Salamanca Villegas, S., van Soelen, E.E., Teunissen van Manen, M.L., Flantua, S.G.A., Santos, R.V., Roddaz, M., Dantas, E.L., van Loon, E., Sinninghe Damsté, J.S., Kim, J. & Hoorn, C. (2016) Amazon forest dynamics under changing abiotic conditions in the early Miocene (Colombian Amazonia). Journal of Biogeography online. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12769
Next to La Meuse river, near the villages of Welland Aijen, there is a large archaeological site with a long history of human occupation, including the remains of a large Mesolithic hunter gatherer community (see Marion Zijlema article for more details) The history of the site is deeply linked to the expansion and flooding of the river. In collaboration with archaeologists (Hanneke Bos) four UvA bachelor students are going to study the fossil pollen, phytoliths and charcoal from the Well-Aijen site to captured the environmental change that accompanied the human occupation. Yesterday (20 January – WDG late uploading post, sorry!) we visited the site to see what it was like, and to test out some equipment!
We decided to bring out the Livingstone corer (Geo-core), which is usually used from a boat in a lake (e.g. Lake Erazo), to test its capacities on terrestrial sediment. Knowing that the peat formation was not deep below and given that the corer-system gives a nice continuous record, it seemed worthy of giving it a try. We ended up learning a lot about how the corer functions and about problem solving in the field – almost everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. We really fought for every centimeter of sample! The team never suffered from low spirits though, despite it all. With jokes and hot tea on site we ended up having a very fun and insightful expedition. Any remaining low morale or cold feet quickly faded by the sight of pie at the end of the day.
My undergraduate studies were interdisciplinary in nature: I did a BSc Beta-Gamma (Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS), UvA) where students are taught to collaborate between different disciplines. Ecology has always been an interest of mine, so I was quick to specialize in that field. In my final year of my bachelor I came in contact with paleoecology and did not hesitate to make sure my first master’s project (MSc Biological Science, IBED, UvA) would be with the P&L research group (IBED) – a worked on a project on tropical rainforest dynamics in Miocene Amazonia. After that I got the chance to test my skills outside research institutes: during the Tesla consultancy Minor (IIS) I got firsthand practical experience in developing urban green areas from start to finish for the municipality of Amsterdam. The focus of that project was to increase the ecologic, educational, scientific, and social value of the natural areas on Amsterdam Science Park. It was great to see my scientific background put to good use outside the research community. The project is still active today.
After a short period of working in education and sustainability consultancy I seized the opportunity to, once more, join the P&L research group – this time as a Ph.D. student under the watchful eyes of William Gosling and Boris Jansen. My project revolves around characterizing biomarker and modern pollen-rain signals across the altitude of the Ecuadorian Andes vegetation. A great opportunity at the frontier of tropical research!
If the first week is any indication, I foresee to a lot of collaboration, hard work, exploration and adventure in the coming years!
As part of my MSc research project on Early-Miocene paleodiversity shifts due to marine incursions in the Amazon basin, I recorded and photographed large numbers of palynomorphs. The database consists of a set of images (Teunissen van Manen, 2015a) that I took with my smartphone (bundled in pdfs for sharing purposes) and an Excel overview file (Teunissen van Manen, 2015b) where each of the entries is described. Some of the entries are well documented taxa (C’mon, who hasn’t heard of Zonocostites ramonae and Mauritidites franciscoi before?) while others are “types” that are not formally described – mainly because in Amazonian sediments new, unseen palynomorphs pop up all the time. Indeed, this was the reason why I started the database in the first place: I was merely trying to keep up with the vast diversity that I encountered during sample counting.
Seeing the added value of having a digital record of the palynological diversity from the Amazon basin samples, my project supervisor, Carina Hoorn (UvA), encouraged me to publish the database online so others could also access it. I’d like to invite you to take a look. I hope it can maybe help you with identifying taxa or, who knows, linking taxa across the Amazon basin… if you do, please let me know!
…or maybe it will have you rejoice in the huge diversity and alien beauty of pollen morphology, just as it rejoiced me as I was working through my (seemingly endless) samples.