National Geographic Early Career Grant: Jamaica A Last Island Frontier
Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Having a mother who was an anthropologist, our childhood home was a multicultural cross between a library, museum, music conservatory, and art gallery. Among her brimming library collection, she had over 40 years of monthly subscriptions from National Geographic Magazine, which were proudly displayed on the book cases in the upstairs hallway. The iconic yellow covers and glossy photos from far off, exotic places inspired generations of wildlife photographers, naturalists, adventure seekers and scientists, myself among them. In addition to the seminal role National Geographic has played in public education, the magazine also plays an important role in supporting scientific research through various grant programs. I am ecstatic to announce that yesterday, I was awarded an Early Career Research Grant from National Geographic for a new research project I am developing entitled: Jamaica a Last Island Frontier: The Legacy of Natural and Anthropogenic Disturbance in the Caribbean. Jamaica was a last frontier of human settlement (~1300 cal yr BP), providing one of the latest records of natural habitat without direct human disturbance. Jamaica thus acts as a natural control to assess impacts of natural drivers and the abrupt onset of unique disturbance regimes associated with the arrival of indigenous populations and later colonization by European settlers. I am particularly interested in how indigenous fire management practices impacted the island biogeography (the distribution of plants and animals on the landscape).
This research brings together scientists from the University of the West Indies, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Reno, the University of Exeter, and the University of São Paulo. In conjunction with my colleagues and graduate students, this research will implement an interdisciplinary approach combining palaeoecology, archaeology, archaeobotany, palaeoclimatology and botany to examine the impacts of natural and human disturbance on the biogeography of seasonally dry forests in Jamaica. The outcomes of this research have broader significance to understand the long-term drivers of fire in SDTF, providing a tool to development future fire management and conservation strategies in the Caribbean islands. We are heading into the field tomorrow for our first field reconnaissance survey, so stay tuned for more exciting updates as our research progresses.