Projecting Future Change from Archaeological Data: Evidence for Climate-Related Contaminant Fluctuations in Holocene Marine Archaeofauna

Mink Island
Mink Island. A location related to Dr. Murray’s talk.

February 19, 2014. Maribeth Murray, Arctic Institute of North America. 

Biogeochemical analysis of total mercury (tHg) and d13C/d15N ratios in the bone collagen of archaeologically recovered marine fauna from coastal Alaska shows high tHg levels during early/mid-Holocene (ca. 52-4600 rcy BP). This is linked to glacial melting and sea-level rise at the end of the Pleistocene. Under current conditions of climate warming, these processes may lead to future increased Hg bioaccumulation in marine species and by extension their human consumers. I discuss the value of length time series for understanding ecosystem structure and function and change over time, and the connections among ocean processes, sea level rise, and prehistoric human health and future health risks.


Dr. Maribeth Murray
Dr. Maribeth Murray

Dr. Maribeth Murray is the Executive Director of the Arctic Institute of North America and Professor of Archaeology at U Calgary. She came to Calgary in July from the International Arctic Research Institute of the University of Alaska Fairbanks where she was the Executive Director of the International Study of Arctic Change (ISAC). As Executive Director of ISAC she was responsible for the growth and development of an internationally supported, ongoing program of arctic environmental change research, science planning, and stakeholder engagement. She has worked in the Arctic and subarctic for over 20 years where her research is focused on climate change and human and marine system dynamics. She holds a BA in Archaeology from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, an MA in Archaeology from Memorial University of Newfoundland, and a PhD in Anthropology from McMaster University. Dr. Murray serves on a number of polar advisory committees, including that of the Swedish Mistra Foundation’s Arctic Futures program, the EU Svalbard Integrated Earth Observing System science advisory board, and the US Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH) observing change panel.