Laura Hemmingham

Laura Hemmingham

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Laura Hemmingham

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Start Year

2020 (Cohort 7)

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PhD Project
PhD Title

Dietary flexibility, niche differentiation and ecological resilience in the Quaternary Cervidae

Research Theme

Past Life and Environments

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Determining diet provides the foundation for understanding palaeoecological dynamics, including niche differentiation and community structure, and can be used to interpret ecological resilience throughout climate and environmental change. Dental Microwear Analysis (DMA) is a well-established technique of examining tooth enamel for distinctive microscopic scars made by certain food groups, which provides high-resolution insights into the organism’s dietary behaviour during the final weeks before death. This project will focus on Cervidae (deer), a widespread group in the Quaternary (last 2.6 million years), a period characterised by climate fluctuations and biotic turnovers, designating it a valuable period in which to study palaeoecological dynamics. This study will combine DMA with dental mesowear (providing longer-term dietary signals) alongside seasonality indications (obtained from tooth eruption and occlusal wear) to develop robust inferences about the feeding ecology and niche differentiation for Quaternary cervid species. These niche understandings will then be applied to a broader question of habitat suitability for milu (Elaphurus davidianus, Père David’s Deer). Milu once had a wide Holocene range in China, but due to anthropogenic pressures is now considered Extinct in the Wild by the IUCN. This project will aim to model habitat with the potential to sustain reintroduced wild populations of milu.

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