The Ecological Role of Pre-colonial Peoples in Central Coastal California

EPA Grant Number: F6F11201
Title: The Ecological Role of Pre-colonial Peoples in Central Coastal California
Investigators: Striplen, Charles
Institution: University of California - Berkeley
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: September 1, 2006 through September 1, 2009
Project Amount: $109,190
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental Science , Fellowship - Historical Ecology , Academic Fellowships , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


Utilizing a broad range of research methods, this project is designed to reconstruct indigenous influence on landscape form and function in the central coastal area of California. This region of California was heavily populated for at least the last 5,000 years, during which time evolved a set of complex, subsistence-based methods for modifying certain facets of the landscape to yield specific products, or to serve some need of the local community. It is hoped that a better, more refined assessment of these modifications – their nature, intensity, distribution, and seasonality may give modern restorationists a broad suite of alternatives for the maintenance and enhancement of our remaining open spaces.

Utilizing concepts of ecosystem engineering as applied to pre-colonial peoples of the central coastal area of California, this dissertation will propose a model of pre-colonial resource management, and some of its probable influences on landscape-level ecological form and function. I propose that removal of these prehistoric ecosystem engineers should have had significant and measurable impacts on various resource patches.


Methods utilized will include archaeological analysis of prehistoric occupation sites and artifacts, fire history reconstruction, landscape reconstruction through sequential photo and map analysis, and subsistence reconstruction through ethnographic and archaeological methods.

Expected Results:

I should be able to demonstrate prehistoric human use of specific resource types, and propose an historic distribution of those resource types under indigenous management; 2) propose specific methods of prehistoric management and maintenance of key resource types; and 3) describe a “seasonal round” of movement, harvest, burning, and other annual manipulations that would have had measurable influence over patch dynamics and resource distribution over the landscape.

Supplemental Keywords:

Historical Ecology, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Landscape Ecology, Ecosystem Engineers,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Ecological Indicators, anthropogenic effects, agricultural landscapes, alternative future growth scenarios, ecological communities, environmental engineering, alternative landscape design, California (CA), ecological research, environmental history

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final