Dylan Hillis

Dylan Hillis

PhD student


Iain McKechnie


Evolution and ecology


I am a PhD student working under the supervision of Dr. Iain McKechnie in the Historical Ecology and Coastal Archaeology (HECA) Lab. Drawing upon archaeological methods and ecological modelling techniques, my research examines the history of ocean climate change on the Northwest Coast and how coastal Indigenous fisheries responded to and managed environmental change. My NSERC and SSHRC-funded doctoral research aims to document millennia of Indigenous fishing effort, establish ocean temperature baselines, and identify resilient fisheries practices that can inform contemporary management.

I completed my BA at the University of Victoria in 2018, double majoring in Anthropology and Geography with a focus on environmental sustainability. In the final year of my BA, I conducted honours research that examined dietary variation in ancient domestic dogs on the West Coast of Vancouver Island (Barkley Sound) using stable isotope modelling techniques. I completed my MA at the University of Victoria in 2022. My Master’s research investigated ocean temperature change over the past five millennia at two ancient Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation village sites in Barkley Sound, BC, using quantitative approaches to zooarchaeological data. Since finishing my degree, I have continued to work as a Research Assistant in the HECA Lab and served as the teaching assistant for the UVic Barkley Sound Archaeology Field School (2021 and 2022).


My research interests include anthropology, climate change, coastal and island archaeology, domestic dogs, ecology, environmental archaeology, fisheries, food security, historical ecology, Indigenous food systems, Northwest coast archaeology, Nuu-chah-nulth archaeology, resource management, resilience theory, sea otters, stable isotope analysis, zooarchaeology, ZooMS. Outside of academia, my interests include birding, cartography, habitat restoration, hiking, and sea kayaking.

Positionality Statement:

I would like to acknowledge with respect the privilege it is to work and study in the Indigenous lands of the Esquimalt, Lekwungen, Songhees, and WSÁNEĆ peoples. I was born and raised on Salt Spring Island and grew up amongst the southern Gulf Islands – lands that reside within the traditional and unceeded territories of Coast Salish peoples.

As a descendent of settlers, my family has resided in British Columbia for four generations and has primarily engaged in the forestry and fishing industries. My family’s connection to the commercial fishing industry and my own experience working as a deckhand on my father’s fishboat has been instrumental in fostering my sense of place and identities. Ultimately, this heritage motivates my interest in marine historical ecology and fisheries management.


Salomon, A., Okamoto, D., Wilson, K.B., Happynook, H.T., Wickaninnish., Mack, W.A., Davidson, S.H.A., Guujaaw, G., Humchitt, W.W.H., Happynook, T.M., Cox, W.C., Gillette, H.F., Christiansen, N.S., Dragon, D., Kobluck, H., Lee, L., Tinker, T.M., Silver, J., Armitage, D., McKechnie, I., MacNeil, A., Hillis, D., Muhl, E., Gregr, E., Commander, C., & A. Augustine. (2023). Disrupting and diversifying the values, voices, and governance principles that shape biodiversity science and management. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 1881(378). https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2022.0196

Hillis, D., Gustas, R., Pauly, D., Cheung, W., Salomon, A., & McKechnie, I. (2022). A paleothermometer of ancient indigenous fisheries reveal increases in mean temperature of the catch over five millennia. Environmental Biology of fishes, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10641-022-01243-7

Hillis, D., McKechnie, I., Guiry, E., St. Claire, D. E., & Darimont, C. T. (2020). Ancient dog diets on the Pacific Northwest Coast: zooarchaeological and stable isotope modelling evidence from Tseshaht territory and beyond. Scientific reports, 10(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-71574-x