My previous research has focused on one of the most contentious issues in the study of European colonialism in North America -- the timing, magnitude, and cultural consequences of native depopulation due to introduced infectious disease. My study of the native demography within Yosemite Valley examined data within a framework of multiple time scales from the short-term event to longue duree as a means to better assess the potential for perception and action on the part of the native people. This study provided an intimate portrait of native decision-making in the "hinterlands" of colonial California. My book on this subject (Pestilence and Persistence: Yosemite Indian Demography and Culture in Colonial California, UC Press 2009) complements existing archaeological, anthropological, and historical literature on European colonialism; contributes to the demographic debate; and provides a view of the impact of colonialism prior to face-to-face encounters of colonists and Indians.
Although this study focused on depopulation during the colonial era, my broader research agenda is assessment of the long-term and short-term dynamics between population and culture in small-scale societies in a variety of contexts in the more distant past. The demographic results for the Yosemite region suggest that oscillations in population size through time were common in small-scale groups, and a significant population decline is indicated in the distant past. These observations are contrary to many expectations of population growth implicit in models of hunter-gatherer behavior common to archaeological study in western North America and elsewhere. The demographic data are consistent with Yosemite native oral tradition, however, and bear further study to understand cause, consequence, and implications of this pattern as well as the strength of employing different sources of data in archaeological analysis. This work in the Sierra Nevada is further complemented by my previous research on native demography in the eastern Great Basin.