A fortnight of palaeoecology at the University of Amsterdam!

BSc student Henk Cornelissen presents his thesis work on identifying charcoal characteristics that represent specific fire parameters, such as burn temperature. Photo: C. McMichael
BSc student Henk Cornelissen presents his thesis work on identifying charcoal characteristics that represent specific fire parameters, such as burn temperature. Photo: C. McMichael

by Crystal McMichael

Wimbledon tennis fortnight is on its way, but we’ve had our own palaeoecology fortnight here at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam. We’ve seen seminars on reconstructing past landscapes and climates on timescales of decades to millions of years, and on spatial scales ranging from single sites to the entire Earth. Our presenters included our BSc students, MSc students, PhD candidates, faculty members, guest researchers, and even an internationally known palaeoclimatologist and contributor to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports!

BSc student Isa Mulder presents her thesis on reconstructing glacial-aged fire histories from the Andes. Photo: C. McMichael
BSc student Isa Mulder presents her thesis on reconstructing glacial-aged fire histories from the Andes. Photo: C. McMichael

We began with a three-day series of presentations from our BSc students in the Future Planet studies program. William Gosling and I had four students that presented their final theses. We continued with a seminar series organized by the Palynologische Kring (the Dutch palynology society). Eric Grimm, a guest researcher at UvA, presented a high resolution record of hydrological variability, vegetation, and fire from the Great Plains of the United States. Guest researcher Carina Hoorn showed us how the Amazon River formed, and the associated plant turnover that occurred during the Neogene. PhD student Keith Richards explained to us why the Arctic seal became land-locked in the Caspian Sea over 2.6 million years ago. PhD student Suzette Flantua presented a multi-proxy approach to exploring the biogeographic history of the Andes Mountains. She came back the following day to present her PhD thesis entitled, “Ecosystems in Pleistocene Latin America”. And we are happy to report that Suzette is now Dr. Flantua!!

Suzette Flantua highlights the work in her PhD thesis. Congratulations Suzette! Photo: C. McMichael
Suzette Flantua highlights the work in her PhD thesis. Congratulations Suzette! Photo: C. McMichael
Dr. William Gosling and Prof. Jonathan Overpeck discuss the future of palaeoecology and upcoming collaborations. Photo: C. McMichael
Dr. William Gosling and Prof. Jonathan Overpeck discuss the future of palaeoecology and upcoming collaborations. Photo: C. McMichael

Professor Jonathan Overpeck from the University of Michigan also delivered a seminar entitled “New paleoclimatic perspectives on the future of terrestrial systems: bigger change, higher confidence?” Our society faces serious challenges involving current and future rates of climate change, and this seminar highlighted the importance of palaeoecology for assessing how the planet will respond to these changes.

Our presenters included males and females from multiple countries at an array of career stages. I am glad to have been a part of this fortnight, and I am glad that our current students got to see such a diverse integration of people and palaeoecology. My hope is at least one of these students has been inspired by these seminars, and will develop the same passion for palaeoecology as what we’ve seen here over the last two weeks.

 

 

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