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Dr. Megan Walsh, Central Washington University

October 15 @ 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm MDT

Combining Paleoecology, Geology, and Archaeology: What Interdisciplinary Research Can Teach Us About Holocene Human-Landscape Interactions in the Pacific Northwest

Photo: Central Washington University

Presented by Dr. Megan Walsh, Associate Professor, Department of Geography/Cultural and Environment Resource Management Program


Understanding the role fire played in maintaining ecosystems prior to Euro-American settlement is key to restoring landscape resiliency and viability in the Pacific Northwest. To do this, site-specific fire histories that illustrate changes on centennial to millennial-length timescales are needed. More important, perhaps, is developing a better understanding of the past relationships that existed between fire activity and the factors that influenced its occurrence, frequency, and severity. This is especially true if fire history records are to be used to project how fire activity might change in light of future climate change. While fairly straightforward methods exist to assess fire history within the context of past climatic variability, it is less clear how to evaluate these within the context of past human activity. Presented here are sediment core-based fire and vegetation histories, along with a synthesis of existing archaeological records, from three areas of the Pacific Northwest: the Willamette Valley (OR), Mount Rainier National Park (WA), and the eastern Cascades (WA). These case studies illustrate the complicated relationships that exist between fire, vegetation, climate, and humans in the Pacific Northwest, particularly during the late Holocene. The results support the idea that humans favored fire-modified environments, and in some cases significantly influenced landscape patterns as a source of fire ignitions. The goal of presenting this research is to encourage researchers to use an interdisciplinary approach when investigating human-environment interactions in the Pacific Northwest, which will likely require developing novel methodologies for combining paleoecological, geological, archaeological, and additional sources of information.

More information about Dr. Walsh and her research can be found on her website.

Zoom Link:

Meeting ID: 921 7282 4095
Passcode: 216960