Researcher Dr. Nicole Misarti has joined WERC this month. Dr. Misarti is no stranger to Fairbanks or the University of Alaska. She received her Ph.D. from UAF’s School of Fisheries and Ocean Science in 2007. Until recently, she worked first as an NSF Postdoctoral Fellow at Idaho State University and then as an Institutional Postdoctoral Researcher at Oregon State University.
Dr Misarti’s research focuses on long-term marine ecosystem and climate change coupled with an archaeological and anthropological component.
“The questions I am interested in are broad in scope. How and why did marine ecosystems change? How did all of these changes affect humans and where and how they lived? How did humans affect marine ecosystems? How do the answers to these questions affect our present day and possibly our future? One of my goals is to use long-term proxy data to augment current research on coastal ecosystems and assist management and conservation decisions for a sustainable future. “
Misarti addresses these questions by analyzing the past through evidence from the physical world as well as humans themselves. Sediments from lake cores, general paleoclimate data as well as materials left behind by people all provide information on environmental changes.
“Some of the tools I use to analyze my data are isotope analysis of bone collagen, teeth, muscle tissue and sediment and trace element analysis of soils, bone and teeth. “
Dr. Misarti is currently involved in a sea otter food web study on Kodiak Island that includes data from field collections in the intertidal as well as data from archaeological sites in the same locations. She is about to begin a project on the Bering Sea coast that involves archaeological excavations and recovery of faunal material to track ecosystem change during known periods of climatic fluctuations. She is also involved in an ongoing bio-complexity project with university researchers and local communities on the Pacific coast of the Alaska Peninsula as well as research along the coastlines of southern Chile and Argentina.
One of Misarti’s studies, a component of the much larger NSF funded Sanak Biocomplexity Project, received much attention in the press. Results based on radiocarbon dates and pollen from lake sediments suggest that the southern coast of Alaska may have been ice-free long before glaciers retreated on land, possibly allowing people to migrate south along the coast. Although no evidence for human settlements was found, the study’s findings indicate that North America may have been settled by sea and not by land, and much earlier than previously thought.
Read more about this study in this article on Alaska Dispatch or the report on ABC news.