Cal Poly San Luis Obispo -- November 26, 2003
Cal Poly Professor Awarded Grant To Explore Prehistoric Marine Ecosystem; Results Could Help Sustain Marine Life Today
Did the hunting of the California sea otter by prehistoric Chumash Indians
more than 10,000 years ago put a dent in today's otter population?
Terry Jones, a Cal Poly social sciences professor who was awarded a California
Sea Grant, will explore that question and others regarding the ancient marine
ecosystem of the Central Coast. And he believes his findings could pave the
way to creating useful methods to sustain today's marine ecosystem.
Jones anticipates his findings will show an unusually long exploitation of the
sea otter, the key predator in central California kelp forests. He also predicts
those findings will substantiate his belief that the Central Coast's kelp
forests actually benefited from the hunting of the sea otter.
"While these animals were probably never the main focus of human subsistence,
it is anticipated that the archaeological record will show an unexpectedly high
frequency of otter exploitation concurrent with regular exploitation of kelp
forest fisheries and abalone for at least during the last 6,000-7,000 years,"
"This suggests that productivity of the Diablo kelp forests was sustained by --
or at least associated with -- regular killing of sea otters.
"Ecological models that provide the basis for conservation programs along the
California coast have traditionally incorporated limited temporal perspectives
and unclear or naive assumptions about the role of Native American predation in
prehistoric ecosystems," Jones said.
"Archaeological faunal remains from the Diablo Canyon sites, excavated 35 years
ago but never analyzed, have the potential to provide an unmatched record of
human predation in coastal ecosystems over the last 10,000 years."
The Diablo Canyon sites are expected to shed considerable light on questions
concerning the earliest human settlement of western North America, according to
"Preliminary radiocarbon results suggest that the sites are among the oldest
coastal middens (refuse heap) on the northeastern Pacific Rim," Jones said,
"and site findings should also be directly relevant to alternative perspectives
on their origins and adaptation."
Jones's project was one of 14 new marine science projects to receive funding
from the California Sea Grant, a statewide, multi-university program of marine
research, extension services, and education activities administered by the
University of California. It is the largest of 30 Sea Grant programs sponsored
by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Department of
The new California Sea Grant projects are slated to begin in March 2004.
For more information, contact Jones at 756-2523 or
Media Contact: Jo Ann Lloyd (805) 756-1511