Inaugural lecture: The ecology of the past

November 9, 2022


I am delighted to announce that the inaugural lecture for my becoming Professor of Palaeoecology & Biogeography will take place at the Aula (Lutherse kerk) of the University of Amsterdam on the 22 December 2022 (16:30). If you would like to attend this event please let me know (via email) before 1 December 2022 so that an appropriate level of catering can be organized.

For further details visit the university web site here.

For my contact details visit my university web page here.

From new methods to new insights: Advancing palaeoecology with @PalaeoNick

September 21, 2022

During the delivery of this years BSc Palaeoeclogy course at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) I discussed with a number of students about the nature and purpose of understanding the ecology of the past. This lead me to highlighting the research of Nick Loughlin (@PalaeoNick) from his PhD at The Open University and the subsequent work that he has done. I though it might be interesting to also share this here…

Nick recovers a sediment core for his PhD project.
Nick Loughlin during his PhD field work in Ecuador

Nick’s study sought to understand better the ecological history of the biodiverse eastern Andean flank in Ecuador. To achieve this he went into the field and recovered sediments from a lake and a sedimentary section exposed by a road cutting. He analysed the sediments to reveal vegetation change (pollen analysis), fire histories (charcoal analysis), and past animals in the landscape (non-pollen palynomorphs, or NPPs). To extract extra ecological information from his samples he developed the methodological approach for examining NPPs in a tropical setting (Loughlin et al. 2018a). He then combined all the different palaeoecological approaches to reveal the drivers of vegetation change during the last glacial period (in the absence of humans; Loughlin et al. 2018b), and during the last 1000 years (when indigenous and European human populations radically altered the landscape; Loughlin et al. 2018c). The insights gained from Nicks research provided empirical evidence of how humans have been modifying this biodiversity hotspot on the timescales relevant to the lifecycles of tropical trees. These findings and ideas were collated in his PhD Thesis at The Open University which was supervised by Encarni Montoya, Angela Coe and myself (Loughlin, 2018a). Subsequently, Nick has been working to broaden the impact of his work and to communicate his findings to the broader scientific and conservation community. This has lead to two new publications focused on understanding baseline ecological function and conservation implications (Loughlin et al. 2022, Nogué et al. 2022).

Lake Huila
Evidence of past ecological change recovered from Lake Huila (Ecuador) revealed how past peoples had modified the landscape of the eastern Andean biodiversity hotspot.

The arch of research carried out by Nick, I think, really demonstrates the important of understanding the ecology of the past – without his detailed investigation of microfossils we could not have seen the impacts of indigenous communities on the past Andean landscape, or identify the consequences of the European depopulation; or been able to estimate the timescales of the ecological change!


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Job: PhD Caribbean Palaeoecology

September 9, 2022

The Palaeoecology Research Group within the Department of Archaeology at the Max Planck Institute for Geoanthropology, Jena, Germany is pleased to announce a new vacancy for a doctoral student exploring human-environment interactions in the Caribbean. The position will be based in Jena, Germany for a period of 3 years with the option for extensions and supervised by Dr. Yoshi Maezumi.

The Palaeoecology Research Group analyses palaeoecological and archaeobotanical proxies from sedimentary archives, including pollen, phytoliths, charcoal and stable isotopes to examine topics including the legacy of human land-use on ecosystems, spatio-temporal patterns of natural and human-driven fire activity, and the influence of natural and human disturbance regimes on the biogeographic distribution of plants and animals in past ecosystems.

Closing date: 30 September 2022

For full details and how to apply click here.

For further information contact Dr. Yoshi Maezumi.

Mapping Ancient Africa: INQUA Rome 2023

July 18, 2022

I am delighted to announce that there our session “Mapping Ancient Africa: Climate, Vegetation & Humans” has been accepted for the INQUA congress in Rome (14-20 July 2023).

Abstract: Great uncertainty exists surrounding the link between climate change and hominin evolution, cultural development, and dispersal in and out of Africa. Several hypotheses have been proposed about how environmental conditions in Africa might have driven important developments in human origins over the last 4 million years. These findings link important evolutionary events with environmental change including cooling, drying, and wider climate fluctuations over time. However, key questions remain on the type, speed and driver of climate variability in Africa and how it affected evolution and development, e.g., did changing environment affect resources which consequently lead humans to develop new tools, why did so many early hominin species persist, evolve and/or go extinct, why did our species (Homo sapiens) emerge and survive, and how have we shaped our own environment either intentionally or unintentionally? In this session we look to bring together researchers focused on reconstructing past environments in Africa on the basis of empirical data (palaeoclimatic, palaeoecological, archaeological records) with researchers using modelling approaches (climate, vegetation, dispersal and cultural models). We hope to stimulate research and debate on how past change (climate, ecological, behavioral) shaped modern humans and the role of human niche construction on African environments. This session is linked to the INQUA “Mapping Ancient Africa” project, but we welcome all submissions.


Session sponsored by the INQUA:


Mapping Ancient Africa: Seminar 6

June 8, 2022

The sixth online Mapping Ancient Africa seminar will take place on Tuesday 21 June at 17:00 CEST

The seminar will be delivered via Zoom. The link for the seminar can be obtained from the MAA Slack page, or from seminar chair and chaired by Lynne Quick.


Job: Tenure-Track Assistant Professor in Evolutionary Ecology in Rapidly Changing Environments

May 16, 2022

The Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics is looking for a ambitious academic with expertise in evolutionary ecology to join the Department of Evolutionary & Population Biology.

Closing date: 20 May 2022

Further details and how to apply

Past vegetation dynamics and their role in past climate changes

May 12, 2022

On behalf of Manu Chevalier, Anne Dallmeyer, Ulrike Herzschuh, Thomas Hickler, Yoshi Maezumi and Martin Claussen I would like to draw your attention to a special issue of Climate of the Past entitled: “Past vegetation dynamics and their role in past climate changes”. The call for papers for this special issue is now open (closing date: December 2024). See below for full details and how to submit.

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May 10, 2022

I would like to draw your attention to SKOPE (Synthesizing Knowledge of the Past Environments) project run by R. Kyle Bocinsky, Andrew Gillreath-Brown, Keith Kintigh, Ann Kinzig, Timothy A. Kohler, Allen Lee, Bertram Ludaescher, and Timothy McPhillips and funded by National Science Foundation (USA). They have just launched an online tool that allows the exploration of past environmental change data aimed at archaeologists, ecologists, historians, geographers and planners. Check out the details on their web site:

SKOPE Application Release Announcement

Dutch Palynologists Then and Now

May 9, 2022

I am pleased to announce the next seminar series from the Palynologische Kring “Dutch Palynologists Then and Now: A brief history or Frans Florschütz, and new research from scientists who have been working abroad”

The meeting will take place on the afternoon of the 19th May at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics (University of Amsterdam); if you are not a member of the society and want to follow the talk online or attend in person please contact me for details. Full program below.

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PhD opportunity on palaeofires

April 20, 2022

Boris Vanniere

There is a new PhD opportunity at Ecole doctorale Environnements-Santé (France) working with Boris Vannière (Director of Research, CNRS, University Bourgogne Franche-Comté, University of Bern), Richard Vachula (Assistant Professor, Auburn University, USA), and Elisabeth Dietze (Professor, University of Göttingen, Germany). The project is entitled: Leverage the meaning of paleofire data through metadata mining. Case studies in mediterranean, tropical and arctic ecosystems, closing date 9 May 2022.

Details and how to apply here.

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