Three new videos on the Ecology of the Past Youtube channel

July 25, 2014
philjardine

We’ve got a bumper crop of palaeoecological film making for you today, with three videos uploaded to our very own ‘Ecology of the Past’ Youtube channel. We’ve got an interview with Will Gosling, talking about the Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project and his own background and career (it’s a timely and somewhat poignant addition to the channel, because this is Will’s last day at The Open University before heading off to Amsterdam). Also posted are research presentations by Frazer Bird and Hayley Keen, which were filmed during the PhD student conference on 21st May. For the first time at the Open University these presentations were carried out in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) format.

3rd BES Macroecology SIG meeting

July 23, 2014
philjardine

Last week I went to the University of Nottingham for the third BES Macroecology Special Interest Group annual meeting. Macroecology concerns itself with ecological patterns and processes at large spatial and/or temporal scales, and so is a natural place to link palaeoecological research with that of modern ecologists and biogeographers. The conference took place over two days, and comprised a mix of 5 minute lightning talks, longer invited talks (including two keynotes by Catherine Graham of Stony Brook University, New York) and discussion sessions.

The lightning talks covered a wide range of subjects, including maximising phylogenetic diversity in the Kew Seed Bank, outstanding problems with species distribution modelling, morphological variability in Madagascan tenrecs, and latitudinal gradients in pollination mechanism. The breakout discussion groups focused on questions inspired by Edge.org, such as ‘Which ecological concepts are ready for retirement?’ and ‘What should worry macroecologists most?’; I led a group discussing ‘Should macroecology be more interdisciplinary?’ (yes, but with caution was our rather non-committal answer).

There are plans to hold next year’s Macroecology SIG meeting at the Centre for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (CMEC) at the University of Copenhagen, and I’d like to encourage palaeoecologists to consider attending. Chatting to the delegates at the Nottingham meeting, there certainly is a growing interest in ecological change over longer timescales and the role of history in shaping modern biotas, and so palaeoecologists have a lot to offer to these sorts of research areas. Copenhagen’s got to be a nice place for a conference as well…

An interview with Phil Jardine

July 1, 2014
philjardine

Well, we’ve heard from Wes and Adele, and now it’s my turn (Phil Jardine) for a bit of a chat on the “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel. Similar to the previous interview videos, I’m talking about my role on the Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project, and what I’ve done (academically speaking) prior to coming to the Open University. Enjoy!

For more videos check out the “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel.

An interview with Adele Julier

May 26, 2014
philjardine

Following on from Wes Fraser’s insightful and revealing interview, cactus-hugger Adele Julier tells us about her academic background and her role on the Lake Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project.

 

For more videos check out the “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel.

An interview with Wes Fraser

May 6, 2014
philjardine

Our next video to be uploaded to the ‘Ecology of the past’ Youtube channel is a short interview with Wes Fraser, Co-Investigator on the Bosumtwi project and developer of the pollen chemistry ultraviolet-B proxy. Wes talks about his role on the project, his background, and what excites him most about this current research. Similar ‘talking heads’ style interviews will follow over the coming weeks for each of the key researchers on the project.

For more videos check out the “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel.

A sociometabolic reading of the Anthropocene

March 28, 2014
philjardine

 

Human impacts on environments

Human impact on environments takes many forms and varies in space and time

Phil Jardine on:

Fischer-Kowalski, M., Krausmann, F. & Pallua, I. (2014) A sociometabolic reading of the Anthropocene: Modes of subsistence, population size and human impact on Earth. The Anthropocene Review, 1(1), 8 – 33.

Regardless of whether it’s worthwhile designating the “Anthropocene” as a new geological epoch (I have my doubts), determining the trajectory of human impact upon the Earth system is important. It provides context for how people see their relationship with natural systems and resources, and can help shape environmental policy and its acceptance by the public. But where to put the onset of this impact – where does the Anthropocene start? The authors of this paper belong to the Institute of Social Ecology at Klagenfurt University, Austria, and take a social sciences approach to the problem. Rather than focusing on physical evidence in the environment, as a geologist might do to delimit a geological epoch, Fischer-Kowalski et al. use a model where human impact is measured as the product of population size, affluence (= energy available per person) and technology, summed over three modes of subsistence: hunter-gatherers, agrarian and industrial. This avoids problems of time lags between human activity and the signature it leaves, and allows the authors to pull apart different driving factors across different societal types.

Using this approach shows a definite shift at around AD 1500: human impact was gradually increasing prior to this, but there is a sharp upturn at ~AD 1500, energy use becomes more important for amplifying the impact of population growth, and a shift from biomass to fossil fuel driven energies enhances this further. While there are problems with this approach – determining energy throughput for long-dead societies will always involve a lot of extrapolation from modern patterns – the authors are careful in stating their assumptions, and going through possible issues with the model itself. It would have been nice to see a comparison between the model output and the empirical evidence though, to help bridge the gap between these two different takes on the same question.

“Ecology of the past” YouTube channel

March 19, 2014
philjardine

"Ecology of the past" YouTube channel launched

“Ecology of the past” YouTube channel launched

With the redesign and refocusing of the blog underway, I’m delighted to announce the launch of our very own “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel. Initially this will host videos produced as part of the Lake Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project, which includes a strong emphasis on impact and outreach activities. The videos are being targeted to a secondary school/sixth form audience, and will demonstrate both how we are doing the research and who we are as academics, highlighting the different roles and career pathways within the team. As time goes on this channel will be a platform for videos from other members of the research group, again showing who we are, what we do and how we do it.

For now, here are the first two videos: a diary of the field trip to Ghana that Adele and I went on last Autumn, and an accompanying piece showing how you too can make your own pollen trap. Enjoy!

Blog at WordPress.com.