The Holocene is the past ~10,000 years of life on Earth. It is the bridge between our paleontological studies of the Pleistocene and our conservation actions in the Anthropocene.

Genomes, bones, and sediments hold clues to how organisms responded to change in the past. How can we use these diverse datasets to guide conservation decision-making for the future, in ways that are meaningful to stakeholders?

Our lab applies a diverse set of methods to reconstruct the ecological and evolutionary histories of living species and place these results in a conservation context. We employ toolkits that can accommodate data from fossil, natural history, and modern specimens, such as stable isotopes, DNA, morphology, and models. We conduct fieldwork that includes both excavations of Quaternary sediments and non-invasive surveys of extant mammals. We strive to include stakeholders, students, and conservation professionals from local communities wherever possible at all stages of our research.

Sample Projects:

  • Historical ecology of California Channel Islands vertebrates
  • Japanese red fox responses to urbanization
  • Diet, size, and distribution of California grizzly bears (California Grizzly Research Network)
  • Late Pleistocene paleoecology of “tar pit” fossils (La Brea Tar Pits)
  • Ecology and conservation of the Hispaniolan Solenodon
  • Extinction dynamics of Caribbean mammals (SESYNC)

New: legacies and lessons from the North American fur trade

The HEDGE lab is starting collaborative research on tracing the legacy of the North American fur trade as a coupled socio-ecological system, with the goal of translating data as lessons for future management.

We are examining archaeological middens and historical pelts to provide context for trapping activities and species ecology in the present day. Our work is in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Maine, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and the Smithsonian.

Funded! Trinidad’s “tar pit” time capsules – the Ice Age Caribbean

Watch where you step!

We have received several grants, including from National Geographic, to fund our community-engaged paleontology and ecology projects in Trinidad, in partnership with students at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine.

Field work will begin when conditions are safe for international travel.

Recent lab news

  • Alexis was thrilled to participate in the National Geographic-Fulbright "Sciencetelling" workshop in July 2019 at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington DC. From left to right: Madison Wrobley, Ash Bhattacharjee, Melanie Kirby, Magda Argueta, Shin Arunrugstichai, Emi Koch, Alexis Mychajliw, and Alyea Pierce
  • Check out our featured blog with the Biodiversity Heritage Library.
  • Oct 2020: Alexis received the Alf Award for Excellence in Paleontological Research and Education.
  • Alexis was a featured speaker as part of the California Academy of Science's NightSchool on the topic of California grizzly bears.
  • Alexis and Ryan had a great time chatting on the Fossil Friday Chat with the Western Science Center and Alf Museum.
  • Ashwin's turkey research featured by iDigBio for the August 2021 Research Spotlight
  • Undergrad Olivia Olson's postcard was featured by the Conservation Paleobiology Research Network, August 2021
  • April 2022: the HEDGE lab's first spring symposium at Middlebury! We 100% had the best props, from beaver pelts to packrat puppets.