New Data Platform Illuminates History of Humans' Environmental Impact


The human environmental footprint is not only deep, but old.

The human environmental footprint is not only deep, but old.

Ancient traces of this footprint can be found in animal bones, shells, scales and antlers at archaeological sites. Together, these specimens tell the millennia-long story of how humans have hunted, domesticated and transported animals, altered landscapes and responded to environmental changes such as shifting temperatures and sea levels.

Now, that story is available digitally through a new open-access data platform known as ZooArchNet, which links records of animals across biological and archaeological databases.

Making these specimen records accessible digitally helps provide a long-term perspective on current biodiversity crises, such as animal extinction and habitat loss, and could lead to more informed conservation policies, said Michelle LeFebvre, postdoctoral associate at the Florida Museum of Natural History and lead author of a study introducing ZooArchNet.

Read more at Florida Museum of Natural History

Image: These jawbones come from animals collected at archaeological sites in the southeastern US. The bottom of the black bear jaw in the center box has been cut, possibly for use in a mask. (Credit: Florida Museum photo by Kristen Grace)