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Dr. Mark B. Bush

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Department of Biology


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    Department of Biology
    Harris Building
    Room 225
    150 West University Blvd.
    Melbourne, FL 32901

Email Email: paleolab@fit.edu
Telephone Ph: +1 (321) 674-7283
Fax Fx: +1 (321) 674-7238

Dr. Crystal McMichael

Research Scientist



Research associate at Florida Institute of Technology

Research Project
Pre-Columbian human occupation in the Amazon Basin


McMichael at lowlands Peru



Research interests

My primary research focus involves spatial and temporal analyses of pre-Columbian impacts in Amazonian forests. For years it was thought that Amazonia had been a ‘pristine forest’ until Europeans arrived to the American continent in 1492 A.D. However, archaeologists have recently uncovered evidence of large and sedentary occupation sites in several regions of the Basin. My research uses soil charcoal, phytoliths, and ecological modeling, and remote sensing to predict when, where, and at what intensity the Amazon rainforest was modified or transformed prior to European contact. New and upcoming research will also include examining whether pre-Columbian settlement patterns are associated with specific forest types within Amazonia, or whether the forest types are legacies of pre-Columbian civilizations.

I am working on parallel projects in Central and South America involving high-resolution reconstructions of paleo-climate and vegetation change using pollen and charcoal analyses. To fully analyze past climate and vegetation patterns, an understanding of modern climate-vegetation relationships is needed. The major limitation in calibrating the modern dataset with paleo-datasets is pollen identification, which is currently possible only to the family or genus level. I am involved with a collaborative effort to improve pollen taxonomy using light and SEM microscopy. We will use this improved taxonomic resolution for detecting decadal-scale responses of vegetation to drought events and other natural disturbances. We will also use these methodological improvements to create transfer functions that quantitatively predict temperature and precipitation regimes for the last 2000 years across Central and South America.

I am also involved in projects that involve modeling archaeological and paleoecological data within the United States. One project involves examining the timing and spread of maize agriculture in the Midwest/Great Lakes region of the US. This is an interdisciplinary project with a team of archaeologists and remote sensing experts from the University of New Hampshire. We are predicting the timing and spatial patterns of pre-Columbian maize agriculture and earthwork formation across the region based on existing archaeological and paleoecological datasets and remotely sensed data. We will then test the predictive models with field-collected paleoecological and archaeological data. The second US-based project is paleoecological reconstructions and historical landscape modeling of the Florida Everglades. This is a collaborative project involving archaeologists and geologists, and is funded by the US Army Corps of Engineers.




McMichael, C.H., Palace, M.W., Golightly, M. (in press) Bamboo-dominated forests and pre-Columbian earthwork formations in south-western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography.

 Bush, M.B., McMichael, C., Raczka, M.F., Toledo, M.B., Power, M.J., Mayle, F.E., de Oliveira, P.E. (in press) The Holocene of the Amazon. In: Paleoclimas - Série Paleontologia: Cenários de Vida. Ed: Interciência

 Bush, M.B., Raczka, M.F., de Oliveira, P.E., Gosling, W.D., Mayle, F.E., Urrego, D.H., McMichael, C. (in press) Amazonia: An ice-age view. In: Paleoclimas - Série Paleontologia: Cenários de Vida. Ed: Interciência

 McMichael, C.H., Palace, M.W., Bush, M.B., Braswell, B., Hagen, S., Neves, E.G., Silman, M.R., Tamanaha, E.K. & Czarnecki, C. (2014) Predicting pre-Columbian anthropogenic soils in Amazonia. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281, 20132475.

 McMichael, C.H., Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., Piperno, D.R., Raczka, M., Lobato, L.C., Zimmerman, M., Hagen, S. & Palace, M. (2013) Historical fire and bamboo dynamics in western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography, 40, 299-309.

 Urrego, D.H., Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., Niccum, B.A., De La Rosa, P., McMichael, C.H., Hagen, S. & Palace, M. (2013) Holocene fires, forest stability and human occupation in south-western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography, 40, 521-533.

 Raczka, M.F., Oliveira, P., Bush, M.B. & McMichael, C.H. (2013) Two paleoecological histories spanning the period of human settlement in southeastern Brazil. Journal of Quaternary Science, 28, 144-151.

Hwang, G.M., Riley, K.C., Christou, C.T., Jacyna, G.M., Woodard, J.P., Ryan, R.M., Bush, M.B., Valencia, B.G., McMichael, C.N. & Punyasena, S.W. (2013) Automated pollen identification system for forensic geo-historical location applications. Technologies for Homeland Security (HST), 2013 IEEE International Conference on (ed by, pp. 297-303.

McMichael, C., Piperno, D.R., Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., Zimmerman, A.R., Raczka, M.F. & Lobato, L.C. (2012) Sparse pre-Columbian human habitation in western Amazonia. Science, 336, 1429-1431. 

McMichael, C.H., Correa Metrio, A. & Bush, M.B. (2012) Pre-Columbian fire regimes in lowland tropical rainforests of southeastern Peru. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 342-343, 73-83.

McMichael, C., Bush, M.B., Piperno, D., Silman, M.R., Zimmerman, A.R. & Anderson, C. (2012) Scales of pre-Columbian disturbance associated with western Amazonian lakes. The Holocene, 22, 131-141.

Bush, M.B., Silman, M.R., McMichael, C. & Saatchi, S. (2008) Fire, climate change, and biodiversity in Amazonia: a late-Holocene perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 363, 1795-1802.




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