I use a variety of study systems and techniques to investigate how climate change and human activities intersect to impact ecosystems.
Long Term Ecological Change at the La Brea Tar Pits
As Assistant Curator and Excavation Site Director at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, I am spearheading an effort to use the rich fossil resources that have been preserved in the asphalt at our site to understand how the ecosystems of the Los Angeles Basin adjusted to late-Quaternary climate changes going into and coming out of the last Ice Age, and how ecological dynamics were impacted by human activities and the loss of megafauna across the Pleistocene-Holocene transition. Asphaltic fossil deposits ("tar pits") are unique for their ability to preserve many different types of fossil data in one place -- bones and plant material, large-and small vertebrates, insect chitin, mollusck shells, and pollen. The La Brea Tar Pits, which have been excavated for over a century, have produced literally millions of fossil specimens, giving us an unparalleled opportunity to test hypotheses about biotic response to global change using the fossil record.
Integrating Paleontology with Ecology and Conservation Biology
Many fundamental questions in modern ecology and conservation biology can only be fully addressed by the integration of long-term (decadal- to million-year scale) data with evidence gained from observations and experiments in modern ecosystems. Such questions include: How and when do organisms evolve, go extinct, or shift their ranges in response to climatic and anthropogenic pressures?; What effects do species’ extinctions, extirpations, and invasions have on other taxa?; What are the ecological correlates of extinction?; What aspects of biotic patterns and processes are the result of prehistoric legacies, and how will those fare in the face of contemporary environmental changes?; and, What are the biotic thresholds for ecological state shifts, and can we recognize impending state shifts before they occur? These questions require the collaboration of near-time and deep-time researchers in order to understand and shape biological processes in the context of a changing world. I am working with an interdisciplinary group of ecologists, conservation biologists, and paleontologists, as well as land managers, policymakers, and legal experts to explore these questions and determine how best to conserve ecosystems in a time of rapid global change.
Swift, JA, Bunce M, Dortch J, Douglass K, Faith JT, Fellows Yates JA, Field J, Haberle SG, Jacob E, Johnson CN, Lindsey E, Lorenzen ED, Louys J, Miller G, Mychajliw AM, Slon V, Villavicencio NA, Waters MR, Welker F, Wood R, Petraglia M, Boivin N, Roberts P. Micro Methods for Megafauna: Novel approaches to the study of Late Quaternary extinctions and their contributions to conservation in the Anthropocene. BioScience, biz105, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz105
Politis GG, Messineo PG, Stafford TW, Lindsey, EL (2019). Campo Laborde: A Late Pleistocene giant ground sloth kill and butchering site in the Pampas. Science Advances, 5(3), p.eaau4546.
Barnosky AD… Lindsey EL et al. (40 co-authors) (2017). Merging Paleontology With Conservation Biology to Guide the Future of Terrestrial Ecosystems. Science 355: eaah4787
Lyons SK, Miller JH, Fraser D, Smith FA, Boyer AG, Lindsey EL, Mychajliw AM (2016). The changing role of mammal life histories in late Quaternary extinction vulnerability on continents and islands. Biology Letters 12: 20160342.
Barnosky AD, Lindsey EL, Villavicencio NA, Bostelmann JE, Hadly EA, Wanket J, Marshall CR (2016). Variable impact of Late Quaternary megafauna extinction in causing ecological state shifts in North and South America. PNAS 113: 856-861.
Lindsey EL, Lopez EX (2015). Tanque Loma, a new late-Pleistocene megafaunal tar seep locality from southwest Ecuador. Journal of South American Earth Sciences 57: 61-82.
Lindsey EL, Seymour KL (2015). “Tar Pits” of the western Neotropics: paleoecology, taphonomy, and mammalian biogeography. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series 42: 111-123.
Harris JM, McDonald HG, Lindsey EL (2015). Introduction to La Brea and Beyond: The Paleontology of Asphalt-Preserved Biotas. Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Science Series 42: 174 pp.
Marshall CR, Lindsey EL, Villavicencio NA, Barnosky AD (2015). A quantitative model for distinguishing between climate change, human impact, and their synergistic interaction as drivers of the late-Quaternary megafaunal extinctions. In P.D. Polly, J.J. Head, and D.L. Fox (eds.), Earth-Life Transitions: Paleobiology in the Context of Earth System Evolution. The Paleontological Society Papers 21. Yale Press, New Haven, CT.
Villavicencio NA, Lindsey EL, Martín F, Borrero L, Moreno P, Marshall CR, Barnosky AD (2015). Combination of humans, climate, and vegetation change triggers Late Quaternary megafauna extinction in the Última Esperanza region, southern Patagonia, Chile. Ecography 38: 001-016.
Barnosky AD, Holmes M, Kirchholtes R, Lindsey EL, Maguire KC, Poust AW, Stegner MA, Sunseri J, Swartz B, Swift J, Villavicencio NA, Wogan GOU (2014). Prelude To The Anthropocene: Two Newly-Defined North American Land-Mammal Ages. The Anthropocene Review 1-18.
Barnosky AD, Matzke N, Tomiya S, Wogan G, Swartz B, Quental T, Marshall C, McGuire JL, Lindsey EL, Maguire KC, Mersey B, Ferrer EA (2011). Has the earth’s sixth mass extinction already arrived? Nature 471: 51-57.
Barnosky AD, Lindsey EL (2010). Timing of Quaternary megafaunal extinction in South America in relation to human arrival and climate change. Quaternary International 217: 10-29.
Lindsey EL, Altieri AH, Witman JD (2006). Influence of biogenic habitat on the recruitment and distribution of a subtidal xanthid crab. Marine Ecology Progress Series 306: 223-231.
Lindsey EL (ed.) Treasures of the Tar Pits (3rd Edition). Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. 2018.
Lindsey EL (2017). Giant Sloths and Sabertooth Cats - Extinct mammals and the archaeology of the Ice Age Great Basin, by Donald K. Grayson. Invited book review, Ecology 98(4) 1181-1182.