Rapa Nui

 April 2016 Update:

For the most updated information on my work on Rapa Nui including papers, presentations, posters and conferences….. please visit my Academia.edu site (click here) https://umn.academia.edu/CandaceGossenPhD


Dissertation: In 2011 the dissertation was complete and published with ProQuest.

A pdf copy is available from Dr. Gossen upon request via Dropbox. Please send her an email at info@blackcoyotemedicine.org

ProQuest prints very nice copies, info to order can be found here:

Deforestation, Drought and Humans: New Discoveries of the Late Quaternary Paleoenvironment of Rapa Nui (Easter Island)
by Gossen, Candace Lynn, Ph.D., PORTLAND STATE UNIVERSITY, 2011, 485 pages; 3469133

The mystery of the trees of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) is a complex problem within a dynamic ecosystem. With new physical cores from the volcanic crater lake Rano Kao, this dissertation uncovers a detailed 15,000 year ecological history of Easter Island and its climatic variability. New radiocarbon dating methods establish a more precise chronology which shows that the island before human habitation was very different than what we know today. It had a simple but prolific ecology that transitioned into a barren grassland. What factors caused the transition are unclear but are likely to be human related. As the forests slowly disappeared, it could have triggered changes in regional and local climate, particularly rainfall, which generally leads to a rapid loss of ecosystems. With virtually stable climate conditions over the last 2,000 years, Easter Island has lost 33 species of plants including the giant palms, and still has not recovered today.

This research challenges the previously accepted theory that humans deforested the island for the sole purpose of moving the Moai around, and focuses rather on uncovering the role of climate change that may have altered the ecosystem. New cores were obtained in 2005 from Rano Kao that were radiocarbon dated using scirpus seeds. The nine meters of core were sampled for oxygen isotope analysis of the lake water changes, a new science to the island. Detailed palynological studies of pollen and non-pollen palynomorphs uncovered changing vegetation patterns that aligned with a 700 year drought cycle. Conclusions support a cool-dry event that occurred 545 years ago, at which time the giant palms disappeared. While it was not the focus of this study, evidence confirms human occupation for more than 500 years before the disappearance of the trees.





27° 07 south, 109° 22 west

163.6 sq km
63.1 sq mi 

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“No Nation will ever contend for the honour of the discovery of Easter Island as there is hardly an Island in this sea which affords less refreshments, and conveniences for Shiping than it does. Nature has hardly provided it with any thing fit for man to eat or drink, and as the Natives are but few and may be supposed to plant no more than sufficient for themselves, they cannot have much to spare to new comers………Captain James Cook, 1774

Out of the Depths of Ancient Rapa Nui, comes G O N D W A N A, click to see the funny cartoon collage printed in The Onion press…….

Gondwana1 Gondwana2 Gondwana3 Gondwana4

The Orangina Story….. (my adventure continues……)


Films:  (I’ve tried my best to post my videos here, but the server on this system is just not the best, so please visit my video page on myspace for all of my videos (Rapa Nui and more) and YouTube which required me to break the film into four parts, enjoy!!!)

Coral & Lake coring short film  2005

coring Rano Kao  2005

RKE08 (Rano Kao Expedition 2008)

RKE08 part one

RKE08 part two

RKE08 part three

RKE08 part four


PSU Prospectus Approval January 30, 2008

PhD Research    preliminary report 5 May 2005

March 2008

Mission Objective: To core the floating mat at Rano Kao

Rano Kao Expedition

March 17-29, 2008

See Summary under Reports

ICD (core description sheets)

core 1,  core 2,  core 3,    core 4

Sept 2007

Currently working on pollen analysis of 90 samples spaced at 10cm intervals with Prof. Ed Cushing, in the Dept. of Ecology, St. Paul Campus, Univ. of Minn.

Pollen Analysis

University of Minnesota

St. Paul/Minneapolis, Minnesota

Background and Objective: still in progress

2006 – 2007

45 lake sediment samples (20cm intervals of 9 meters of core) are processed by Prof. Brent Wolfe

Cellulose Isotopes

NSERC/Wilfrid Laurier University

Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Background and Objective;

2006 – 2007

new radiocarbon dates processed alongside Tom Guilderson, LLNL

Radiocarbon dating

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories

California, USA

Background and Objective:

summer 2005

Pollen prep

Massey University

Palmerston North, New Zealand


April 2005

Core scanning and archiving

Lacustrine Research Center

Minneapolis, Minnesota


Rano Kao

quicktime movie

2mb         4mb

Coral & Lake coring short film

quicktime movie 100mb

Lake Coring

Rapa Nui (Isla de Pascua, Easter Island) South Pacific


Coring photos

March 2005

Rano Raraku

Published Papers:The Mystery Lies in the Scirpus, Rapa Nui Journal, Fall Issue October 2007


ISES/ASES World Conference August 2005 – paper co-authored Candace Gossen and Chris Stevenson

Prehistoric Solar Innovation and Water Management on Rapa Nui



Society of Woman Geographers Proposal 2008

same as Prospectus Proposal Above

NSF Grant Proposal 2004




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Letters of Support




Rapa Nui Art donated to the Sebastian Englert Museum March 2005

RNArt1 RNArt2 RNArt3 RNArt4
RNArt5 RNArt6 RNArt7 Moai





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The diving team