How can we conserve species in the face of anthropogenic climate change?

March 15, 2019
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Participants of the meeting

Participants of the meeting

The International Conference on Past Plant Diversity, Climate Change, and Mountain Conservation was aimed to address this question, with a focus on mountain (montane) species. As climate warms, there are several outcomes for montane species. They can migrate upslope, go extinct, or adapt to the warming conditions. Given these options, we got together to discuss our most recent datasets, and the best strategies for the conservation of montane species. Effective conservation strategies are crucial for the survival of many rare and endemic montane species, because climate is indeed warming, regardless of what Trump or Fox News tries to tell people.

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Off to the tropics!!

December 26, 2017
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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.

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Job: Post-doctoral researcher in Palaeoecology

November 30, 2017
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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:

  • Fieldwork in remote areas.
  • Neotropical pollen.
  • Quantitative analysis, including familiarity with R and Geographical Information Systems.
  • Academic publication.

For more details and how to apply click here.

Exploring the Llanos de Moxos, Bolivia

November 1, 2017
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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.

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A fortnight of palaeoecology at the University of Amsterdam!

June 27, 2017
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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.

 

 

Palaeoecology at UvA and Twente 2015: Teaching and Learning

September 21, 2015
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By Crystal McMichael

The month-long palaeoecology module at UvA is coming to an end. We have had two weeks of lectures and microscope work, an introduction to quantitative palaeoecology, and we just finished a week of fieldwork in Twente, which is in the easternmost part of the Netherlands.

Students working in the field (photo: M. Groot)

Students working in the field (photo: M. Groot)

Will Gosling and I tried something new for the field excursion this year. We split the class into eight groups, and gave each group a set of pollen and phytolith samples from an ‘unknown location’. Unknown in this context means being from one of the eight primary sites that we would visit during the field excursion. The students were required to perform vegetation surveys and characterize soils at each of the primary sites that we visited. The goal of each group was to figure out which location their set of ‘unknown’ samples came from. Basically, we had them doing forensic palynology, with idea that they could then better visualize the different vegetation assemblages seen in the palaeoecological records.
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