To link the structure and dynamics of small mammals to other elements of ecosystems, we are building on new excavations at the Tar Pits that provide the opportunity to build integrated food webs of a tightly-coupled component of the ecosystem: mammalian carnivores, herbivores, and vegetation.
Graduate student Nate Fox‘s research focuses on classifying small mammal fossils (e.g., rodents, lagomorphs, and insectivores) from the Rancho La Brea (RLB) tar pits in Los Angeles, California. The objective of this project is to evaluate mammalian community structure and diversity through time using samples collected from the Project 23 tar pits found recently at RLB. Nate is interested in applying several techniques to acquire and interpret data including; geometric morphometrics, stable isotope analysis, and niche modeling. The data on the small mammal fauna will be combined with data from associated RLB megafauna and flora to shed light on broader community and food web changes over the last 50,000 years. These data can be employed to then predict modern community responses to current and future climate change, and identify which species may be particularly vulnerable to future environmental changes.