Emma A. Elliott Smith

Emma A. Elliott Smith
Smithsonian Institution · Department of Anthropology

PhD

About

22
Publications
8,772
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385
Citations
Introduction
I am interested in historical ecology - the intersection between archaeology, paleontology, ecology, and conservation. I use stable isotope chemistry, particularly measurements of individual amino acids, to characterize the structure and dynamics of food webs in the past and compare them to the present. My current postdoctoral research at the Smithsonian Institution is focused on characterizing the importance of kelp-derived energy to late Holocene food webs and local human communities.
Education
August 2016 - May 2020
University of New Mexico
Field of study
  • Historical Ecology, Stable Isotopes
August 2014 - May 2017
University of New Mexico
Field of study
  • Historical Ecology, Stable Isotopes
September 2009 - June 2013
University of California, Santa Cruz
Field of study
  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Publications

Publications (22)
Article
Full-text available
The conservation status of large-bodied mammals is dire. Their decline has serious consequences because they have unique ecological roles not replicated by smaller-bodied animals. Here, we use the fossil record of the megafauna extinction at the terminal Pleistocene to explore the consequences of past biodiversity loss. We characterize the isotopic...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the habitats people were fishing in the past is central to evaluating the relationship between coastal environmental change and human behavior. Researchers often use zooarchaeological identification of fishes and modern ecological data to infer the habitats people fished in the past. However, these inferences assume stable environment...
Article
Full-text available
Historical ecology has revolutionized our understanding of fisheries and cultural landscapes, demonstrating the value of historical data for evaluating the past, present, and future of Earth’s ecosystems. Despite several important studies, Indigenous fisheries generally receive less attention from scholars and managers than the 17th–20th century ca...
Article
Carbon isotope fingerprinting, or multivariate analysis using δ13C values of individual compounds, is a powerful tool in ecological studies, particularly measurements of essential amino acids (EAA δ13C). Despite the widespread application of this technique, there has been little methodological validation to determine (1) whether multivariate EAA δ1...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding the structure and dynamics of food webs requires accurate estimates of energy flow among organisms. Bulk tissue carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotope analysis is often used to this end, however, the limitations of this technique can outweigh the benefits. The isotope analysis of individual amino acids is being increasingly employe...
Article
Full-text available
Kelp forests are highly productive coastal habitats that serve as biodiversity hotspots and provide valuable ecosystem services. Despite being one the largest marine biomes, kelp forests have been drastically understudied relative to other marine systems. Notably, while the role of kelp as habitat-forming, or ‘foundation species', is well-documente...
Article
The widespread importance of variable types of primary production, or energy channels, to consumer communities has become increasingly apparent. However, the mechanisms underlying this ‘multichannel’ feeding remain poorly understood, especially for aquatic ecosystems that pose unique logistical constraints given the diversity of potential energy ch...
Article
Full-text available
Disarticulated fish remains are frequently recovered from late preHispanic and early historic archaeological sites in the Middle Rio Grande basin of central New Mexico, but they are rare during earlier time periods. Increased aquatic habitat quality brought on by wetter climatic conditions may have impacted Ancestral Pueblo foraging goals related t...
Article
Full-text available
The sea otter (Enhydra lutris) is a marine mammal hunted to near extinction during the 1800s. Despite their well‐known modern importance as a keystone species, we know little about historical sea otter ecology. Here, we characterize the ecological niche of ancient southern sea otters (E. lutris nereis) using δ13C analysis and δ15N analysis of bones...
Article
Full-text available
The catastrophic loss of large‐bodied mammals during the terminal Pleistocene likely led to cascading effects within communities. While the extinction of the top consumers probably expanded the resources available to survivors of all body sizes, little work has focused on the responses of the smallest mammals. Here, we use a detailed fossil record...
Article
Reef‐building corals are mixotrophic organisms that can obtain nutrition from endosymbiotic microalgae (autotrophy) and particle capture (heterotrophy). Heterotrophic nutrition is highly beneficial to many corals, particularly in times of stress. Yet, the extent to which different coral species rely on heterotrophic nutrition remains largely unknow...
Article
Full-text available
The measurement of stable isotopes in ‘bulk’ animal and plant tissues (e.g., muscle or leaf) has become an important tool for studies of functional diversity from organismal to continental scales. In consumers, isotope values reflect their diet, trophic position, physiological state, and geographic location. However, interpretation of bulk tissue i...
Article
Most endemic species with body masses >10 kg on Madagascar went extinct within the past 1000 years. The extent to which human predation, anthropogenic landscape transformation and aridification may separately or together explain this extinction pattern remains controversial. We present nitrogen isotope (δ¹⁵N) values of individual amino acids preser...
Article
Full-text available
A fundamental question in ecology is understanding how energy and nutrients move through and between food webs, and which sources of production support consumers. In marine ecosystems, these basic questions have been challenging to answer given the limitation of observational methods. Stable isotope analysis of essential amino acids (EAA δ13C) has...
Preprint
Full-text available
A numerical mechanism connecting ice algal ecodynamics with the buildup of organic macromolecules is tested within modeled pan-Arctic brine channels. The simulations take place offline in a reduced representation of sea ice geochemistry. Physical driver quantities derive from the global sea ice code CICE, including snow cover, thickness and interna...
Article
Full-text available
The intensive commercial exploitation of California sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) has become a complex, multimillion-dollar industry. The fishery is of concern because of high harvest levels and potential indirect impacts of sheephead removals on the structure and function of kelp forest ecosystems. California sheephead are proto-gynous hermaph...
Article
Full-text available
A mechanism connecting ice algal ecodynamics with the buildup of organic macromolecules in brine channels is tested offline in a reduced model of pack geochemistry. Driver physical quantities are extracted from the global sea ice dynamics code CICE, including snow height, column thickness and internal temperature. The variables are averaged at the...
Article
Full-text available
Consumer foraging behaviors are dynamic, changing in response to prey availability, seasonality, competition, and even the physiological states of the consumers. The isotopic composition of a consumer is a product of these factors as well as the isotopic landscape of its prey, i.e. the isotopic mixing space. Here we build a mechanistic framework th...
Article
Full-text available
Recent studies connecting the decline of large predators and consumers with the disintegration of ecosystems often overlook that this natural experiment already occurred. As recently as 14 ka, tens of millions of large-bodied mammals were widespread across the American continents. Within 1000 yr of the arrival of humans, ∼80% were extinct including...
Article
Full-text available
Intraspecific variation in behavior and diet can have important consequences for population and ecosystem dynamics. Here, we examine how differences in reproductive investment and spatial ecology influence individual diet specialization in male and female southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). We hypothesize that greater reproductive constrai...

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Project (1)
Project
We are characterizing what the loss of tens of millions of extremely large mammals meant for the surviving species. Did they change size, diet, or morphology? Become more or less abundant or change their geographic distribution in response?