International Kuril Island Paleobiogeography Project: Dynamics of Human and Natural Systems in Historic Perspective
Fitzhugh's research bridges Areas 1 and 2. He studies the evolution of cultural systems by focusing on the ways that adaptive behaviors (e.g., foraging strategies, reproductive decisions) interact with environmental contingencies to channel the evolution of novel adaptive mechanisms and social organizations. This archaeological work has been conducted around the Gulf of Alaska and he is now turning to the Russian Kuril Islands where a new NSF Biocomplexity award funds an integrated 5-yr study of the dynamic evolution of coupled human-natural systems. A team of archaeologists, geologists, ecologists, oceanographers atmospheric scientists and modelers (including IPEM faculty member Holman) are studying the role of environmental variation, social network variation, and culturally generated adaptive mechanisms (e.g., technologies) in constraining and facilitating human colonization and persistence in these isolated and vulnerable island settings. The models will use agent-based simulations to predict settlement vulnerability and resilience based on social and cultural characteristics. Advanced stages of the model will incorporate individual- and social-learning mechanisms to explore how these affect adaptation and evolution. This project can provide data, fieldwork, and modeling opportunities for IPEM Fellow training and research.