AFQUA 2018 – day 4

AFQUA: The African Quaternary environments, ecology and humans
2ndInternational Conference and Workshops
14-22 July 2018-07-15 National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya

Day 4

Yesterday (day 3) was excursion day of the AFQUA conference (photos to follow). Day 4 of the meeting was back in the National Museum Nairobi and kicked off with a session on “African archaeological landscapes”. The opening talk reviewed the career of Karl Butzer who coined the term ‘geoarchaeology’ back in the 1970’s when writing about his work integrating geological, archaeological and anthropological information (C.A. Cordova). Two talks then followed highlighting work on Lake Makagadikgadi from the perspective of archaeology and landscapes (D.S.G Thomas) and geochemical fingerprinting of stone tools to determine their source (D.J. Nash).

To take us up to lunch Boris Vanniere and Daniele Colombaroli gave a ‘double header’ plenary talk highlighting the exciting advances in the development of the Global Charcoal Database and how understanding past fire histories in Africa is key to interpreting environmental change. The after lunch session continued the palaeo-fire theme with records from Lake Botswana (C.E. Cordova), Lake Bosumtwi (W.D. Gosling – me), and Madagascar presented (A. Razafimanantsoa); as well as work on the usefulness of the morphometric’s of charcoal in determining the plant of origin (L.Bremond).

In the final session of the day we were back to “Southern Africa” as a theme. Under which banner we were “boggled” by sea-surface and sub-surface temperature reconstructions (M.A. Berke), shown how to extract climate records from Hyrax middens (B.M. Chase) and given insights into the past flora of the Cape Floristic region from fossil pollen records spanning 130,000 years (L.J. Quick).

Ecological consequences of post-Columbian indigenous depopulation in the Andean-Amazonian corridor

Loughlin, N.J.D., Gosling, W.D., Mothes, P., Montoya, E. (2018) Ecological consequences of post-Columbian indigenous depopulation in the Andean-Amazonian corridor. Nature Ecology and Evolution. DOI : 10.1038/s41559-018-0602-7

AFQUA 2018 – day 2

AFQUA: The African Quaternary environments, ecology and humans
2ndInternational Conference and Workshops
14-22 July 2018-07-15 National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya

Day 2

The second day of the AFQUA conference commenced with the second session on “East Africa” and Prof. Tom Johnson asking the question “Should we drill Lake Victoria?”… and a request for ideas from people to join in with ideas for the proposals for obtaining new sedimentary records from the lake. The East Africa session continued with exploration of Lake Kivu using organic biomarkers to see if past lake ‘explosions’ could be detected (M.E. Berke) and the use of strontium isotopes to detect past climate from lakes in the Turkana Basin (H.J.L. van der Lubbe).

Before lunch the second plenary talk of the conference was delivered by Prof. Sharon Nicolson who made it very clear that the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone does NOT play an important role in controlling rainfall patterns across Africa (see Nicholson, 2018).

After lunch the first oral sessions covered “Southern Africa” and included d13C records from Bobab trees (S. Woodborne and E. Razanatsoa), early human finds in cascade tufas (M.A. Pickford), and quantitative climate reconstructions from pollen using the CREST software (M. Chevalier). After the break we were back for “Quantitative palaeoclimatology, modelling and data-model comparison” thinking about what is abrupt (M. Claussen), the impact of atmospheric CO2 on plants (V.J. Hare), and connectivity between lakes in the Kenyan rift (R. Dommain). Then it was off to the hotel bar to watch the football…

AFQUA 2018 – day 1

AFQUA: The African Quaternary environments, ecology and humans
2ndInternational Conference and Workshops
14-22 July 2018-07-15 National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya

My first AFQUA conference really began the day before the conference proper started in the Kenyan immigration queue where I met a number of fellow delegates who were flying in from all over the world.  It was great to start to put faces to names of people who’s work I had read for many years. Once out of the airport transfer to the hotel was smooth, and it was with some excitement that the following morning I made the short walk from the hotel to the famous Nairobi National Museum for the start of the conference.

Day 1

Prof. Andy Cohen (one of my fellow delegates in the immigration line) kicked off the AFQUA conference with a plenary giving an overview of African continental drilling projects. He traced the dream of the recovery of long continental records back to Daniel Livingstone and Neil Opdyke’s workshop from 1980 that set out the dream of obtaining long records from the continent. He then went on to give examples of how multi-millennial lake records, including Lake Malawi, can be used to understand the tempo of ecological change.

The first session of the conference, entitled “East Africa”, included: exciting evidence of Deinotherium the largest land mammal of the Quaternary (J.-P. Brugal), the use of d13C in determining homonin ecology (V.M. Iminjili), and evidence from a new c. 200,000 year old site at Natodomeri (Kenya) that contains evidence of homonids, elephids, giant lions and pigmy hippos (F.K. Manthi).

The second session of AFQUA covered “The environmental context for homonin evolution and dispersal”. This started with geochemical data from Chew Bahir that sheds light on potential drivers of climatic shifts (F. Schabitz), and included examination of changes climate between c. 500,000 and 320,000 years ago that coincided with the shift from hominid use of large cutting tools to smaller implements (R. Potts), and discussion of the environment the route which hominids took out of Africa (F. Henselowsky).

BES Palaeoecology Special Interest Group

BES logoThe British Ecological Society is preparing for the launch of a new “Palaeoecology” Special Interest Group (SIG) at the Annual Meeting 2018 in Birmingham.

As part of the launch there will be a Thematic Session at the Birmingham meeting entitled Advancing our understanding of long-term ecology: combining ecological and palaeoecology approaches and metrics”and organised by Althea Davies and Ambroise Baker.

To find out how to get involved and join the SIG contact the organizers Althea Davies and/or Jane Bunting.

Palynologische Kring meeting May 2018

Palynologische Kring meeting
Date: 31/05/2018
Location: Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam
Organizer: Carina Hoorn

Program

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Columbus’ footprint in Hispaniola

Open access for 50 days with this link: https://authors.elsevier.com/c/1X6ja7tFrJFBkG

Castilla-Beltrán, A., Hooghiemstra, H., Hoogland, M.L.P., Pagán-Jiménez, J., van Geel, B., Field, M.H., Prins, M., Donders, T., Malatesta, E.H., Hung, J.U., McMichael, C.H., Gosling, W.D. & Hofman, C.L. Columbus’ footprint in Hispaniola: a paleoenvironmental record of Indigenous and Colonial impacts on the landscape of the central Cibao Valley, northern Dominican Republic. Anthropocene. DOI: 10.1016/j.ancene.2018.05.003

Introducing Yoshi Maezumi

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Greetings Paleo-Family!

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,

-yoshi

Introducing Veerle Vink

Hiking though the jungle in Panama (San Lorenzo)
Hiking though the jungle in Panama (San Lorenzo)

Hi All!

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!

Collecting the soil
Collecting the soil

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!

Cheers,

Veerle

Introducing Nina Witteveen

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 🙂

 

The legacy of Alexander von Humboldt

The Journal of Biogeography is keen to highlight the current call for contributions to a special issue entitled: “The legacy of Alexander von Humboldt: Exploring the links between geo- and biodiversity” to find out more visit the special issue web pages here.

Polylepis woodland dynamics during the last 20,000 years

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