Dr. Thomas Larsen

Department of Archaeology
+49 3641 686-773

Main Focus

My research focuses broadly on how nutritional relationships between consumers and resources impact the natural world. I am interested in how human acquisition of food resources have transformed ecosystems, particularly in relation to our history of domesticating animals and cultivating the land. A long view of our past can help us to understand natural boundaries and how we as a species adapt to adverse environmental conditions. Our success in “conquering nature”  is challenging us to redefine our relationship with nature because it has eroded the basic life support systems for many species. With the power to alter biogeochemical processes on a global scale, we need to understand how these processes work in order to minimize the adverse effects of our actions and ensure that humanity can use and reuse natural resources sustainably.

The main focus of my Biochemistry laboratory is applying and developing biomarkers that can characterize early and late markers of the Anthropocene, human consumption and use of foods and drugs, and ancient trade of those commodities. The laboratory undertakes several biochemical studies, including analyses of 1) lipid residues in archaeological pottery; 2) secondary metabolites in dental calculus and archaeological artefacts; 3) faecal biomarkers from soil and lake biogeochemical records; and 4) carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis of single amino acids from both ancient and modern samples. 

Curriculum Vitae

I received my M.Sc. in Biology at Department of Zoology, Aarhus University and my Ph.D. in Ecology at Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen. I have held research positions in various countries and institutions: University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of California Santa Cruz, University of Aarhus, CEAB-CSIC Spain and University of Kiel. I am currently the Research Group leader of the Biochemistry laboratory at Department of Archaeology, where I am leading the department's effort in applying biomolecular methods to archaeology. 

I am mostly known for a dietary tracer method termed isotope fingerprinting of amino acids. Together with professor Diane O'Brien at UAF, I pioneered this method for identifying the biosynthetic origins of proteinogenic amino acids. The fingerprints remain invariant across different environmental conditions, and they can characterize food web linkages across various systems and in some instances identify geographical origins of aquatic resources. The isotope fingerprints have also shown great promise for food authentication and for reconstruction of past human diets from material records. 


Please see my Research Gate profile.

Research Projects

  • I am a co-lead investigator of a UK-German funded research project (2018-2020, EUR 750,000, NERC / BMBF) that examines the competitive interactions and foraging ecology between two closely related species of seabirds in the North Atlantic. We use a mix of location trackers and isotope biomarkers to investigate how northward shift in lipid-rich forage fish create ecosystem-wide cascade effects.

  • Co-investigator of the project “Production of high quality fish feed from enchytraeid biomass” led by Martin Holmstrup (2018-2021, DKK 2,360,313, The Danish Council for Independent Research, Technology and Production Sciences).
  • Co-investigator of the project “Carbon sequestration by Greenland’s marine forests in a warming Arctic (CARMA)” led by Dorte Krause-Jensen (2018-2021, DKK 2,300,704, The Danish Council for Independent Research, Technology and Production Sciences).
Go to Editor View