Ghana Fieldwork 2014; Day 02

The second day of our fieldwork saw us; transfer from Accra to Fumesua where FORIG is located (approximately 20 km south of Kumasi); meet up with FORIGs deputy director Dr Stephen Adu-Bredu to discuss fieldwork and outreach plans; and settle in to FORIG for the next two weeks.

The next two days will involve building pollen traps ready for deployment next and finalising the detailed day-to-day plan of work.

Ghana Fieldwork 2014; Day 01

The latest round of fieldwork in Ghana is underway. Adele and myself are travelling out to collect pollen traps deployed last year as part of Adeles PhD research. We will be revisiting the sites in Ankasa, Bobiri and Kogyae that Adele and Phil visited last year. This time we are also accompanied by Lottie who will be delivering workshops on outreach activity engagement and the palaeoecology represented in the sediment record of Lake Bosumtwi.

Flying into land at Accra in the twilight we passed over a storm cell, with some fantastic convective clouds illuminated by flashes of lightning within. Once out of the airport, we were taken through the hustle and bustle of Accra streets, alive with evening activity. Finally reaching our destination for the night, the FORIG guesthouse. All three members of our party readily made for bed to get a good nights sleep before tomorrows journey to Kumasi.

Predicting the future by understanding the past: Climate change

As part of the 500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes” Natural Environments Research Council funded (NE/K005294/1) project we have produced a wall chart explaining the type of research we do and how it can help to place on-going, and projected, climate change in context. The wall chart is designed for use in schools and universities. To obtain a copy of this, and other wall charts, please contact the British Ecological Society (direct wall chart link here).

Understanding Climate Changes

News articles:

Unesco to rule on Tasmania forest and Great Barrier Reef, BBC News Asia.

Climate change will ‘cost world far more than estimated’, by Tom Bawden, The Independent.

Scientific articles:

Heslop-Harrison, J. (1979) Aspects of the structure, cytochemistry and germination of the pollen of Rye (Secale cereale L.). Annals of Botany, 44, 1-47.
Summary (Adele): Sometimes, the old ones are the best, and this behemoth of a paper contains a huge amount of useful information on the chemical structure and development of Rye pollen grains. As I am working on the chemistry of grass pollen at the moment, it is incredibly useful to know that this sort of information exists and can be used to inform both my experimental protocol and interpretations.

Michelutti, N., Blais, J.M., Cumming, B.F., Paterson, A.M., Rühland, K., Wolfe, A.P. & Smol, J.P. (2010) Do spectrally inferred determinations of chlorophyll a reflect trends in lake trophic status? Journal of Paleolimnology, 43, 205-217. doi: 10.1007/s10933-009-9325-8
Summary (Frazer): Quick and easy way to extract data from lake sediment cores.

Rossetti, D.F., de Toledo, P.M and Góes, A.M. (2005) New geological framework for Western Amazonia (Brazil) and implications for biogeography and evolution. Quaternary Research, 63, 78 – 89. doi: 10.1016/j.ygres.2004.10.001.
Summary (Hayley): Research discussing the importance of understanding the underlying geological processes in order to correctly identify the mechanisms controlling modern biodiversity in Western Amazonia, Brazil.

Simpson, J. (2011) On the Ambiguity of Elves. Folklore, 122, 76-83. DOI: 10.1080/0015587X.2011.537133
Summary (Will): Elves depicted in modern literature have a grounding in ancient literature.

Trenkamp, R., Kellogg, J. N., Freymueller, J.T. and Mora, H.P. (2002) Wide plate margin deformation, southern Central America and northwestern South America, CASA GPS observations. Journal of South American Earth Sciences. 15, 157 – 171. PIL: S0895-9811(02)00018-4.
Summary (Hayley): GPS data used to detect plate boundary convergence, subduction and collision within the north west of South America. GPS data between 1991 and 1998 was used to work out rates of movement for plates.

An interview with Adele Julier

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.

The geology of mankind

Adele Julier on:

Malm, A. & Hornborg, A. (2014) The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative. The Anthropocene Review, 1, 62-69.

Malm and Hornborg’s paper ‘The geology of mankind? A critique of the Anthropocene narrative’ raises some important points about the terminology of climate science and how this not only affects perceptions of who or what is to blame, but also of what can be done to address  it and by who. The main thrust of their argument is that the use of the term Anthropocene distances people from the effects of man-made climate change through the argument that human nature inescapably led to large CO2 emissions and therefore the havoc being wreaked upon ecosystems is essentially inevitable. They go on to discuss that this ignores the fact that a tiny percentage of humanity actually set into motion the huge changes which we are only now beginning to address, that humanity as a whole at no point decided to take this path and that the use of the term Anthropocene is actually counter-productive, in that it removes the onus of solving environmental problems from the small group of humans that actually caused them, instead spreading it out so thinly that it loses its power.

The argument that Anthropocene is perhaps not the best term to use for the present situation is persuasive, but the idea that it apportions blame too widely does not take into consideration the fact that developing countries are now largely following in the footsteps of developed countries in terms of both habitat destruction and carbon emissions. Although all of humanity may not have started global change, the practices initiated by the few are now being endlessly replicated. The reasons behind this are economic; currently, and largely in the short term, it pays countries and large corporations to continue unsustainable practices. They ignore pressure to change if it undermines economic growth or affects profit margins, not because they do not think they are part of the problem. Academics could choose to call this the ‘Anthropocene’ the ‘OnePercentocene’ or the ‘ThisIsYourFault,Sir,Yes,YouInTheGreySuit,StopPlayingWithYour PhoneAndListen-ocene’, but it will not make the slightest difference until these basic problems are addressed.