Camilla Speller

My major research focus is ‘Molecular Environmental Archaeology’ – the application of biomolecular techniques to a broad range of environmental issues and human-environment interactions in the past and in the present. My research explores how humans have shaped their physical world, from broad-scale impacts on ancient ecosystems to the micro-environment of the human body.

My research methods include ancient genomic analysis (ancient DNA), ancient proteomics, and collagen peptide mass fingerprinting (ZooMS).

Currently, my research focuses on three areas:

Marine Ecosystems: Long-term fishing and subsistence patterns; marine biogeography and biodiversity; documenting shifting baselines; patterns of resource management, sustainable development, traditional resources management, especially in the Pacific Northwest.

Human-Animal Interactions: Social and ecological impacts of human-environmental interactions; hunting strategies; human impacts on biodiversity; animal domestication (turkeys); conservation biology.

Ancient Microbiomes: Microbial ecology and evolution; metagenomic and metaproteomic analysis of ancient dental calculus and coprolites; influence of microbiomes on the health of human and non-human animals.

Ongoing projects:

‘Documenting Turkey Husbandry and Domestication in Ancient Mesoamerica’, National Science Foundation project with Erin Thornton (PI), Washington State University.
‘TURKEY: Uncovering the Transatlantic History of Turkey Husbandry using a Multi-Disciplinary Approach’, Marie Skłodowska-Curie-IF with Aurélie Manin, University of York, UK.
‘OVINE: Ovine Variation in North Eastern Europe’, Marie Skłodowska-Curie-IF with Eve Rannamäe, University of York, UK.
‘SCRIBE: Reading the genetic history of parchment manuscripts’, Marie Skłodowska-Curie-IF with Matthew Teasdale and Matthew Collins, University of York, UK.

I am broadly trained in biological anthropology and archaeology. My BA from the University of Calgary was a double major in archaeology and biological anthropology. During my MA at Simon Fraser University, I developed skills in ancient DNA analysis, and I expanded this expertise for my PhD research (also completed at SFU, 2009). My MA, completed at the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University in 2005, used ancient DNA analysis to examine the distribution of salmon species at the Northwest Plateau site of Keatley Creek, BC, Canada. My PhD dissertation, also completed at Simon Fraser University in 2009, applied ancient DNA techniques to study the use of wild and domestic turkeys in the Southwest United States. In 2010, I was awarded a SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship to continue my research on North American turkey domestication at the University of Calgary, and helped to develop the new ancient DNA laboratory in the Department of Archaeology. In 2012, I joined the BioArCh Centre at the University of York, UK as a Marie Curie postdoctoral research fellow (EU-IIF) where I applied ZooMS and ancient DNA analysis to questions of historic whale exploitation. I became a Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of York in 2014 and led the ancient genetics group at BioArCh until 2018, when I joined the Department of Anthropology at UBC.

  • Rodrigues AS, Charpentier A, Bernal-Casasola D, Gardeisen A, Nores C, Pis Millán J, McGrath K, Speller CF (2018) Forgotten Mediterranean calving grounds of gray and North Atlantic right whales: Evidence from Roman archeological records, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 285(1882): 20180961,
  • Hendy J, Warinner C, Bouwman A, Collins MJ, Fiddyment S, Fischer R, Hagan R, Hofman CA, Holst M, Chaves E, Klaus L, Larson G, Mackie M, McGrath K, Mundorff AZ, Radini A, Rao H,Trachsel C, Velsko IM, Speller CF (2018) Proteomic evidence of dietary sources in ancient dental calculus, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 20180977
  • Speller C (2018) Ancient DNA Analysis in Canada: Current Applications and Future Potential, Canadian Journal of Archaeology, 42:101–114
  • Mays S, Roberts D, Marshall P, Pike AWG, van Heekeren V, Bronk Ramsey C, Dunbar E, Reimer P, Linscott B, Radini A, Lowe A, Dowle A, Speller C, Vallender J, Bedford J (2018) Lives before and after Stonehenge: An osteobiographical study of four prehistoric burials recently excavated from the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 20, 692–710.
  • Hendy J, Welker F, Demarchi B, Speller C, Warinner C, Collins MJ (2018) A Guide to Ancient Proteins, Nature Ecology and Evolution, 2, 791–799.
  • Royle T, Sakhrani D, Speller CF, Butler VL, Devlin RH, Cannon A, Yang DY (2018) An efficient and reliable DNA-based sex identification method for archaeological Pacific salmonid (Oncorhynchus) remains, PLoS ONE, e0193212. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0193212
  • Manin A, Corona-M E, Alexander M, Craig A, Kennedy Thornton E, Yang DY, Richards M, Speller CF (2017) Diversity of management strategies in Mesoamerican turkeys: archaeological, isotopic and genetic evidence. Royal Society Open Science 4, 171613. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171613
  • Velsko IM, Overmyer KA, Speller C, Klaus L, Collins MJ, Loe L, Frantz LAF, Sankaranarayanan K, Lewis CM Jr, Martinez JBR, Chaves E, Coon JJ, Larson G, Warinner C (2017) The dental calculus metabolome in modern and historic samples. Metabolomics 13, 134.
  • Teasdale MD, Fiddyment S, Vnouček J, Mattiangeli V, Speller C, Binois A, Carver M, Dand C, Newfield TP, Webb CC, Bradley DG, Collins MJ (2017) The York Gospels: a 1000-year biological palimpsest. Royal Society Open Science 4, 170988.
  • Barrón-Ortiz CI, Rodrigues AT, Theodor JM, Kooyman BP, Yang DY, Speller CF (2017) Cheek tooth morphology and ancient mitochondrial DNA of late Pleistocene horses from the western interior of North America: Implications for the taxonomy of North American Late Pleistocene Equus. PLoS One 12, e0183045. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183045
  • Biard V, Gol’din P, Gladilina E,Vishnyakova K, McGrath K, Vieira FG, Wales N, Fontaine M, Speller CF, Olsen MT (2017) Genomic and proteomic identification of Late Holocene remains: Setting baselines for Black Sea odontocetes, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 15, 262–271.
  • Mackie M, Hendy J, Lowe A, Sperduti A, Holst M, Collins MJ, Speller C (2017) Preservation of the metaproteome: Variability of protein preservation in ancient dental calculus, STAR: Science & Technology of Archaeological Research 3(1), 74–86. doi: 10.1080/20548923.2017.1361629
  • Green EJ, Speller CF (2017) Novel substrates as sources of ancient DNA: prospects and hurdles, Genes, 8(7), 180; doi:10.3390/genes8070180
  • Colonese AC, Hendy J, Lucquin A, Speller CF, Collins MJ, Carrer F, Gubler R, Kühn M, Fischer R, Craig OE (2017) New criteria for the molecular identification of cereal grains associated with archaeological artefacts, Scientific Reports, 7, 6633, doi:10.1038/s41598-017-06390-x
  • Rannamäe E, Lõugas L, Speller CF, Valk H, Maldre L, Wilczyński J, Mikhailov A, Saarma U (2016) Three Thousand Years of Continuity in the Maternal Lineages of Ancient Sheep (Ovis aries) in Estonia, PLoS One 11(10): e0163676. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0163676
  • Speller C, Yang DY (2016) Identifying the sex of archaeological turkey remains using ancient DNA techniques, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 10, 520-525, doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.049
  • Reitz E, Speller C, McGrath K, Alexander M, (2016) A sixteenth-century turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) from Puerto Real, Hispaniola, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 10, 640–646, doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.050
  • Thornton E, Emery KF, Speller C (2016) Ancient Maya Turkey Husbandry: Testing Theories through Stable Isotope Analysis Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 10, 584-595, doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2016.05.011
  • Mohandesan E, Speller C, Peters J, Uerpmann H-P, Uerpmann M, De Cupere B, Hofreiter M, Burger P (2016) Combined Hybridization Capture and Shotgun Sequencing for Ancient DNA Analysis of Extinct Wild and Domestic Dromedary Camel, Molecular Ecology Resources, doi:10.1111/1755-0998.12551
  • Speller C, ven den Hurk Y, Charperntiere A, Rodrigues A, Gardeisen A, Wilkens B, McGrath K, Rowsell K, Spindler L, Collins M, Hofreiter M (2016) Barcoding the largest animals on earth: on-going challenges and molecular solutions in the taxonomic identification of ancient cetaceans, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 371: 20150332
  • Evans S, Briz i Godino I, Álvarez M, Rowsell K, Collier P, de Goodall RNP, Mulville J, Lacrouts A, Collins MJ, Speller C (2016) Using combined biomolecular methods to explore whale exploitation and social aggregation in Hunter-Gatherer-Fisher society in Tierra del Fuego. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 6, 757–767. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.10.025
  • Ziesemer KA, Mann AE, Sankaranarayanan K, Schroeder H, Ozga AT, Brandt BW, Zaura E, Waters-Rist A, Hoogland M, Salazar-García DC, Aldenderfer M, Speller C, Hendy J, Weston DA, MacDonald SJ, Thomas GH, Collins MJ, Lewis CM, Hofman C, Warinner C, (2015) Intrinsic challenges in ancient microbiome reconstruction using 16S rRNA gene amplification. Scientific Reports 5, 16498.
  • Moss M, Rodrigues, AT, Speller CF, Yang DY (2015) The historical ecology of Pacific herring: Tracing Alaska Native use of a forage fish. Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, 8, 504–512
  • Ames KM, Richards MP, Speller CF, Yang DY, Lyman RL, Butler VL (2015) Stable isotope and aDNA analysis of dog remains from Cathlapotle (45CL1), a contact-era site on the Lower Columbia River.” Journal of Archaeological Science, 57: 268-282
  • Hofreiter M, Paijmans JLA, Goodchild H, Speller CF, Barlow A, Fortes GG, Thomas JA, Ludwig A, Collins MJ (2015) The future of ancient DNA: Technical advances and conceptual shifts. Bioessays. 37, 284–293. doi: 10.1002/bies.201400160
  • Warinner C, Speller C, Collins MJ, Lewis Jr, CM (2015) Ancient human microbiomes. Journal of Human Evolution, 79:125-146. 79:125-146. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.10.016
  • Warinner C, Speller C, Collins MJ (2015) A new era in palaeomicrobiology: prospects for ancient dental calculus as a long-term record of the human oral microbiome. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B series, 370: 20130376.
  • Warinner C, Hendy J, Speller C, Cappellini E, Fischer R, Trachsel C, Arneborg J, Lynnerup N, Craig OE, Swallow DM, Fotakis A, Christensen RJ, Olsen J, Liebert A, Montalva N, Fiddyment S, Mackie M, Bouwman A, Rühli F, Gilbert MTP, Collins MJ (2014) Direct evidence of milk consumption from ancient human dental calculus. Scientific Reports 4:7104 doi: 10.1038/srep07104.
  • Speller CF, Kooyman B, Rodrigues AT, Langemann EG, Jobin RM, Yang DY (2014) Assessing pre-historic genetic structure and diversity of elk (Cervus elaphus) populations in Alberta, Canada. Canadian Journal of Zoology 92(4): 285–298
  • Warinner C, Matias Rodrigues JF, Vyas R, Trachsel C, Shved N, Grossmann J, Radini A, Hancock Y, Tito RY, Fiddyment S, Speller C, Hendy J, Charlton S, Ulrich Luder H, Salazar-García DC, Eppler C, Seiler R, Hansen L, Samaniego Castruita J, Barkow-Oesterreicher S, Teoh KY, Kelstrup C, Olsen JV, Nanni P, Kawai T, Willerslev E, von Mering C, Lewis CM Jr, Collins MJ, Gilbert MTP, Rühli F, Cappellini E (2014) Pathogens and host immunity in the ancient human oral cavity, Nature Genetics 46: 336–344 doi:10.1038/ng.2906
  • Speller CF, Burley DV, Woodward RP, Yang DY (2013) Ancient mtDNA analysis of early 16th century Caribbean cattle provides insight into founding populations of New World creole cattle breeds. PLoS One 8(7): e69584. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069584
  • Fortes G, Speller C, Hofreiter M, King T (2013) Phenotypes from ancient DNA: Approaches, insights and prospects. BioEssays 35(8): 690-695
  • Speller CF, Hauser L, Lepofsky D, Moore J, Rodrigues AT, Moss M, McKechnie I, Yang DY (2012) High Potential for Using DNA from Ancient Herring Bones to Inform Modern Fisheries Management and Conservation”. PLoS One 7(11):e51122.
  • Thornton EK, Emery KF, Steadman DW, Speller C, Matheny R, Yang D (2012) Earliest Mexican turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) in the Maya region: implications for pre- Hispanic animal trade and the timing of turkey domestication. PLoS One 7(8): e42630.
  • Speller CF, Spalding KL, Buchholz BA, Hildebrand D, Moore J, Mathewes R, Skinner MF, Yang DY (2012) Personal identification of cold case remains through combined contribution from anthropological, mtDNA and bomb–pulse dating analyses. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 57(5):1354-1360.
  • Speller CF, Nicholas GP, Yang DY (2011) Feather Barbs as a good source of mtDNA for bird species identification in forensic wildlife investigations. Investigative Genetics 2(16): doi:10.1186/2041-2223-2-16
  • Speller C, Kemp B, Wyatt S, Monroe C, Lipe W, Arndt U, Yang D (2010) Ancient mitochondrial DNA analysis reveals complexity of indigenous North American turkey domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(7): 2807-2812.
  • Loreille O, Parr R, McGregor KA, Fitzpatrick CM, Lyon C, Yang DY, Speller CF, Grimm MR, Grimm MJ, Irwin JA, Robinson EM (2010) Integrated DNA and Fingerprint Analyses in the Identification of 60-Year-Old Mummified Human Remains Discovered in an Alaskan Glacier. Journal of Forensic Science, 55(3): 813–818.
  • Cai D, Tang Z, Han L, Speller CF, Yang DY, Ma X, Cao J, Zhu H, Zhou H (2009) Ancient DNA provides new insights into the origin of the Chinese domestic horse. Journal of Archaeological Science, 36: 835–842.
  • Yang D, Liu L, Chen X, Speller CF (2008) Wild or Domestic: Ancient DNA Examination of Neolithic water buffalo remains from North China. Journal of Archaeological Science 35(10):2778-2785.
  • Blow MJ, Zhang T, Woyke T, Speller CF, Krivoshapkin A, Yang DY, Derevianko A, Rubin EM (2008) Identification of ancient remains through genomic sequencing. Genome Research 18:1347–1353.
  • Yang DY and Speller CF (2006) Co-Amplification of cytochrome b and D-loop mtDNA fragments for the identification of degraded DNA samples. Molecular Ecology Notes, 6(3):605-608.
  • Moss M, Yang DY, Newsome SD, Speller CF, McKechnie I, McMillan AD, Losey RJ, Koch PL (2006) Historical ecology and biogeography of North Pacific pinnipeds: Isotopes and ancient DNA from three archaeological assemblages. Journal of Island & Coastal Archaeology, 1(2): 165-190.
  • Yang DY and Speller CF (2006) Technical tips for obtaining reliable DNA identification of historic human remains. Technical Briefs in Historical Archaeology, 1: 11–16
  • Speller CF, Yang DY, Hayden B (2005) Ancient DNA investigation of prehistoric salmon resource utilization at Keatley Creek. Journal of Archaeological Science, 32: 1378-1389.

Peer-Reviewed Book Chapters

  • Speller CF, Mackie K, Mackie A, Yang DY. (2017) Ancient DNA analysis of the Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi robe and sewn bag. In: Hebda R, Greer S, and Mackie A (eds) Kwädąy Dän Ts’ìnchį: Teachings from Long Ago Person Found. Victoria, BC: Royal BC Museum, pp. 383–393.
  • Troffe PM, Speller CF, von Finster A, Yang DY (2017) Identification of Sockeye salmon from the Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchį site. In: Hebda R, Greer S, Mackie A (ed.) Kwädąy Dän Ts’ìnchį: Teachings from Long Ago Person Found. Victoria, BC: Royal BC Museum, pp. 291–301.
  • Speller CF (2014) Turkey: Domestication. In: Smith C (ed.) Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology. New York: Springer, pp. 7393-7396 (Revised 2018).
  • Cannon A, Yang D, Speller C (2011) Chapter 6: Site-specific salmon fisheries on the Central Coast of British Columbia. In: Moss M, Cannon A (eds.): The Archaeology of North Pacific Fisheries. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, pp. 117-148. 

Published Conference Proceedings

  • Mackie ME, Radini A and Speller C (2017) The Sustainability of Dental Calculus for Archaeological Research. In: Favreau J, Patalano R (eds.) Shallow Pasts, Endless Horizons: Sustainability & Archaeology, Proceedings of the 48th Annual Chacmool Conference The Chacmool Archaeological Association of the University of Calgary, pp. 74–81.
  • Soncin S, Hendy JR, Speller C, Manzi G, Tafuri M. 2016. Diet and Health in Middle Bronze Age Italy: a metaproteomic analysis of human dental calculus in two case-studies, IMEKO International Conference on Metrology for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage, Torino, Italy.
ARCL 425 Paleodiet

The archaeological evidence for the change of human diets over time and the methods used to reconstruct past diets.

ARCL 103 Introduction to Archaeology

Survey of world archaeology, from the emergence of humankind to the beginning of state societies.

Governor General’s gold medal for my PhD dissertation on North American Turkey domestication. , 2010
Philip Leverhulme Prize in Archaeology for my research in the area of Environmental Archaeology. , 2016