Professor Eleanor Scerri, Head of the 'Lise Meitner' Pan-African Evolution Research Group at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany, and Affiliate Associate Professor in the Department of Classics & Archaeology at the University of Malta, has been awarded a prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant for her project 'Island ecosystem ecology from deep prehistory to the Anthropocene' (ISLANDLAB). The ISLANDLAB project will investigate how climate factors and the arrival of humans to the Maltese Islands impacted the natural ecosystem.
ISLANDLAB aims to document long-term legacies and relationships between ecological changes, societal responses and ecosystem resilience on the Maltese Islands. Researchers from a wide range of disciplines will collaborate to build high-resolution ecological, climatic and archaeological characterisations of the Maltese Islands before and after human arrival, with attention to how the islands’ plants and animals changed in the presence of people. The overarching goals of the project are to better understand the processes that lead to extinctions in landscapes altered by human societies and to reveal the best pathways to ecological restoration.
'Malta featured an array of unique endemic animals, some of which went extinct only in the last few thousand years. These animals had profound effects on their ecosystems and their loss had cascading effects, lasting until the present day,” says Professor Scerri. “We want to understand how this impacted ecosystem resilience, and what the implications were for human societies down the line.'
The project will be conducted in close collaboration with Professor Nicholas Vella of the Department of Classics & Archaeology, Dr Ritienne Gauci in the Department of Geography, the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage, as well as Max Planck scientists and other international collaborators representing a range of disciplines, from climate science to archaeology.