Kathryn Whelton

Student NameKathryn Whelton
Faculty Mentor NameDaniel Contreras, Ph.D.
CollegeCollege of Liberal Arts and Sciences
MajorAnthropology and Geology
Research InterestsEnvironmental Archaeology, Osteology, Paleodiet reconstruction, Zooarchaeology, Geoarchaeology, Paleoclimate, Human evolution
Academic AwardsUF Honors program (2018-present), Lambda Alpha National Anthropology Honor Society (2019-present), UFIC Study Abroad Scholarship (2019), University Scholars Program (2020)
OrganizationsUndergraduate Florida Anthropology Student Association, Geoclub, Sustainable Ocean Alliance UF
Hobbies and Interestsreading, baking, cooking, sustainability, grassroots activism, science accessibility, being outdoors

Research Project

Understanding Climate as a Factor in the Decline of the Maya Occupation of Cerros, Belize

Climate change is often argued to have contributed to the Terminal Classic Period collapse of the Maya civilization as well as earlier Preclassic Maya abandonments. However, paleoclimate is studied using methods that often produce results on a decadal or centennial time scale and that cover broad regions. Gaining a more precise understanding of local climate within human lifespans may prove valuable when trying to identify the nuances associated with the abrupt abandonments of Maya occupations. This project explores how smaller scale climate changes can be reflected in human skeletal remains from the Preclassic Maya site of Cerros, Belize. Stable carbon isotope ratios in tooth enamel are reflective of diet, which can indicate environmental resource potential. Stable oxygen isotope ratios in tooth enamel are reflective of consumed water, which can indicate the environmental conditions that influenced the ratio of bioavailable oxygen isotopes. I will be incrementally sampling human tooth enamel from individuals from Cerros in order to identify changes in these isotope ratios during the period of tooth mineralization. I aim to better understand if this method is viable for studying how past populations interfaced with their environments.