Revealing pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Kenya

June 29, 2020
WDG

Rahab Kinyanjui

USING PALAEOECOLOGICAL PROXIES TO DETERMINE ANTHROPOGENIC IMPACT ON VEGETATION DURING PRE-COLONIAL, COLONIAL AND POST-COLONIAL PERIOD IN KENYA’S HIGHLANDS-CASE STUDY ABERDARE RANGES

By Rahab KINYANJUI (National Museums of Kenya: Nairobi)

In spite of the challenges and uncertainties that the larger scientific community is currently facing, I am delighted and humbled to accept one of the British Ecological Society’s Ecologist in Africa research grant for 2020. The grant will support my historical ecology project whose main goal is to apply palaeoecological and archaeological proxies to investigate the extent of anthropogenic impacts on vegetation structure and composition of one of the Kenyan Central highlands before, during, and after the colonial period.

The Aberdare range forest provide an ideal setting for this study because they have been farmed by local populations since long before colonialism, and they were heavily impacted during colonial times because of their fertile soils. This pilot project aims to reveal the land-use and land-cover dynamics of the Aberdare range forest, and it is hoped that eventually similar studies will be undertaken in other parts of the Kenyan highland forests.

Keep on pollen sniffing

May 5, 2020
WDG

By Cas Verbeek (University of Amsterdam)

Luckily, in spite of these trying times, we are allowed to continue our research in Amsterdam and on the Veluwe to determine the effects of air pollution on airborne pollen grains. Unfortunately for us (but generally perhaps one of the few silver linings of this situation), the COVID-19 lockdown has largely eliminated our main variable of interest; air pollution.

With traffic in the city at a minimum, any chemical differences might not be as pronounced between the city and rural areas. However, this may actually provide us with a unique opportunity to get a baseline of the pollen chemistry in Amsterdam with relatively little pollution. This baseline may also be of interest to projects working on urban air quality and greenifying urban spaces, such as the projects in the Amsterdam Knowledge Mile Park, which is included amongst our sampling locations.

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For more about our project on pollen and pollution in the Netherlands see other posts:

Plant Ecology & Diversity: Subject Editors

April 24, 2020
WDG

As part of the ongoing reconfiguration of the journal Plant Ecology & Diversity the Editorial Board has now be organised into five themes, each covering different aspects of the journals scope, to streamline the process. Each theme has a Subject Editor who feeds articles to the team of Associate Editors. The themes and Subject Editors are:

  • Biogeography (F. Xavier Picó – Estación Biológica de Doñana (EBD-CSIC), Spain)
  • Bioitic Interactions (Luis Daniel Llambi – University of the Andes, Venezuela)
  • Environment & Plant Functioning (John Grace, University of Edinburgh, UK)
  • Evolution & Systematics (Richard Abbott, University of St Andrews, UK)
  • Global Change & Vegetation Dynamics (William Gosling, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands)

If your research is relevant to an international audience and fits into one of these themes please consider submitting your research for our consideration. To find out more about how to submit, the Aims & Scope and Editorial Board please visit the journal web site, by clicking here.

Carbon sequestration rates indicate ecosystem recovery following human disturbance in the equatorial Andes

April 3, 2020
WDG

Calderón-Loor, M., Cuesta, F., Pinto, E. & Gosling, W.D. (2020) Carbon sequestration rates indicate ecosystem recovery following human disturbance in the equatorial Andes. PLOS ONE 15, e0230612. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0230612

The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record

March 23, 2020
WDG

Kirschner, J.* & Hoorn, C. (2019) The onset of grasses in the Amazon drainage basin, evidence from the fossil record Frontiers of Biogeography DOI:10.21425/F5FBG44827

*Judith conducted this work as part of her MSc Earth Sciences: Geo-ecological Dynamics degree at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam.

Modelling the distribution of Amazonian tree species in response to long-term climate change during the Mid-Late Holocene

March 21, 2020
WDG

Gomes, V.H.F., Mayle, F.E., Gosling, W.D., Vieira, I.C.G., Salomão, R.P. & ter Steege, H. (2020) Modelling the distribution of Amazonian tree species in response to long-term climate change during the Mid-Late Holocene. Journal of Biogeography DOI: 10.1111/jbi.13833

Introducing Cas Verbeek

March 4, 2020
WDG

Cas Verbeek

Cas Verbeek

Hey everyone!

For those who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet; I am Cas Verbeek, a second years Ecology and Evolution MSc student at the University of Amsterdam. For the coming months I am excited to be working with William and Letty to investigate the difference in allergenicity between pollen from urban and rural environments.

This project fits nicely with my BSc thesis where I investigated the taxonomy and phylogeny of pollen chemistry. Hopefully I can apply the experience I have gained there to help make this a successful project! Besides, the data we will be collecting could build on the data I collected during my BSc thesis and help to further unravel the taxonomic and phylogenetic information contained in the chemistry of pollen. I am looking forward to the work that I will be doing with William and Letty, and to share and discuss our progress here with all of you!

-Cas

Urban vs. rural pollen in the Netherlands

February 26, 2020
WDG

Urban vs. rural pollen chemistry project design

Figure 1: (a) Illustrative images of sample locations in Amsterdam and the Hoge Veluwe. (b) The newly developed ‘pollen sniffer’ collects airborne pollen from the environment. (c) The FTIR can chemically characterise individual pollen grains.

Does environmental pollution enhance the allergenic nature of pollen? This is the question that drives my NWO Idea Generator grant that has just started. This project links up the pollen chemistry expertise in my group within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics (University of Amsterdam) and the work of Letty de Weger into human health and pollen (Leiden University Medical Centrum). Over the 2020 flowering season we will be monitoring pollen in Amsterdam (urban) and in the Hoge Veluwe (rural) in the space in which people have allergic reactions to see if there is any chemical difference between the pollen in urban and rural settings.

We are delighted that Cas Verbeek has joined the team as a Research Assistant; taking time out from his MSc Biological Sciences degree (University of Amsterdam). Cas is already busy in the field and lab fine tuning our collection and analysis protocols.

Find out more from:

Palaeoecology out on the frontier

February 18, 2020
WDG

Guest post by Dr. Lynne Quick (Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory)

Lynne QuickThe transition from Early Career Researcher (ECR) to head of a new laboratory

When you are in the midst of working on your PhD you feel that this must surely be the toughest challenge you’ll ever face, only to emerge on the other side and realise that it was a holiday in comparison to the academic journey post-PhD.

I completed my PhD at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and immediately launched myself into a postdoctoral fellowship embedded in a relatively large international research initiative. Building on the expertise and knowledge I gained from my postgraduate work, I generated new pollen and microcharcoal records from the southern Cape and west coast regions of South Africa in order to reveal details about how climate and associated environmental conditions have changed during the Holocene. I found the transition from working almost entirely independently on my PhD to collaborating within the context of a large multidisciplinary and multinational team equally very exciting, and very challenging. At this time imposter syndrome hit me hard and I had a bit of an existential crisis (I’m overqualified, too specialized and not earning enough, what the hell am I doing with my life? – I know we’ve all been there!). Just as I was about to give up on academia, I was approached by Nelson Mandela University, one of the smaller, lesser known, public universities in South Africa, situated in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. After a lot of soul searching, I accepted a research fellowship at NMU, moved out of my home in Cape Town (where I had lived my entire life) and relocated to a new city – by myself, with no contacts, friends or family there.

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