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What can we learn from dirt?
Sediment as a rain gauge, thermometer, and history book.
Dirt is all around us but few of us stop to examine the story told by the soils and sediments we encounter on a daily basis. Through examination of soil profiles in southern Belize, recent research has determined the timing and intensity of deforestation through the last 10,000 years, the impact of ancient Maya cities on erosion, and the processes by which forests recovered following the decline of these cities. By utilizing stable isotope analysis, radiocarbon dating, and a variety of other techniques, the history of a landscape can be elucidated from the soils on which we live and farm.
Clayton Meredith is a PhD student at the University of New Mexico and a research assistant at the UNM Center for Stable Isotopes. His primary research interest is the application of analytical chemistry techniques to examine environmental management strategies employed by ancient peoples.