Palynologendagen 2015

Palynologendagen
“Een historisch-ecologische benadering van het landschap in noord-oost Twente”
(“A historical-sociological approach to understanding landscapes in north-east Twente”)
8-9 October 2015
Organized by: Harm Smeenge, Bas van Geel & Stefan Engels
For the: Palynologische Kring

Last week I took part in my first “palynologendagen” (pollen days) with the Palynologische Kring (Dutch palynology society). Unfortunately, due to a prior commitment (Chairing a British Ecological Society careers webinar) I was only able to take part on the second day.

Day two of the pollen days was “op de fiets” (on bikes) in true Dutch style. We met at Twente Fiets to pick up 36 bicycles and one tandem and headed out into the countryside!

Figure 1: Route of the bicycle tour (max speed 21.8 kmph, distance 23.24 km)

Figure 1: Route of the bicycle tour (max speed 21.8 kmph, distance 23.24 km)

Our route (Fig. 1) took in around 14 point of interest. At each point Harm provided interesting insights into the landscape history and how humans had interacted and shaped it. The presentations were in Dutch so I had to concentrate hard to get 50% of the information.

Two particularly nice sites (which I think I understood) were:

  1. the site of an old toll house at the split in the old road to Germany (east) and Scandinavia (north), and
  2. a sedimentary cross section, revealed by river down cutting, which showed the impact of cart wheels on the sediment along the site of an old road.

In addition to the tour it was also fantastic to meet many other fellow palynologists based in the Netherlands. I looking forward to being able to participate in many future Palynologische Kring events, and I am also pleased to say attending this years event has inspired me again to try and push on with learning Dutch again!

 

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Palaeoecology at UvA and Twente 2015: Teaching and Learning

By Crystal McMichael

The month-long palaeoecology module at UvA is coming to an end. We have had two weeks of lectures and microscope work, an introduction to quantitative palaeoecology, and we just finished a week of fieldwork in Twente, which is in the easternmost part of the Netherlands.

Students working in the field (photo: M. Groot)

Students working in the field (photo: M. Groot)

Will Gosling and I tried something new for the field excursion this year. We split the class into eight groups, and gave each group a set of pollen and phytolith samples from an ‘unknown location’. Unknown in this context means being from one of the eight primary sites that we would visit during the field excursion. The students were required to perform vegetation surveys and characterize soils at each of the primary sites that we visited. The goal of each group was to figure out which location their set of ‘unknown’ samples came from. Basically, we had them doing forensic palynology, with idea that they could then better visualize the different vegetation assemblages seen in the palaeoecological records.
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Andean bear

Palaeoenvironment

Bear-zoomOn our first field day three of the XPERT team (Valerie, Barry and Sarah) claim  they saw an Andean or spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus) in the paramo of the Cayambe-Coca National Park… Valerie did manage to provided some supporting evidence in the way photos.

An Andean bear, or a black dog? An Andean bear, or a black dog? (photo: van den Bos)

For more information on Andean bears visit: Andean bear foundation

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Sediment coring in Lake Erazo

XPERT field school is underway…

Palaeoenvironment

Lake Erazo Sediment coring on Lake Erazo. Photo by Valerie van den Bos (who spent the flight over reading a book on how to take the perfect photo)

By Alexandra Lee and Nick Primmer

To study the palaeo-environmental record of the Andean cloud forest, sediment cores were taken from the recently discovered Erazo lake. In mixed conditions of blazing sun and pouring rain, 14 researchers, one bus driver and several Ecuadorian guides hauled what felt like a ton of equipment up to the lake 2,300 m asl. In the centre of the lake, a wooden coring platform was mounted between two boats securely anchored at three positions. Using a modified Livingston corer with a drop hammer, five cores were successfully recovered from the lake up to a maximum depth of two metres. The main challenge encountered was the stability of the platform which resulted in several complications limiting the number of cores…

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Tropical Botany in Belize: Part 2 – Las Cuevas

Tropical Botany in Belize

By Nick Loughlin

Las Cueavs Forest Reseach Station (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)

Figure 1: Las Cueavs Forest Reseach Station (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)

As mentioned in my last post I have recently returned from a 2 week field course in tropical botany run by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) in conjunction with their MSc course on the ‘Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants’. The field course allowed for 10 NERC funded PhD students in relevant fields to accompany the MSc students out to Belize to learn a host of valuable skills in tropical botany and ecology.

To find out what we did read on…

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Tropical Botany in Belize: Part 1 – An Introduction

Sunrise in Belize (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)

Sunrise in Belize (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)

Tropical Botany in Belize
by Nick Loughlin

Getting back to the UK after fieldwork is always jarring and this time is certainly no different, the change from 32°C days walking through the savanna and lowland forests of Belize to the -2°C early mornings walking through snow in Milton Keynes is an abrupt transition. I have recently returned from a 2 week field course in tropical botany run by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) in conjunction with their MSc course on the ‘Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants’. The field course allowed for 10 NERC funded PhD students in relevant fields to accompany the MSc students out to Belize to learn a host of valuable skills in tropical botany and ecology. During our time in Belize we visited 2 main locations, Las Cuevas Research Station within the Chiquibul forest reserve and the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA), in my next two posts I will briefly cover the places we visited and the botany we learned.

A very small selection of the plants we sampled and identified during the course (Photographs by Anna Turbelin and Nick Loughlin)

A very small selection of the plants we sampled and identified during the course (Photographs by Anna Turbelin and Nick Loughlin)

Before I get going I would just like to thank all of the staff from the RBGE who led the field course, (David, Louis, Tiina, Becky, Chris and Helen) their ability to teach the major characteristics of 70+ tropical families to many of us who are not botanists or taxonomists in an engaging way was astounding, although I don’t believe I will ever be able to identify a Euphorbiaceae from its vegetative characteristics. Also thanks to the students from the MSc course who were great fun, if any of you move away from botany and taxonomy and want more of an idea about the world of tropical palaeoecology, give me a shout.

On our way to see the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)

On our way to see the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)