Background And Education
My primary field of interest is stable isotope applications to vertebrate paleontology and archaeology. I utilize stable isotopes in well preserved bones and teeth as proxies for ecological influences, diet, climate, demographics, and physiologic mechanisms. To this end I also study the preservation of vertebrate fossil material with an emphasis on the potential diagenetic alteration of original isotopic values.
In addition to my personal research I manage the Smithsonian MCI Stable Isotope Mass Spectrometry Laboratory which performs stable isotope analyses (C, N, O, H, S) for all Smithsonian units. I oversee all users of the facility, provide technical support, and consult on a variety of projects.
My current research focuses on reconstructing diet, mobility, and demographics in archeological populations through stable isotope data. I have been working with several North American 18th and 19th century sites to determine the best isotope markers for dietary preferences, region of origin, and social class. Additionally I have been collaborating on several other archaeological sites throughout the world investigating similar questions. My isotope lab also participates in numerous Smithsonian research projects examining climate, ecology, and provenance from a variety of materials.
Another main area of my research analyzes the preservation of isotope signals in museum collections. I am currently collaborating on new methods for determining quality of bone preservation, including Raman spectroscopy, FTIR spectroscopy, and proteomics.
I am also examining the effect of different chemical preservation treatments on isotope values in bones and teeth. I am attempting to determine which treatments result in isotopic exchange between applied chemicals and the original bones/teeth.