The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record

March 23, 2020
WDG

Kirschner, J.* & Hoorn, C. (2019) The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record Frontiers of Biogeography DOI:10.21425/F5FBG44827

*Judith conducted this work as part of her MSc Earth Sciences: Geo-ecological Dynamics degree at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam.

Modelling the distribution of Amazonian tree species in response to long-term climate change during the Mid-Late Holocene

March 21, 2020
WDG

Gomes, V.H.F., Mayle, F.E., Gosling, W.D., Vieira, I.C.G., Salomão, R.P. & ter Steege, H. (2020) Modelling the distribution of Amazonian tree species in response to long-term climate change during the Mid-Late Holocene. Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13833

Introducing Cas Verbeek

March 4, 2020
WDG

Cas Verbeek

Cas Verbeek

Hey everyone!

For those who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet; I am Cas Verbeek, a second years Ecology and Evolution MSc student at the University of Amsterdam. For the coming months I am excited to be working with William and Letty to investigate the difference in allergenicity between pollen from urban and rural environments.

This project fits nicely with my BSc thesis where I investigated the taxonomy and phylogeny of pollen chemistry. Hopefully I can apply the experience I have gained there to help make this a successful project! Besides, the data we will be collecting could build on the data I collected during my BSc thesis and help to further unravel the taxonomic and phylogenetic information contained in the chemistry of pollen. I am looking forward to the work that I will be doing with William and Letty, and to share and discuss our progress here with all of you!

-Cas

Urban vs. rural pollen in the Netherlands

February 26, 2020
WDG

Urban vs. rural pollen chemistry project design

Figure 1: (a) Illustrative images of sample locations in Amsterdam and the Hoge Veluwe. (b) The newly developed ‘pollen sniffer’ collects airborne pollen from the environment. (c) The FTIR can chemically characterise individual pollen grains.

Does environmental pollution enhance the allergenic nature of pollen? This is the question that drives my NWO Idea Generator grant that has just started. This project links up the pollen chemistry expertise in my group within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics (University of Amsterdam) and the work of Letty de Weger into human health and pollen (Leiden University Medical Centrum). Over the 2020 flowering season we will be monitoring pollen in Amsterdam (urban) and in the Hoge Veluwe (rural) in the space in which people have allergic reactions to see if there is any chemical difference between the pollen in urban and rural settings.

We are delighted that Cas Verbeek has joined the team as a Research Assistant; taking time out from his MSc Biological Sciences degree (University of Amsterdam). Cas is already busy in the field and lab fine tuning our collection and analysis protocols.

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Palaeoecology out on the frontier

February 18, 2020
WDG

Guest post by Dr. Lynne Quick (Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory)

Lynne QuickThe transition from Early Career Researcher (ECR) to head of a new laboratory

When you are in the midst of working on your PhD you feel that this must surely be the toughest challenge you’ll ever face, only to emerge on the other side and realise that it was a holiday in comparison to the academic journey post-PhD.

I completed my PhD at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and immediately launched myself into a postdoctoral fellowship embedded in a relatively large international research initiative. Building on the expertise and knowledge I gained from my postgraduate work, I generated new pollen and microcharcoal records from the southern Cape and west coast regions of South Africa in order to reveal details about how climate and associated environmental conditions have changed during the Holocene. I found the transition from working almost entirely independently on my PhD to collaborating within the context of a large multidisciplinary and multinational team equally very exciting, and very challenging. At this time imposter syndrome hit me hard and I had a bit of an existential crisis (I’m overqualified, too specialized and not earning enough, what the hell am I doing with my life? – I know we’ve all been there!). Just as I was about to give up on academia, I was approached by Nelson Mandela University, one of the smaller, lesser known, public universities in South Africa, situated in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. After a lot of soul searching, I accepted a research fellowship at NMU, moved out of my home in Cape Town (where I had lived my entire life) and relocated to a new city – by myself, with no contacts, friends or family there.

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Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory

February 17, 2020
WDG

Guest post by Dr. Lynne Quick (Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory)

NMU Palaeoecology LaboratoryThe primary focus of the new state-of-the-art palaeoecology laboratory at Nelson Mandela University is to conduct palynological studies, with a strong geographic emphasis on the Cape south coast and the Cape Floristic Region in general. While our initial and primary focus will be on pollen analysis, our overarching goal is to establish a highly versatile open science resource-base for palaeoscience research at Nelson Mandela University.

Lynne QuickHead of Laboratory:  Dr Lynne Quick

Lynne Quick is a Senior Research Fellow associated with the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University. She is a palynologist with interests in palaeoecology and palaeoclimatology. She is working on the development of new palaeoenvironmental records in southern Africa and has a key focus on the vegetation history and past climate dynamics of the Cape Floristic Region. Lynne is the President of the Southern African Society for Quaternary Research (SASQUA), a Vice President of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) and a member of the scientific steering committee of the AFQUA (African Quaternary: Environments, Ecology and Humans) initiative. [Email: lynne.j.quick@gmail.com |Twitter: @drljquick]

Erin HilmerSenior Laboratory Technician: Ms Erin Hilmer

Erin Hilmer completed an undergraduate BSc degree at Nelson Mandela University followed by an honours in geology at the University of Stellenbosch. In addition to her role as the Senior Laboratory Technician of the new palaeolab, she manages Port Elizabeth’s only pollen and spore trap and generates weekly pollen and spore data for the city. This work forms part of a national monitoring network (www.pollencount.co.za). She also has expertise in geochronology and scanning electron (SEM) microscopy.

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