I am sitting on the shore of Lago Condorcillo in Southern Ecuador, after a long day of travel, trying to control my shivering. At roughly 10,500 ft. above sea level, the lake is very cold, with wind that howls over the barren hills dotted with giant boulders. The lake is also almost always blanketed by thick fog and pelted by driving rain. When you’re surrounded by the thick fog punctuated by lightning bolts, it’s easy to believe that some lost civilization lurks just out of sight. Tonight we are experiencing lightning storms, which is adding to the feeling that some angry, ancient life form must live at Lago Condorcillo.
Tomorrow, I will be out in the cold and rain, balancing on an inflatable boat and fighting frostbite. Mark Bush, who is my Ph.D. advisor, Courtney Shadik, who is my lab partner and tent buddy, and I will be collecting cores of mud from the bottom of Condorcillo. We will create our rig for coring by tying two inflatable boats together, and placing a wooden platform between them. Mark, Courtney, and I will then collect our mud cores from this platform.
As I’m contemplating the hazards of camping in a lightning storm, Mark says, “Tell me everything that went wrong today.” Courtney pulls a sleeping bag closer to her. I begin to describe how Google Maps can’t seem to understand distance in the Andes, and so traveling to Lago Condorcillo took much longer than we anticipated. Courtney laughs beside me and adds, “We don’t have any matches to start a fire.” Despite our troubles, I am grinning from ear to ear, no doubt spoiling the grim mood Mark is attempting to cultivate and Lago Condorcillo is doing its best to enforce.
Amazonia – natural wilderness or abandoned parkland?
By Judith Kirschner (currently studying for MSc Earth Sciences: Geo-ecological Dynamics track at the University of Amsterdam)
In the 4th edition of our “Amsterdam Paleoecology Club” (APC), we discussed ‘A 6900-year history of landscape modification by humans in lowland Amazonia’ by Bush et al. (2006)1. The high-resolution record presented in this paper shows impressively that what we might perceive as native rainforest today could rather be a since a long time actively modified landscape.
The chronology from Lake Sauce (Peruvian Andes) suggests a continuously forested landscape under significant anthropogenic impact over the last 6900 years. Indicators of human activity are taken to be the varying presence of crop pollen (Zea mays) throughout the record, combined with the continuous occurrence of charcoal. Two extra-large fire events are dated at c. 6700 and between 4500-4230 cal BP, probably enhanced by the relatively drier climate of the mid-Holocene. However, it is not clear yet if human actions formed a response to climate change or were part of social and cultural changes.
By Inge van Haaften (currently studying for MSc Biological Sciences, Ecology & Evolution track at the University of Amsterdam)
For this “Amsterdam Palaeoecology Club” (APC) meeting we did not discuss a paper, instead I presented my progress on my second research internship of my master’s on the geolocation of pollen samples under the supervision of dr. C. N. H. McMichael. The other students were asked to read the paper ‘Forensic palynology: Why do it and how it works’ by Mildenhall et al. (2006). This paper gives a review of the use of palynological analysis for criminal investigation, which ties in with my research.
We are currently looking for a new representative to join the British Ecological Society (BES) Education and Careers Committee (ECC) of which I am currently the chair. I have been involved with the BES for may years first attending a conference in 2000 (Warwick University), running the Tropical Ecology special interest group (2006-2009), as an ordinary member of council (2010-2014), and chairing the ECC (2014-2020). Throughout my envolvement with the BES I have had positive experiences and enjoyed contributing to a society that can get things done. Since I have been involved with ECC we have launced under-graduate and A-level summer schools, introduced a mentoring scheme for acadmices, and helped to encourage academics to engage the public with science. If you are interested in helping us to develop the activity of the society please consider joining us!
For full details visit the advert on the BES web page by clicking here.
Closing date: 22 March 2019
van der Sande, M.T., Gosling, W.D., Correa-Metrio, A., Prado-Junior, J., Poorter, L., Oliveira, R.S., Mazzei, L. & Bush, M.B. (2019) A 7000-year history of changing plant trait composition in an Amazonian landscape; the role of humans and climate. Ecology Letters DOI: 10.1111/ele.13251
Read Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics press release:
Millennial-scale effects of human disturbance on tropical forests
Hagemans, K., Tóth, C.-D., Ormaza, M., Gosling, W.D., Urrego, D.H., León-Yánez, S., Wagner-Cremer, F. & Donders, T.H. (2019) Modern pollen-vegetation relationships along a steep temperature gradient in the Tropical Andes of Ecuador. Quaternary Research online. DOI: 10.1017/qua.2019.4