Penguins on a beach in the Falkland Islands. Kit Hamley will make a presentation about the Falklands at College of the Atlantic on May 22. PHOTO COURTESY OF COLLEGE OF THE ATLANTIC

Foxes and fire reveal prehistoric Falklands



BAR HARBOR — Kit Hamley will explore the prehistoric era of the Falkland Islands at College of the Atlantic’s Human Ecology Forum in McCormick Lecture Hall on Tuesday, May 22, at 4:10 p.m. The talk is free and open to the public.

The Falkland Islands fox, locally known as the “warrah,” was the only terrestrial mammal native to the Falklands when Europeans arrived in the 17th century. The lack of definitive evidence of a pre-European human presence, coupled with the expansive channel separating the islands from mainland South America, raises questions about how and when the now extinct warrah arrived in the islands.

Two competing theories have been proposed to explain the presence of the fox on the Falklands: 1) the warrah crossed a hypothetical ice bridge at the Last Glacial Maximum (21,000 B.P.) when sea level was lower than present, and 2) prehistoric humans traveling from southern South America brought the warrah to the Falklands via canoes.

Prior to Hamley’s study, there had been no systematic investigations of whether humans were present in the Falklands prior to the European arrival in the 18th century. Her research addresses this gap in the understanding of the human history of the islands using a combined approach of archaeology and paleoecological charcoal analysis to assess whether there is direct (e.g., artifacts) or indirect (e.g., changes in fire regime) evidence for a prehistoric human presence on these remote South Atlantic islands.

Hamley is the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Maine Climate Change Institute. Her academic interests are fueled by an underlying desire to understand how humans have interacted with and either directly or indirectly altered the environment through time. She shares her experiences through science outreach, video documentaries and photography.

Hamley was born and raised in Montana and now lives on a small farm in rural Maine. She first came to Maine in 2006 as a student at the Chewonki Semester School. She graduated from Bowdoin College in 2010 and received her master’s degree from the University of Maine in 2016. Outside of academia, she is a whitewater kayaker, telemark skier, backpacker and mountain biker.

 

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