Putting waste to work: Bat guano & packrat middens as sources for ecological proxies

By Griffin Dill

Paleoecology is a discipline deeply rooted in the use of proxies. In order to develop an understanding of past ecosystems and climatic events, paleoecologists utilize a number of biological proxies, including pollen data, plant macrofossils, diatoms, charcoal particles, and isotope geochemistry, to name a few. These proxies provide researchers with quantitative data that can be used to examine a myriad of environmental variables and reconstruct ancient ecological communities. Proxies can be obtained from a variety of sources, but are commonly acquired from lake sediments and peat bog profiles and to a lesser extent marine sediments. As research into the paleoecological record intensifies, additional proxies and previously untapped proxy sources are sought. An often underappreciated source of ecological data is now providing additional information to paleoecologists: animal waste. Continue reading