Last week, Will – our new associate professor at the University of Amsterdam – joined us on the field residential module of the undergraduate “Paleoecology” course; 7 days exploring the sediments and vegetation of the Twente region of the Netherlands. The experience provided Will with a lot of information on Dutch language, landscapes, and students; which should be useful to him next year as he will be coordinating the course!
During this very intensive (4-week) paleoecology course, students get background lectures in past environmental change, learn to identify microfossils in the laboratory (pollen and chironomids), and go on the excursion to experience fieldwork. The field module involves excursions during the day, when students have to identify plant species indicative of different vegetation types in relation to soil nutrient availability and moisture content. The evenings are reserved for the students own paleoecological research investigation; this year students were reconstructing the vegetation history and climate change during the late-glacial from a lake sediment core from Germany. Once data collection was completed the students had to interpret the pollen assemblages they found using the knowledge of modern day ecosystems they gained throughout the week. On the final evening they presented their work to the whole group. The final results they achieved were quite impressive.
I am very curious as to what the course will be like next year, led by Will, and how he will tweak and turn it to his liking.