For those of you I have not had the pleasure of meeting yet, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Yoshi Maezumi. I have recently been awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship for my research proposal FIRE: Fire Intensity in Rainforest Ecotones. I will have the honor of working with an extraordinary team of international, interdisciplinary researchers including Will Gosling, Crystal McMichael, Emiel van Loon, and Boris Jansen from the University of Amsterdam, Boris Vannière from the Université de Franche-Comté, Jose Iriarte from the University of Exeter, and Francisco Cruz from the University of São Paulo. Together we will examine the long-term role of fire in shaping Amazon Rainforest Ecotones.
My research is focused on paleofire (fire in the past) in Neotropical savanna and rainforest ecosystems. My current post-doctoral research at the University of Exeter is investigating the role indigenous fire management practices had on shaping the composition, structure, and flammability of modern Amazonian rainforests.
Recently introduced to a book by Bill Gammage entitled The Biggest Estate on Earth: How the Aborigines Made Australia. Gammage identifies five uses of indigenous fire: 1) to control wildfire fuel; 2) to maintain diversity; 3) to balance species; 4) to ensure abundance; 5) to locate resources conveniently and predictably. Gammage argues that our current regime is struggling with number one. These stages of fire management provide some really interesting food for thought for my Marie Curie Fellowship as I aim to develop new paleoecological techniques to analyze paleofire that will be used to model natural and anthropogenic drivers of paleofire activity.
I have been thinking a lot about what we do and do not know about paleofire. One of the ways we reconstruct past fire activity is through the use of charcoal preserved in lake sediments. Charcoal can tell us a lot about what past fires were like including what kind of plants were burning, how often fires occurred, and potentially how big a fire was. One of the more elusive components is paleofire intensity, or how hot a particular fire was. The temperature of a fire has important ecological implications, as hotter fires tend to cause more ecological damage. Lots of factors can contribute to fire intensity including droughts, fuel loads, vegetation composition and structure, fuel moisture, etc. All of this is to say that, fire intensity is complicated. Nevertheless, one of the main objectives of my Marie Curie research will be to compile what we currently know about the effect of modern fire intensity on the charcoal formation to figure out how that information can be used to interpret charcoal from the palaeorecord.
If you would like to join me on this ‘intense’ paleofire journey, (punny, I know, I just couldn’t resist), I am starting a weekly science blog called Her Science that will highlight the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of my Marie Curie research over the next few years.
Until next time,
Live long and Science On,
My name is Veerle, and I am in my first year of the Master in Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolution track, at the University of Amsterdam. I also completed my BSc Biology at the University of Amsterdam, specializing in Ecology and Global Change. One of my favorite courses during my BSc was Palaeoecology, which led to a BSc research project with William Gosling and Crystal McMichael on the farming history in the Netherlands. I really enjoyed this project and it made me even more interested in palaeoecology. This year I have gotten the amazing opportunity to do another project with Crystal McMichael…. including a field expedition together with Britte Heijink and Nina Witteveen to Panama and Colombia! This was an amazing experience with a lot of fun, mud, insect repellent and most of all really nice cores! I am super excited to tell you about my field experiences, so soon we will post another blog about that!
Now that we’re back in Amsterdam, I’m analyzing phytoliths from Gigante (Panama) to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history. I’m especially interested in past agriculture and forest management to see if there were humans present in the area and how they affected the vegetation. Hopefully I can show you some nice results about that in the future!
My name is Nina Witteveen and I’m doing a research project for my master (Biological Science) with Crystal McMichael and William Gosling. I’m analyzing phytoliths to reconstruct the vegetation changes of Campo Libre (Napo, Ecuador) of the past 30,000 years. It is so exciting to count phytoliths of such an old age!
Simon Scholz is currently doing a charcoal analysis and two years ago, Maaike Zwier performed a physical analysis in the sediment. With all these results combined, I will investigate how climate changes and human influence have changed the vegetation of Campo Libre. Hopefully this research will give more insight into the effect of a changing climate on this biodiversity hotspot!
I’ve completed my thesis for the Biology bachelor at the UvA under the supervision of Crystal and Will. Together with other students we performed phytoliths, pollen and charcoal analysis from sediment of Well-Aaijen (Limburg, the Netherlands). More specifically, I’ve looked at the vegetational changes during the transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers through pollen and phytolith analysis. I’m very happy to be working with Crystal and Will again, this time in a more tropical setting!
In January of this year, I travelled to Panama with Veerle Vink, Britte Heijink and Crystal McMichael. It was a great experience! Surrounded by Howler Monkeys, we made our way through streams and Geonoma palms to collect soil surface samples for future phytolith analysis. Definitely a highlight of my fieldwork so far! I am now back in the microscope lab, and always up for a (paleo)chat 🙂
Valencia, B.G., Bush, M.B., Coe, A.L., Elizabeth, O. & Gosling, W.D. (2018) Polylepis woodland dynamics during the last 20,000 years. Journal of Biogeography online. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13209
My name is Britte Heijink and I’m doing my MSc Biological Science thesis research project with Crystal McMichael and William Gosling. I travelled with Veerle Vink and Crystal to the Colombian part of Amazonia to collect samples for my project. At Amacayacu National Park, we collected soil cores from different locations in the plot. Now that we’re back in Amsterdam, I’m analysing the soils to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history from the plot using charcoal and phytoliths. I am specifically looking to see if humans have been present in the system and how they potentially affected the vegetation at Amacayacu.
I’ve completed my bachelor thesis for Bèta-Gamma (Liberal Arts and Sciences) under the supervision of Crystal and Will here at the UvA. I’m really excited to work with them again, and already looking forward to our meetings at the Oerknal 😉 I will be finished by the end of September, and then possibly return for a literature study.
One of the most wonderful experiences in my academic career so far has been the fieldwork to Panama and Colombia with Crystal, Veerle, and Nina. It was a lot of hard work, and 90% of our time was spent covered in mud, sweat, and insect repellant, but the experience of working in a tropical rainforest was completely worth it! Veerle and I will write another blog about our fieldwork soon. Come see us in the microscope lab if you want to hear our dangerous and amazing stories before that!