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Suzanne Pilaar Birch

UGA Arch
Associate Professor, Anthropology and Geography
Director, Quaternary Isotope Paleoecology Lab
Director, Center for Archaeological Sciences
Coordinator, Georgia Museum of Natural History Internship Program

I have a joint appointment in Anthropology and Geography and direct the Quaternary Isotope Paleoecology Lab. My research is focused on human adaptation and resilience to climate change and natural resource unpredictability in prehistory, and how our understanding of past human response to environmental change informs current thinking about these issues. I combine archaeology and biogeochemistry to investigate changes in diet, mobility, and settlement systems in the period spanning the end of the last ice age to the arrival of farming. 

My other research interests include the initial domestication of livestock, diffusion of domesticates across Eurasia, the transition from hunting to herding, seasonality and human mobility, multispecies archaeology, and advancing methodologies in zooarchaeology and stable isotope analysis. I am an active advocate of open access publishing and online data and research sharing. I co-founded and moderate the blog TrowelBlazers, which highlights women in the fields of archaeology, paleontology, and geology. I am also an editor-in-chief of the open access journal for Quaternary science, Open Quaternary.

Research Areas:
Research Interests:
  • Zooarchaeology
  • Stable isotope analysis
  • Climate change
  • Paleoenvironmental reconstruction
  • Paleozoogeography
  • Human paleoecology
  • Hunter-gatherer mobility and subsistence
  • Mesolithic/Neolithic transition
  • Balkan, Adriatic, Mediterranean, and Southwest Asian archaeology
  • Women in archaeology
  • Digital archaeology
  • Open access publication/open data
Selected Publications:

[33] Pilaar Birch, S.E., Metzger, M., Ridder, E., Porson, S. Falconer, S.E., and P.L. Fall. 2022. Herd management and subsistence practices as inferred from isotopic analysis of animals and plants at Bronze Age Politiko-Troullia, Cyprus. PLOS ONE DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0275757 

[32] Pilaar Birch, S.E. and Szpak, P. 2022. “Current Developments and Future Directions in Archaeological Science” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 119 (43) e2212490119. DOI: 10.1073/PNAS.2212490119 

[31] Balk, M. (and 32 others, including S.E. Pilaar Birch). 2022. “A solution to the challenges of interdisciplinary aggregation and use of specimen-level trait data” iScience  DOI: : 

[30] Fall, P.L, Richard, S., Pilaar Birch, S.E., Ridder, E., D’Andrea, M., Long, J.C. Jr., Hedges-Knyrim, G., Porson, S., Metzger, M., and S.E. Falconer. 2022. New AMS chronology for the Early Bronze III/IV Transition at Khirbat Iskandar, Jordan. Radiocarbon. DOI: 1-16. doi:10.1017/RDC.2022.2 

[29] Pilaar Birch, S.E., Boz, B., and B. Erdoğu. 2021. “Isotope paleodietary analysis of humans from Chalcolithic Uğurlu, Gökçeada Island, Turkey” Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports 39: 103136 DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2021.103136

[28] Vaiglova, P., Reid, R.E.B., Lightfoot, E., Pilaar Birch, S.E., Hui, W., Li, S., and X. Liu. 2021. “Localized management of non‑indigenous animal domesticates in Northwestern China during the Bronze Age” Scientific Reports 11:15764 DOI: 10.1038/s41598-021-95233-x

[27] Hoggarth, J. (and 13 others, including S.E. Pilaar Birch). 2021. “Impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Women and Early Career Archaeologists”. Heritage 4(3) 1681-1702 DOI:10.3390/heritage4030093 

[26] Porson, S., Falconer, S., Pilaar Birch, S.E., Ridder, E., and P. Fall. 2021. “Crop  management and agricultural responses at Early Bronze IV Tell Abu en-Ni‘aj, Jordan” Journal of Archaeological Science. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2021.105435

[25] Leppard, T. (and 10 others, including S.E. Pilaar Birch). 2021. “The premise and potential of model-based approaches to island archaeology: A response to   Terrell” Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology. DOI:10.1080/15564894.2021.1904463

[24] McPherson, M.G., Freeman, B.J., and S.E. Pilaar Birch. 2020. “Uncovering the early history of the Georgia Museum of Natural History, 1785-1900” Journal of the History of Collections DOI: 10.1093/jhc/fhaa025 *

[23] Pilaar Birch, S.E., Atici, L., and Erdoğu, B. 2019. “Spread of domestic animals across Neolithic Western Anatolia and into Southeast Europe: New stable isotope evidence from Uğurlu Höyük, Gökçeada, Turkey” PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0222319 

[22] Rivera Araya, M.J., Arnauld, C., Emery, K., and S.E. Pilaar Birch. 2019. “Stable isotope analysis of white-tailed deer teeth as a paleoenvironmental proxy at the Maya site of La Joyanca, northwestern Peten” Isotopes in Environmental and Health Studies 55(4): 344-365. DOI:                                10.1080/10256016.2019.1636047

[21] Pilaar Birch, S.E., Scheu, A., Buckley M. and C. Çakırlar. 2018. “Combined osteomorphological, isotopic, aDNA and ZooMS analyses of sheep and goat remains from Neolithic Ulucak, Turkey” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences. DOI: 10.1007/s12520-018-0624-8

[20] Marwick, B. and S.E. Pilaar Birch. 2018. “A standard for the scholarly citation of archaeological data” Advances in Archaeological Practice. DOI: 10.1017/aap.2018.3

[19] Rivera Araya, M.J. and S.E. Pilaar Birch. 2018. “Stable isotope signatures in white tailed deer as a seasonal paleoenvironmental proxy: A case study from Georgia, United States” Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 505:53-62. DOI: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2018.05.025

[18] Pilaar Birch, S.E. 2018. “Seasonal mobility and multispecies interactions in the Mesolithic northeastern Adriatic.” in S.E. Pilaar Birch (ed.), Multispecies Archaeology. Archaeological Orientations Series. London: Routledge.

[17] Atici, L., Pilaar Birch, S.E., and B. Erdoğu. 2017. “Spread of Domestic Animals across Neolithic Western Anatolia and into Southeast Europe: New Zooarchaeological Evidence from Uğurlu Höyük, Gökçeada, Turkey.” PLOS ONE. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0186519

[16] Pilaar Birch, S.E. and Vander Linden, M. 2017. “A long hard road... Reviewing the evidence for environmental change and population history in the eastern Adriatic and western Balkans during the Late Pleistocene and Early Holocene.” Quaternary International. DOI:10.1016/j.quaint.2016.12.035

[15] Pauli, J.N., Newsome, (and 26 others, including S.E. Pilaar Birch). 2017. “Why we need a centralized repository for isotopic data” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

[14] Pilaar Birch, S.E. 2017. “From the Aegean to the Adriatic: Exploring the Earliest Neolithic Island Fauna” Journal of Island and Coastal Archaeology

[13] Pilaar Birch, S.E. & P.T. Miracle. 2017 “Human response to climate change in the Northern Adriatic during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene” G. Monks (ed.), Climate Change and Human Responses: A Zooarchaeological Perspective. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology Series. New York: Springer.

[12] Hassett, B.R., Pilaar Birch, S.E., Herridge, V.L., & R.M. Wragg Sykes. 2017. “TrowelBlazers: Accidentally crowd-sourcing an archive of women in archaeology.” Apaydin, V. and Jameson, J. (ed.) Public Participatory Archaeology. New York: Springer. 

[11] Pilaar Birch, S.E. 2017. “Neolithic subsistence at Vela Špilja on the island of Lošinj, Croatia” D. Serjeantson, P. Rowley-Conwy and P. Halstead (eds.), Economic Zooarchaeology: Studies in Hunting, Herding and Early Agriculture. Oxford: Oxbow.  Chapter 30.

[10] Pilaar Birch, S.E., Miracle, P.T., Stevens, R.E. & T.C. O’Connell. 2016.“Reconstructing late Pleistocene/early Holocene migratory behavior of ungulates using stable isotopes and its effects on forager mobility” PLOS ONE 11(6): e0155714. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155714. 

[9] Leppard, T.P. and S.E. Pilaar Birch. 2016. “The insular ecology and palaeoenvironmental impacts of the domestic goat (Capra hircus) in Mediterranean Neolithization” in Géoarchéologie des îles de la Méditerranée, edited by M. Ghilardi, F. Leandri, J. Bloemendal, L. Lespez, and S. Fachard. Paris: CNRS Editions Alpha. pp. 47-56. 

[8] Pilaar Birch, S.E. 2015. “Diversity and demographics of zooarchaeologists: Results from a digital survey” Ethnobiology Letters 6(2): 59-67. 

[7] Pilaar Birch, S.E. and R.W. Graham. 2015. “A stable isotope data repository as part of Neotoma, a paleoecological database” BioScience 65(10): 953. DOI: 10.1093/biosci/biv133 

[6] Pilaar Birch, S.E. & P.T. Miracle. 2015. “Subsistence continuity, change, and environmental adaptation at the site of Nugljanska, Istria, Croatia” Environmental Archaeology 20(1):30-40. 

[5] Çakırlar, C., Gourichon, L., Pilaar Birch, S.E., Berthon, R., Akar, M., & A. Yener. 2014. “Provisioning an urban center under foreign occupation: Zooarchaeological insights into the nature of Hittite presence in late 14th century BCE Alalakh” Journal of Eastern Mediterranean Archaeology and Heritage Studies 2(4): 259-276.

[4] Herridge, V., Wragg Sykes, R., Hassett, B. & S.E. Pilaar Birch. 2013. “‘A splendid regiment of women’: 20th century archaeologists and palaeontologists” in S. Charman-Anderson (ed.), A Passion for Science: Stories of Discovery and Invention. London: Finding Ada.

[3] Pilaar Birch, S.E. 2013. “Using social media for research dissemination: The Digital Research Video Project” Internet Archaeology 35. 

[2] Pilaar Birch, S.E. 2013. “Stable isotopes in zooarchaeology” Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences 5: 81-83.

[1] Zeder, M.A. & S.E. Pilaar.2010.  “Assessing the reliability of criteria used to identify mandibles and mandibular teeth in sheep, Ovis, and goats, Capra” Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 225-242.


[12] National Science Foundation. "Disciplinary Improvements for Past Global Change Research:  Connecting Data Systems and Practitioners" Co-PI with Jessica Blois et al. ($202,636 to Emery, LeFebvre, and Pilaar Birch) 2023-2026

[11] National Science Foundation. "Ancient Agrarian Responses to Environmental Stress across the Mediterranean, Levant to Sardinia” Co-PI with Patricia Fall and Steven Falconer et al. (total awarded $189,763; $55,377 to Pilaar Birch) 2021-2023

[10] National Science Foundation. “Neotoma Paleoecology Database, a Multi-Proxy, International, Community-Curated Data Resource for Global Change Research” Co-PI with Jack Williams et al. ($53,989 to Pilaar Birch)

[9] National Science Foundation. Climate change and agrarian responses during the collapse and reemergence of Bronze Age urbanism in the Southern Levant” Co-PI with Steven Falconer and Patricia Fall (total awarded $189,111; $67,699 to Pilaar Birch) 2019-2022

[8] University of Georgia Office of Experiential Learning. Innovation Grant. “Revamping the Georgia Museum of Natural History Internship Program” PI ($26,720) 2018-2020

[7] The Funk Foundation. Passenger Pigeon Exploitation during the Holocene in New York State.” PI ($2,500) 2018-2019 

[6] Arts and Humanities Research Council UK. “Radical Death and Early State Formation in the Ancient Near East” Co-PI (total awarded £550,000; $36,948 to Pilaar Birch) 2018-2022

[5] University of Georgia Research Foundation. Faculty Research Grant. “Archaeologically-Linked Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction” PI ($10,000) 2016-2017

[4] Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Connection Grant. “Reconstructing Hunter-Gatherer Mobility: Building New Inter-disciplinary Frameworks in the Quaternary” Co-PI with Julien Riel Salvatore and Rebecca Wragg Sykes ($15,612 CAD) 2015-2016

[3] UGA STEM Initiative Small Grants Program. “Enhancing and Diversifying Geosciences Instruction through Popular Gaming Platforms and Multi-user Virtual Environments (MUVES)” Co-PI with Marshall Shepherd, Jerry Shannon, and Thomas Mote ($8,000) 2015

[2] International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) Project Grant. “Reconstructing Hunter-Gatherer Mobility: Building New Inter-disciplinary Frameworks in the Quaternary” Co-PI with Rebecca Wragg Sykes and Julien Riel Salvatore (€4,000) 2015-2016

[1] National Geographic Committee for Research and Exploration. “Neolithization of Europe: New Zooarchaeological and Stable Isotope Evidence from Uğurlu Höyük, Gökçeada, Turkey” Co-PI with Levent Atici ($22,000) 2015-2016


PhD, Archaeology, University of Cambridge, 2012
MPhil, Archaeological Science, University of Cambridge, 2009
B.Sc., Evolutionary Anthropology, Rutgers University, 2008

Articles Featuring Suzanne Pilaar Birch

Anthropology students at the University of Georgia recently presented their research at the annual CURO Symposium, organized by the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities. Given the opportunity to communicate their own research to our broader community…

Dr. Suzanne Pilaar Birch has recently recorded a lecture series titled "Early Humans: Ice, Stone, and Survival."

Title: Spread of domestic animals across Neolithic western Anatolia: New stable isotope evidence from Uğurlu Höyük, the island of Gökçeada, Turkey 

Suzanne Pilaar Birch, a faculty member with a dual appointment in the geology department, is the subject of an in-depth feature in the…

Faculty member Suzanne Pilaar Birch is interviewed about her experience of doing fieldwork while pregnant in this issue of Nature magazine. She shares the factors that went into her making that decision and relates the support she received.

An international research team that includes assistant professor of anthropology and geography Suzanne Pilaar Birch has been awarded Arts and Humanities Research Council UK funding for their four-year project on 

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