One of the great challenges for the 21st century will be creating solutions to linked social and environmental change. Archaeology is uniquely poised to make a significant contribution to this debate by helping to explain trajectories of socio-ecosystem evolution over long time scales. With National Science Foundation support Dr. Christopher Fisher, and an international team of colleagues will conduct two seasons of multi-disciplinary research in West Central Mexico to explore relationships between climatic fluctuation, landscape change, and the formation of the Prehistoric Tarascan (Purépecha) Empire. At the time of European contact the Lake Pátzcuaro Basin (LPB) was the geopolitical core of the Tarascan Empire and has long been recognized as a Mesoamerican core region. Prior to European conquest the LPB contained a large population, centralized settlement system, social stratification, and a highly engineered environment.