Samantha Arsenault

Samantha Arsenault

Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawai'i Pacific University

Master's of Science in Marine Science Candidate


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Thank you for asking! For our project, we will be using stable isotope analysis to "look" at this site's ancient environment. Stable isotopes are a great way to examine prehistoric environments, and the use of isotopes derived from snail shells has been well-established in earlier studies. However, we will be the first project to use this method in the Hawaiian Islands! We will be looking at two stable isotopes in our project - 13C and 18O - as well as 14C. 13C tells us what type of vegetation our snails were feeding off of, which can help us determine what type of vegetation was dominant in the area at the time each individual snail was alive. Different types of vegetation thrive under different environmental conditions, so by knowing what was available in the area for our snails to eat, we will be able to determine environmental conditions with this method. 18O is linked to two environmental conditions - precipitation (rainfall and humidity) and temperature. Looking into the 18O data combined with 13C data, we can better determine what the environment was like for our snails when they were alive. 14C tells us how long ago each individual snail lived. With this data, we can place our environmental data into a timeline, and examine how these conditions changed over time. With all this environmental data, we will be able to "look" into the past, and examine how this area's climate was changing thousands of years ago!
May 21, 2022
Why did a prehistoric community of snails in Hawaii go extinct?
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