About The Lab

The Historical Ecology and Coastal Archaeology Lab at the University of Victoria is a multi-disciplinary group of students and collaborators working with Dr. Iain McKechnie and coastal First Nations on zooarchaeological and coastal archaeological research topics that have relevance for contemporary conservation and environmental management. We use a variety of geospatial, geochemical, ecological, and osteological methods to highlight the contributions that hundreds of human generations of Indigenous settlement have had on coastal environments in British Columbia. Please explore this site click on the links and tabs above.

The lab is always looking for future graduate students and post doctoral scholars (currently for Fall 2021). For potential inquiries, please be in touch by email. In addition to making contact electronically, it helps if you can share your background in a specific document such as a CV, a writing sample, and to consider how your interests intersect with the kinds of work that the lab and its partners are engaged in.


2020 Leader for Sea Change

Dr. Mckechnie has been designated one of 20 Leaders for Sea Change for 2020 and will get to learn from these amazing folks and be mentored by highly skilled COMPASS staff.

JCURA award winner presents poster

Katie Dierks (JCURA/honours student and former NSERC USRA) presented on her research at the Jamie Cassels undergraduate research award and no other than Jamie showed up to view it. Congrats Katie!

News in Atlas Obscura

Our field project in Barkley Sound is featured in this story by Lorraine Boissoneault https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/first-nations-archaeology-in-canada

New Research Project

Happy to be a small part of a successful application for large NSERC Strategic Partnership Grant for Networks led by Elena Benett at McGill focusing on ecosystem services and sustainability across Canada https://www.nsercresnet.ca The landscape I am part of is co-led by Anne Salomon at SFU and Coastal First Nations and aims to bring archaeological data forward to support Coastal First Nations in exploring the consequences of long term climate change for fisheries. Masters student Dylan Hillis is taking this on this project specifically. https://www.nsercresnet.ca/landscape-6—pacific-coast.html

News Coverage for the Barkley Sound Field School

2019 Excavations in Tseshaht Territory make the news: https://thetyee.ca/News/2019/07/26/Unearthed-Clambake-May-Change-Indigenous-Fortunes-BC/



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The 2018 field school received CHEK Television news coverage including an interview with students Jen Hogan and Larissa Dixon, and co-director of the project and Tseshaht representative Denis St. Claire. Below are some atmospheric photos from this field season. More news to come.

New editorial in Ecology and Society

I am honoured to be part of a multi-authored editorial introducing a special issue in Ecology & Society on Coupled Human-Coastal Ecosystems: Building Resilience through Teaching and Research Partnerships along with SFU resource and environmental management faculty (A. Salomon, K. Lertzman D. Secord) and Kelly Brown director of the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department and Haida matriarch Ḵii’iljuus Barb Wilson.


New aDNA Rockfish paper in PLoS One

PhD Student at SFU Antonia Rodrigues and I co-led a study of ancient rockfish from archaeological sites just inside and out of marine protected area and national park reserve on western Vancouver Island with the support of Dongya Yang. This archipelago is a phenomenal fishing ground and heavily targeted by commercial and recreational fishing efforts. Archaeological sites throughout the islands provide a comparison to modern fishing efforts and extend perspective on conservation area management.

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Student trip to present to the Pacific Ecology & Evolution Conference in Bamfield

On a sort of snowy afternoon in February, four UVic students I am proud to be working with travelled to Bamfield to present on their archaeological research in Barkley Sound and elsewhere at PEEC.  Very exciting to see this work come together.

Dylan Hillis, Seonaid Duffield, Meaghan Efford, and Robert Gustas.

Santa Fe trip

In November,  was fortunate to attend a very cool Santa Fe Institute workshop in on tracking human uses of animal and plant species via archaeological and ethnographic sources. This was organized by Jennifer Dunne and Spencer Wood and included several cool folk including ASBC President Jacob Earnshaw. Along the way, I got to visit Taos Pueblo where I took this photo of the dyes used in traditional weaving practices.


Funding news

In September, I was fortunate to get an invite to attend a special UVic event where Canada’s Minister of Science was announcing new Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC) funding. I am very grateful to have been among several faculty at UVic to receive NSERC ‘Discovery Grant’ funding for 5 years to support my Marine Historical Ecology research program. It was swiftly pointed out to me on twitter that the term ‘discovery’ is highly awkward in Indigenous contexts and a worthy reminder of the care and respect that needs to be taken in archaeological research.


Field School Promo Video

The UVic archaeology field school has been featured in the a new video produced by the university with footage from the Hakai Institute.

Halibut Derby for Archaeology

UVic anthropology graduate student Jacob Salmen-Hartley has successfully sampled his way through the Halibut Derby on southern Vancouver Island with the help of field assistant Johnny. Jacob is building a reference collection of a range of halibut of different sizes.


Historical Ecology Paper in PLoS One

Chelsey Armstrong from SFU and Anna Shoemaker from Uppsala co-led an international effort to consolidate research questions on Historical Ecology. This paper is available for free at this: link and this also generated some news coverage 

Indigenous Fisheries Paper online and open access


Hakai Blogged about my recent publication on the archaeology of Indigenous fishing practices with Madonna Moss here. Here is a link to the open access paper and a wonderful infographic put together by Josh Silberg below.


Bill Reid’s Raven & First Men, UBC Museum of Anthropology. Photo: Nicole Smith.

I study the archaeology of the human use of coastal animals, with a particular concentration on fish, shellfish, and marine mammals along the Pacific Northwest Coast. My research examines how these ancient archaeological records broaden our contemporary perspective on human-animal relationships, present day resource management challenges and the under-recognized legacy of Indigenous settlement, use, and care for these coastal environments.

My research at the University of Victoria is investigating large-scale and long-term patterns in Indigenous resource use on the Pacific Northwest Coast. I am involved in several collaborative research projects on the Coast of British Columbia with Coastal First Nations through the Hakai Institute, and university researchers at Simon Fraser University, UBC, and the University of Oregon.


Visualizing spatial trends in marine and terrestrial mammal hunting in southern British Columbia and northwestern Washington State over the past 8,000 years.

If you have a few minutes, feel free to watch this UAV Footage from 2016 near Bamfield produced by Hakai Magazine.

Research Affiliations:

Hakai Institute

Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre

Resilience Alliance


Canadian Archaeological Association

Canadian Anthropology Society

International Council for Archaeozoology

Society for American Archaeology

Society for Ethnobiology


Please visit google scholar or researchgate for additional access. Also feel free to get in touch via email (see ‘contact’ tab above)

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Martindale, Andrew, Gordon T. Cook, Iain McKechnie, Kevan Edinborough, Ian Hutchinson, Morley Eldridge, Kisha Supernant and Kenneth M. Ames (2018) Estimating Marine Reservoir Effects (MRE) in Archaeological Chronologies: Comparing ΔR Calculations in Prince Rupert Harbour, British Columbia, Canada. American Antiquity 83(4):659–680 doi:10.1017/aaq.2018.47.

Anne K. Salomon, Ken Lertzman, Kelly Brown, Ḵii’iljuus (Barb Wilson), Dave Secord, and Iain McKechnie 2018 Democratizing conservation science and practice. Ecology and Society 23(1):44

Rodrigues, Antonia T., Iain McKechnie and Dongya Y. Yang 2018 Ancient DNA analysis of Indigenous rockfish use on the Pacific Coast: Implications for marine conservation areas and fisheries management. PLoS One 13(2):e0192716


Chelsey G. Armstrong, Anna C. Shoemaker, Iain McKechnie, Anneli Ekblom, Péter Szabó, Paul J. Lane, Alex C. McAlvay, Oliver J. Boles, Sarah Walshaw, Nik Petek, Kevin S. Gibbons, Erendira Quintana Morales, Eugene N. Anderson, Aleksandra Ibragimow, Grzegorz Podruczny, Jana C. Vamosi, Tony Marks-Block, Joyce K. LeCompte, Sākihitowin Awasis, Carly Nabess, Paul Sinclair, Carole L. Crumley 2017 Anthropological contributions to historical ecology: 50 questions, infinite prospects. PLoS One 12(2): e0171883


McKechnie, Iain and Madonna L. Moss 2016 Meta-analysis in Zooarchaeology Expands Perspectives on Indigenous Fisheries of the Northwest Coast of North America. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 8:470–485.


McKechnie, Iain, Sarah W. Kansa and Steve Wolverton 2015 Snapshots of Digital Scholarship in Zooarchaeology: Introduction to the Special Issue. Ethnobiology Letters 6(2):218–223.

McKechnie, Iain  2015 Indigenous Oral History and Settlement Archaeology in the Broken Group Islands, Western Vancouver Island. BC Studies (187):191–225.

McMillan, Alan D. and Iain McKechnie 2015 Investigating Indigenous Adaptations to British Columbia’s Exposed Outer Coast: Introduction to These Outer Shores. BC Studies (187):3–20.

Gerald G. Singh, Iain McKechnie, Todd J. Braje, and Breana Campbell
2015 “All Models Are Wrong but Some Are Useful”: A Response to Campbell’s comment on estimating Mytilus californianus shell size. Journal of Archaeological Science 63(11):160–163.

Iain McKechnie, Gerald G. Singh, Todd J. Braje, and Breana Campbell
2015 Measuring Mytilus californianus: An Addendum to Campbell and Braje (2015) and Singh and McKechnie (2015) including commentary and an integration of data. Journal of Archaeological Science, 58(6):184–186.  McKechnie et al. 2015 Mytilus californianus

Singh, Gerald G. and McKechnie, Iain
2015 Making the Most of Fragments: A Method for Estimating Shell Length From Fragmentary Mussels (Mytilus californianus and M. trossulus) on the Pacific Coast of North America. Journal of Archaeological Science, 58(6):175–183. singh-and-mckechnie-2015.pdf


McKechnie, Iain, Dana Lepofsky, Madonna L. Moss, Virginia L. Butler, Trevor J. Orchard, Gary Coupland, Fredrick Foster, Megan Caldwell & Ken Lertzman
2014 Archaeological data provide alternative hypotheses on Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii) distribution, abundance, and variability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 111(9):E807–E816. [pdf]

McKechnie, Iain and Nicole F. Smith
2013 Coastal Field Archaeology in Huu-ay-aht First Nation Territory, Southwestern Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. SAA Current Research Online 153 [pdf]


McKechnie, Iain
2012 Zooarchaeological Analysis of the Indigenous Fishery at the Huu7ii Big House and Back Terrace, Huu-ay-aht Territory, Southwestern Vancouver Island. In Huu7ii: Household Archaeology at a Nuu-chah-nulth Village Site in Barkley Sound, edited by A. D. McMillan and D. E. St. Claire, pp. 154–186. Archaeology Press, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC. [pdf]Speller, Camilla F., Lorenz Hauser, Dana Lepofsky, Daniel Peterson, Jason Moore, Antonia Rodriguez, Madonna Moss, Iain McKechnie & Dongya Y. Yang
2012 High Potential for Using DNA from Ancient Herring Bones to Inform Modern Fisheries Management and Conservation. PLoS ONE 7(11):e51122.[pdf]

Szpak, Paul, Trevor J. Orchard, Iain McKechnie & Darren R. Gröcke
2012 Historical Ecology of Late Holocene Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) from Northern British Columbia: Isotopic and Zooarchaeological Perspectives. Journal of Archaeological Science 39(5):1553–1571.[pdf]

McKechnie, Iain & Rebecca J. Wigen (2011) Toward a Historical Ecology of Pinniped and Sea Otter Hunting Traditions on the Coast of Southern British Columbia. In Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters: Integrating Archaeology and Ecology in the Northeast Pacific, edited by T. J. Braje and T. C. Rick, pp. 129–166. University of California Press, Berkeley. [pdf]

Braje Rick Cover

Mackie, Quentin, Daryl W. Fedje, Duncan McLaren, Nicole Smith & Iain McKechnie 2011 Early Environments and Archaeology of Coastal British Columbia. In Trekking the Shore: Changing Coastlines and the Antiquity of Coastal Settlement, edited by N. F. Bicho, J. A. Haws and L. G. Davis, pp. 51–103. Springer, New York. [pdf]


McMillan, Alan D., Iain McKechnie, Denis E. St. Claire & S. Gay Frederick (2008) Exploring Variability in Maritime Resource Use on the Northwest Coast: A Case Study from Barkley Sound, Western Vancouver Island. Canadian Journal of Archaeology 32(2):214–238. [pdf]

McKechnie, Iain (2007) Investigating the Complexities of Sustainable Fishing at a Prehistoric Village on Western Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Journal for Nature Conservation 15(3):208–222. [pdf]

Moss, Madonna L., Dongya Y. Yang, Seth D. Newsome, Camilla Speller, Iain McKechnie, Alan D. McMillan, Robert Losey & Paul L. Koch (2006) Historical Ecology and Biogeography of North Pacific Pinnipeds: Isotopes and Ancient DNA from Three Archaeological Assemblages. Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology 1(2):165–190.

McKechnie, Iain (2005) Column Sampling and the Archaeology of Small Fish at Ts’ishaa. In: Ts’ishaa: Archaeology and Ethnography of a Nuu-chah-nulth Origin Site in Barkley Sound, edited by Alan D. McMillan and Denis St. Claire, pp. 206–223. Archaeology Press, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby. [pdf]


Zooarchaeology at UVic

The Department of Anthropology at UVic has a fantastic comparative osteology collection of over 2,500 mammals, birds, and fish from throughout the North Pacific. The lab is designed to be used for zooarchaeological identification and skeletal specimens are available on trays. The collection has been curated and managed for decades by the extremely knowledgeable Becky Wigen and her career at UVic is rightfully celebrated here. Dr. Stephanie Calce is the new lab instructor whose responsibility includes booking space in the lab and managing the preparation lab and beetle colony.

A portion of the zooarchaeology lab with prepared modern specimens on trays against the wall and in the island. Photo: Iain McKechnie
Thanks to CFI, we’ve been able to obtain a new metron 3D scanner for the Lab which is helping get Northwest Coast zooarchaeology more up to speed. Here Lab member Katie Dierks is being trained on using the scanner on the femur of the domestic dog recovered during the UVic field school in Barkley Sound. Photo: Iain McKechnie.

The ins and outs of this collection is featured in this recent film produced by visual anthropology student Holly Cecil entitled : The Bare Bones