On Jan 1, 2018 I (Crystal McMichael) get to ring in the New Year in the best way possible by heading off to the tropics to do fieldwork! And this time I get to take two students with me. Britte Heijink and Veerle Vink are both in the Biological Sciences MSc program (Ecology and Evolution track), and they are going to work on research projects that are associated with a recent grant that I was awarded through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute CTFS-ForestGEO Research Grants Program.
Job: Post-doctoral researcher in Neotropical Palaeoecology
Location: Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam
Duration: 3 years
Deadline for applications: 15 January 2018
We are seeking to recruit a Neotropical palaeoecologist to join the recently funded “The past peoples of Amazonia: Assessing ecological legacies” project (PI Dr. Crystal McMichael, funding NWO, based within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics). The project aims to reconstruct cultural histories from lake sediments in northwestern Amazonia, and link past human activities with modern ecological observations. The project involves analyzing microfossils (including pollen, phytoliths, and charcoal), and the development of a transfer function that estimates past human impacts in tropical forest systems.
We are particularly looking for a candidate with expertise and experience, in:
For more details and how to apply click here.
Focus on Global Ecology, including: global biodiversity patterns and ecosystem functioning, human impacts on biodiversity, biogeography of species interactions, and/or global changes in ecosystems, biodiversity and ecosystem services.
For more details and how to apply click here.
The second and third weeks of the Environments Through Time course at the University of Amsterdam has focused on obtaining practical experience of developing chronologies, analyzing multi-variate data-sets, and conducting time series analysis. The focus of the course has been on Quaternary environmental change, however, the skills learnt can be applied to almost any time-scale so long as you have time control points you want to tie together, and multiple things you can track changing through that time.
Over the two week period the students worked on a previously published paper that they had selected that contains: (i) chronological information (at least 3 control points), and (ii) multiple variables that change through the time series (at least 9 variables). In week two they deconstructed the chronologies and generated their own revised versions. For example students have (re-)calibrated radiocarbon dates, made different decisions on dates to include/exclude, and used different approaches to constructing the age vs. depth model, e.g. contrasting linear point-to-point vs. Bayesian methodologies. In week three they have taken the data-set(s) associated with their paper and re-evaluated it in light of the revised chronologies using cluster analysis, ordination techniques, and wavelets.
Through this exercise students have gained experience of how to critically assess scientific literature and gained an appreciation of where re-analysis of data-sets can (and cannot) make a difference. Personally I have be delighted with the high level of engagement and enthusiasm for the material and have been excited to have a chance to delve into literature that I would not otherwise be aware of.
For more information on this course see: Environments Through Time – week 1
The first, ever, week of the Environments Through Time course at the University of Amsterdam has just finished. The course sits within the MSc Biological Sciences (Ecology & Evolution) and MSc Earth Sciences (Geo-ecosystem Dynamics) but is also avaliable to other masters students. In the first week we have thought about four main topics:
The week was completed with each student giving a three (3) minute presentation of their favourite paper. The papers presented ranged from the extinction of giant sharks, through forest-savannah transitions, to how climate change thwarted Ghengis Kahn. Next week we continue by disecting how chronologies are constructed.
By Crystal McMichael
The Llanos de Moxos in Bolivia is an area the size of England that has one of the highest densities of archaeological sites in the Amazon basin. I travelled there for the first time earlier this month for the fourth International Meeting of Amazonian Archaeology. As the airplane crossed from the Andes into the Amazon plains, I could tell this was a very different ‘Amazonia’ compared with the forests that I know from Peru, Ecuador, and western Brazil. The Llanos de Moxos is a seasonally flooded savanna and it was so…open! I immediately realized that the perception of ‘Amazonia’ varies widely among individuals, and I think that is one of the reasons why those of us who study the human history of Amazonia tend to disagree so frequently.