene. Understanding the multifaceted pathways, behaviors, and patterns that led us to this point is a grand challenge of our time.  The team will apply trace element and isotope geochemistry in the forensic tracking of deep-time coupled human-natural system (or socioecological) processes. Materials humans extracted from the natural world, from clay for ceramics to the bones of the animals they consumed, carry an elemental and isotopic signature from the place from which they originated. Accurate assessment of these fingerprints, together with tracing them back to the source, affords a means to gain insight into an array of past social, economic, and ecological processes.


  • Meghan Howey (COLA)
  • Julie Bryce (CEPS)