Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Archaeology, Department of Anthropology
B.A. (McMaster), Ph.D. (Western)
Life & Health Sciences DNA C227, ext.6373, email@example.com
Research Interests: archaeological science, stable isotopes, palaeoecology, environmental archaeology, human-environment interactions, bone chemistry, palaeodiet, domestication and animal husbandry, Arctic, Peru, Chile
In my lab group (Trent Environmental Archaeology Lab), we use chemical techniques (mostly stable isotope analysis) to learn more about past environments and how humans interacted with and impacted these environments. I have a very active research program with projects spread all over the world and I am always looking for talented graduate and undergraduate students to join the group. Some of the projects that students could work on are listed below:
Agriculture in the ancient Andes
- What do we want to know? How did people living in Peru and Chile manage their crops and domestic animals?
- How we will investigate this question? Apply stable isotope analysis to ancient plant and animal remains from archaeological sites in Peru and Chile.
- Are opportunities available for students? Yes! This project is funded by a large research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC Insight Grant) and there are many opportunities for student thesis projects.
Palaeoecology of the Arctic
- What do we want to know? How has the environment changed in the Arctic over the last 12,000 years and how have these changes impacted the endemic species (e.g., polar bear, beluga whale, narwhale, walrus) that live there?
- How we will investigate this question? Apply stable isotope analysis to animal bones from archaeological sites, palaeontological sites, historic museum collections, and modern specimens.
- Are opportunities available for students? Yes! This project is funded by a large research grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC Discovery Grant) and there are many opportunities for student thesis projects.
Human Palaeodiet and Mobility in the American Great Plains
- What do we want to know? How did the ancestors of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes live? What did they eat? How did this change through their lives and over time? Where did they live and how did they move around the landscape during their lives?
- How we will investigate this question? Apply stable isotope analysis to human remains from the central United States.
- Are opportunities available for students? Yes! This project is funded by a research grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC Insight Development Grant) and there are opportunities for student thesis projects. This research was developed in collaboration with the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.
- What do we want to know? How do bones change in the burial environment? How do we optimize the methods that we use to study the chemical composition of these bones?
- How we will investigate this question? Conduct experimental studies using modern and ancient bones.
- Are opportunities available for students? Yes! This research is funded by a large research grant from the Canada Research Chairs Program and there are opportunities for student thesis projects.
Recent Select Publications
Hyland C, Millaire J-F, Szpak P, 2021. Migration and maize in the Virú Valley: Understanding life histories through multi-tissue carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and strontium isotope analyses. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. doi:10.1002/ajpa.24271.
Szpak P, Valenzuela D, 2020. Camelid husbandry in the Atacama Desert? A stable isotope study of camelid bone collagen and textiles from the Lluta and Camarones Valleys, northern Chile. PLOS One 15, e0228332. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0228332.
Szpak P, Buckley M, Darwent CM, Richards MP, 2018. Long-term ecological changes in marine mammals driven by recent warming in northwestern Alaska. Global Change Biology 24, 490-503. doi:10.1111/gcb.13880.
Szpak P, Millaire JF, White CD, Donnan CB, Longstaffe FJ, 2018. Stable Isotope Sourcing of Wool from Textiles at Pacatnamú. Archaeometry 60, 612-627. doi:10.1111/arcm.12342.
Szpak P, Savelle JM, Conolly J, Richards MP, 2019. Variation in late Holocene marine environments in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago: Evidence from ringed seal bone collagen stable isotope compositions. Quaternary Science Reviews 211, 136-155. doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2019.03.016.
Guiry EJ, Buckley M, Orchard TJ, Hawkins AL, Needs-Howarth S, Holm E, Szpak P, 2020. Deforestation caused abrupt shift in Great Lakes nitrogen cycle. Limnology and Oceanography. doi:10.1002/lno.11428.
Guiry EJ, Szpak P, 2020. Quality Control for Modern Bone Collagen Stable Carbon and Nitrogen Isotope Measurements. Methods in Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1111/2041-210X.13433.
Szpak P, Julien M-H, Royle TCA, Savelle JM, Yang DY, Richards MP, 2020. Sexual differences in the foraging ecology of 19th century beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) from the Canadian High Arctic. Marine Mammal Science 36, 451-471. doi:10.1111/mms.12655.