I am a Professor of Geological Sciences and a Fellow of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I also serve as Associate Director. My research focuses on utilizing the record of the recent geological past, primarily in hot and cold deserts, to gain a better understanding of Earth’s climate system, and the role of humans in the Earth System. I have long-standing research programs in the Eastern Canadian Arctic, Australia, Iceland, and Svalbard.
Recognizing the need for improved tools to date events of the recent past, I established a laboratory for amino acid racemization dating, and it was through this tool that I became caught up in the climate and human histories of the world’s hot deserts, beginning with the Sahara Desert, and eventually leading me to Australia in the late 1980s, with active research campaigns since the early 1990s focusing on the pacing of the Australian Summer Monsoon, causes of megafaunal extinction, and the footprints of human colonization. Recently, my research group, building on the Australia experience, expanded our fieldwork to Madagascar, where we are evaluating causes for the extinction of Aepyornis, the giant, 1000 pound Elephant Bird.
Under my direction, students studying the Middle Stone Age will work in my lab and use amino acid racemization on ancient ostrich eggshell to date the human occupation sites. This work is especially important because many of these sites are older than the limit of carbon-14 dating.
2013. Gifford H. Miller, Kaufman, D. S., Clarke, S. J. Amino acid dating. In Elias, S. A. (editor), Encyclopedia of Quaternary Science, second edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 37-48. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-444-53643-3.00054-6
2010. Oskam, C. L., Haile, J., Mclay, E., Rigby, P., Allentoft, M. E., Olsen, M. E., Bengtsson, C., Gifford H. Miller, Schwenninger, J.-L., Jacomb, C., Walter, R., Baynes, A., Dortch, J., Parker-Pearson, M., Gilbert, M. T. P., Holdaway, R. N., Willerslev, E., Bunce, M. Fossil avian eggshell preserves ancient DNA. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 277(1690): 1991 2000, DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.2019
2005. Gifford H. Miller, Fogel, M. L., Magee, J. W., Gagan, M. K., Clarke, S., Johnson, B. J. Ecosystem collapse in Pleistocene Australia and a human role in megafaunal extinction. Science, 309: 287 290.
1999. Gifford H. Miller, Beaumont, P.B., Deacon, H.J., Brooks, A.S., Hare, P.E., Jull, A.J.T. Earliest modern humans in southern Africa dated by isoleucine epimerization in ostrich eggshell. Quaternary Science Reviews 18(1999):1537-1548
1998. Johnson, B. J., Fogel, M. L., Gifford H. Miller. Stable isotopes in modern ostrich eggshell: A calibration for paleoenvironmental applications in semi-arid regions of southern Africa. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 62(14): 2451-2462. DOI: 10.1016/S0016-7037(98)00175-6
1997. Johnson, B.J., Fogel, M.L., Gifford H. Miller, Beaumont, P.B. The determination of late Quaternary paleoenvironments at Equus Cave, South Africa, using stable isotopes and amino acid racemization in ostrich eggshell. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 136: 121-137
1993. Johnson, B.J., Fogel, M.L., Gifford H. Miller. Paleoecological reconstructions in southern Egypt based on the stable carbon and nitrogen isotopes in the organic fraction and stable carbon isotopes in individual amino acids of fossil ostrich eggshell. Chemical Geology 107:493-497
1992. Kaufman, D.S., Gifford H. Miller. Overview of amino acid geochronology . Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology 102B:199-204
1990. Brooks, A.S., Hare, P.E., Kokis, J.E., Gifford H. Miller, Ernst, R.D., Wendorf, F. Dating archeological sites by protein diagenesis in ostrich eggshell . Science 248:60-64