“Can you go back” by Mark Bush – Part 2

September 21, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

The second of three guest blog posts by Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology). Click here to read Part 1.

The next two days were spent in motorized dugouts sitting on our gear bags, with tarps pulled over us. Every now and then the driving rain would relent and we would see macaws and toucans flying across the Aguarico River. We stayed one night in a village that had been abandoned due to recent floods, another with Siona hunters who were preparing their blow darts (for monkeys). There were very few houses along the river and we hardly saw another boat in three days. Then we arrived, well almost. We had turned off the main channel onto the tiny Zancudo river.  Little used, this stream was a jumble of fallen trees that the Siona chopped their way through. A large tree just beneath the surface posed a problem that was solved by stripping the bark from Cecropiatrees and laying it inside surface facing up, backing up, revving the engine, and aiming straight for the bark. The slick insides of the Cecropiaallowed the canoes to shoot the trunk and on we went. Then we reached the marsh. When I say ‘marsh’ it was a forest of Montricardia arborescens. This is an aquatic Aroid that grows about 3 m high. The trunks are about 3-5 cm in diameter and is THE favored hangout for caiman and anaconda (I have since learned). No Siona in their right mind gets out of a boat in such a marsh and so we were stuck……so close but yet so far. Our only chance of getting through the marsh was to hop out of the boats and pull them through.

The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988. Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.

The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988.
Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.

We had two boats and so the most dispensable members of the team, Paulo de Oliveira and I, were given the job of hauling the boats. A couple of happy hours later we were through the marsh and onto the lake.

Our first jobs were to find somewhere dry enough to camp, unload, set up camp, and survey the lake. Paul Colinvaux the team leader always launched an inflatable and surveyed the lake on first arrival. Meanwhile the rest of us set up camp. About 20 minutes into all this activity there was the unmistakable crack of a shotgun. In a few more minutes the Chief’s sons emerged from the forest with the news that they had shot a large tapir. The tapir fed the group for the next few days, but I ate tuna and a sausage that had turned blue and slimy, unable to reconcile my role in, what to me, was an unfortunate outcome of our petitioning the Siona to bring us to their sacred lake. The coring was more successful than at Cuyabeno in that we recovered 5m of sediment, but it was clearly a young system and wouldn’t answer our research question. This expedition was a disappointment scientifically, but an incredible snapshot along the gradient of Amazonian development.

To be continued…

“Can you go back” by Mark Bush – Part 1

September 17, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

This is the first in a special series of three guest blog posts by my friend, mentor and collaborator the tropical palaeoecologist and biogeographer Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology).

We are often told that you “cannot go back”, meaning that a place that provided wonderful memories will disappoint when revisited. Putting this into current conservation-speak we don’t like to be reminded that our baselines are shifting. Recently I had a chance to revisit a part of Ecuadorean Amazonia I had not been to for 30 years. I was a bit hesitant to go. Would I be disappointed or could the experience live up to my recollection?

In 1988, I went on a lengthy field season in Ecuador. We were searching for a glacial-age record that could test the refugial hypothesis of Amazonian speciation. Some lakes that lay in Ecuadorian Amazonia showed promise as they appeared to be a long way from major river channels, and only connected by their outlets into the Cuyabeno River. Would these lakes hold glacial-aged records? Would they show a history of rainforest or savanna during the last ice age?

We started from the frontier town of Lago Agrio, which was rough in every way, dirty, and somewhere we couldn’t wait to leave.  Driving to the end of the road and then picking up motorized canoes we were, by nightfall, able to get to the first tourist/research lodge to be established in what is now the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve. The trip there was basically uneventful, but a quick tour of the lake in our motorized dugout revealed a substantial inflowing river that had been hidden by cloud on the aerial imagery. We had been hoping for a headwater system, not an essentially riverine lake. Nevertheless, we cored the middle of the lake. The coring was tough as the river was washing clays into the system and these settled to form stiff, sticky, gray sediments. After one or two meters of coring, hammering was essential to get any penetration, but getting the core back out was the real challenge. The inflatable boats were sinking as we strained upward on the coring rig, but still we couldn’t break the device free from the clay. We tried everything: we clamped the boats to the coring rig when they were fully flooded, then bailed the boats out, hoping the added buoyancy would break the corer free. It didn’t. So we refilled the boats, re-clamped, bailed, and then all jumped out. Still nothing. In the end we resorted to the nuclear option, which is to hammer upward on the drill rig. The modified Livingstone coring rig we were using was designed to be hammered downward, but hammering upward can seriously damage the drill string. Nevertheless, it worked. Darkness was closing over us by the time we managed to free the rig, but already we knew that the core wasn’t the glacial-age record we had been hoping for. Faces in camp that evening were pretty glum. As the old axiom goes, we defined insanity by repeating the procedure in the next lake in the chain and, unsurprisingly, got the same outcome – another young core.

Victoriano, Haki, shaman and head of the Siona Nation in Cuyabeno. Photo: M. Bush.

Victoriano, Haki, shaman and head of the Siona Nation in Cuyabeno. Photo: M. Bush.

We resolved to move on and try another target system, Laguna Zancudococha. Our hosts and guides were members of the Siona nation, and their Hako (Chief) was a vibrant 82-year old called Victoriano. There was a long discussion deciding whether we could go to Zancudococha as it was their ‘origin’ lake and therefore sacred. Eventually, it was decided that we could go. The journey would take at least two days and although Victoriano knew the way, none of the others had been there before.

To be continued…

Proxy reconstruction of ultraviolet-B irradiance at the Earth’s surface, and its relationship with solar activity and ozone thickness

September 16, 2019
WDG

Open access:

Jardine, P.E., Fraser, W.T., Gosling, W.D., Roberts, C.N., Eastwood, W.J. & Lomax, B.H. (2019) Proxy reconstruction of ultraviolet-B irradiance at the Earth’s surface, and its relationship with solar activity and ozone thickness. The Holocene DOI: 10.1177/0959683619875798

 

Local vegetation patterns of a Neolithic environment at the site of Tianluoshan, China, based on coprolite analysis

August 8, 2019
WDG

Zhang, Y., van Geel, B., Gosling, W.D., McMichael, C.N.H., Jansen, B., Absalah, S., Sun, G. & Wu, X. (2019) Local vegetation patterns of a Neolithic environment at the site of Tianluoshan, China, based on coprolite analysis. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 271, 104101. DOI: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2019.104101

Leaf wax n-alkane patterns of six tropical montane tree species show species-specific environmental response

July 22, 2019
WDG

Open access:

Teunissen van Manen, M., Jansen, B., Cuesta, F., León-Yánez, S. & Gosling, W.D. (2019) Leaf wax n-alkane patterns of six tropical montane tree species show species-specific environmental response. Ecology and Evolution. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.5458

JOB: Assistant Professor in Soil Carbon Cycling

June 21, 2019
WDG

Assistant Professor (tenure track) in Soil Carbon Cycling
Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
University of Amsterdam
Deadline: 3 july 2019

IBED is looking for an Earth scientist/ecologist with expertise and interest in soil carbon cycling, in relation to the role of soil microbial communities therein to support ongoing work within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics (ELD). We are particularly looking for a researcher with an international track record with expertise in one, or more, of the following areas:

  • Interactions between organic carbon and the mineral soil.
  • Microbe-organic C interactions.
  • Molecular and computational approaches for analysing soil microbial communities and their functionality.
  • Scaling of soil carbon cycling processes from microbe to globe.
  • Linking global carbon cycle models and laboratory experiments.

This is one of two positions currently open in Earth Systems Science within ELD. The other position is related to Environmental Chemistry and we will be looking at complimentary between the two appointments.

For further details and information on how to apply click here.

Contact: Franciska de Vries (Prof. Earth Surface Science) or William D. Gosling (Head of ELD)

JOB: Assistant Professor in Environmental Chemistry

June 21, 2019
WDG

Assistant Professor (tenure track) in Environmental Chemistry
Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED)
University of Amsterdam
Deadline: 3 july 2019

IBED is looking for an environmental chemist/environmental scientist experienced in studying sources, transport, transformation and degradation and fate of chemicals in ecosystems to support ongoing work within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics (ELD), and create links with the Department of Freshwater & Marine Ecology. We are particularly looking for a researcher with an international track record with expertise in one, or more, of the following areas:

  • The fate and effects of organic contaminants of emerging concern in the environment.
  • The mitigation of environmental pollution.
  • Environmental policy and circular economy.
  • Regional and larger-scale systems analysis of human impacts on the environment.​

This is one of two positions currently open in Earth Systems Science within ELD. The other position is related to Soil Carbon Cycling and we will be looking at complimentary between the two appointments.

For further details and information on how to apply click here.

Contact: Annemarie van Wezel (IBED Director) or William D. Gosling (Head of ELD)

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