After receiving a prestigious Canadian fellowship, Dr. Eric Guiry chose Trent University to study the relationship between Ontario’s early farmers and their local environments while exploring how the cumulative effects of this began to fundamentally change the Lake Ontario watershed.
The 33-year-old says he was delighted to learn this year that he is one of only 23 recipients of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), which provides an annual stipend of $70,000 over two years.
“I was attracted to Trent University for the department of Anthropology’s fantastic archaeology program, which I think is one of the strongest in Canada, as well as the outstanding reputation Trent has for cutting-edge research and mentorship,” said Dr. Guiry. “My research focuses partly on ancient aquatic environments and environmental chemistry, and for this reason, Trent’s world-class Water Quality Centre, as well as its close connection with the Ministry of Natural Resources, were also important.”
Through his research, Dr. Guiry will be examining the complex socioeconomic and ecological relationships between farmers and their environments with his supervisor Dr. Paul Szpak, a Trent assistant professor who is also the Canada research chair in environmental archaeology.
“Increasing deforestation associated with the introduction (from AD 1000) and intensification (AD 1400-1950) of agriculture was a key factor affecting nutrient dynamics in the Great Lakes, but we know very little about how these ecosystems actually responded to these larger changes prior to the 20th century,” Dr. Guiry says. “Today, human activities dominate Lake Ontario’s ecological structure and nutrient cycle, but when and how did this begin and what factors drove that process? Was it a gradual change, of deeper antiquity, beginning with Indigenous agriculture (AD 900-1800), or was it a sharp change beginning with Euro-Canadian industrialization (AD1800-1900)?”
Dr. Guiry says this research area is critical to help generate greater public interest and understanding of how our actions are linked to large-scale issues such as climate change and global declines in biodiversity.