AWAIRE / Levitt Foundation Grant

AWAIRE / Levitt Grant Recipient Studies Tampa Bay Wetlands

University of South Florida doctoral candidate, Kendal Jackson, is using radiocarbon dates to assist in dating relict estuarine flooding surfaces to determine how human-environmental interaction shaped the establishment and development of late-Holocene (ca. 6500 BP-present) estuarine ecosystems in Tampa Bay.

Over the course of the last couple of months, I have collected and analyzed surface reference soil samples from different types of intertidal wetlands in Tampa Bay. These modern reference data will be essential for understanding and characterizing ancient sediment beds that I plan to intersect with core samples. In addition, I’ve collected short cores (1-2 m depth) in areas of mangrove swamp within Tampa Bay and have analyzed their stratigraphy to chart changes in sediment and fossil compositions. So far, the records show that many of Tampa Bay wetlands have undergone dramatic conversions from salt prairie and salt marsh communities to mangrove forest. These changes seem to have unfolded only since the mid-20th century, and may represent ecological responses to industrial scale mosquito ditching that accompanied expansive residential development in the region, but preceded environmental research and regulation.

We have also been working at Safety Harbor site (8PI2), a site which will certainly play into my dissertation work. We have been able to map the spatial plan of the Pre-Columbian village there, and early radiocarbon assays which place major occupation across the 14th and 15th centuries. Work is ongoing on the soils, zoo-archaeological remains, and artifact assemblages.

Testing is being planned at other sites, including Ross and Good Islands, this coming winter. The primary goals of this future work is to understand the geochronology of Tampa Bay’s nearshore estuary basins and to research the role of coastal Pre-Columbian peoples in engineering the coastal strand.

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