“Ecology of the past” YouTube channel

"Ecology of the past" YouTube channel launched
“Ecology of the past” YouTube channel launched

With the redesign and refocusing of the blog underway, I’m delighted to announce the launch of our very own “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel. Initially this will host videos produced as part of the Lake Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project, which includes a strong emphasis on impact and outreach activities. The videos are being targeted to a secondary school/sixth form audience, and will demonstrate both how we are doing the research and who we are as academics, highlighting the different roles and career pathways within the team. As time goes on this channel will be a platform for videos from other members of the research group, again showing who we are, what we do and how we do it.

For now, here are the first two videos: a diary of the field trip to Ghana that Adele and I went on last Autumn, and an accompanying piece showing how you too can make your own pollen trap. Enjoy!

Blog evolution

@PalaeolimOver the next few months the “Palaeolimnology et al.” blog will be changing. The first noticeable change will be the title of the blog to “Ecology of the past”. The idea behind changing the name is to have a title that it easily informs the reader about the broad area of our interests.

The changes have been precipitated by three key factors:

  1. A re-definition of the “Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group” at The Open University (OU), in part as a response to my impending departure,
  2. My desire to have a blog people within the Paleo and Landscape Ecology Group at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) can feel comfortable contributing to, and
  3. The fact this blog has been running for over 3 years and it is probably time for a refresh.

Changes to the static pages and blog content will happen over the next few weeks.

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PCRG February

William on Bainbridge
My first fieldwork from the OU, in 2005, was pollen trapping on the Galapagos. Here I am looking beardy on Bainbridge.

February was an exciting month for me principally because of the finalization of my move to the University of Amsterdam (UvA) where I will become head of Paleo and Landscape Ecology in September. The decision to leave The Open University (OU) has been a difficult one. When I joined the OU as a RCUK Research Fellow in Ecosystem Science in 2005 I would not have believed that I would be in a position to take on a job such as the one in Amsterdam only nine years later. Building the group here during the last nine years has been a lot of fun and I have got to work with some great people. Stand out moments include:

  • Obtaining my first grant as Principle Investigator (c. US$20,000 from the National Geographic for field work in Bolivia),
  • Recruiting, and graduating, my first PhD research students (Joe Williams and Macarena Cardenas),
  • Being invited to participate in large international research efforts (notably the Lake Bosumtwi project),
  • Co-editing my first book (Bush et al., 2011), having my first student to publish a paper getting it in Science (Cardenas et al., 2011), and helping to write a popular science text co-published by the Natural History Museum (Silvertown et al., 2011)

There have been many more amazing things here but I don’t want to swamp this post with a retrospective of my OU career…

Ongoing excitement within the PCRG is happening on a number of fronts:

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New job: Paleo & Landscape Ecology

IBED-UvA-logoI am delighted to announce that later this year I will be moving to the Institute of Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. I will be taking up an Associate Professor position as head of the Paleo & Landscape Ecology group. I am excited, and honoured, by this appointment and look forward to intergrating my ongoing program of research with the world class team in Amsterdam. Over the next few months I am sure further details will appear on the blog about the move as plans evolve towards my start date in September. Exciting times…

In the light of my departure, at that of Emma Sayer (bound for Lancaster), The Open University, Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems is now advertising two posts (details below). I have enjoyed my time at the OU and I think there are still good teaching and research opportunities for academics here. If anyone whats to contact me about the posts then I am happy to discuss.

Lectureship  Environmental Science (Advert)
Lectureship / Senior Lectureship in Earth or Environmental Science (Advert)

PCRG January

January 2014 has been pretty mad for me but included presenting a poster at the Quaternary Research Association annual meeting, and taking on the role of chair of the British Ecological Society Eduaction, Training and Careers Committee“.

Tardigrade egg found in Ghanaian pollen trap by Adele
Tardigrade egg found in Ghanaian pollen trap by Adele

Here is a summary of what other people have been up to:

  • Lottie Miller: submission and approval of thesis corrections (hooray), working on British Ecological Society grant application.
  • Hayley Keen: is finishing up lab work (macro charcoal – done, XRF – done, wood macrofossils – thin sectioned, awaiting identification, pollen – just 4 more samples!); and dealing with minor review revisions to first submitted paper (hooray).
  • Frazer Bird: finished the data collection for two Ecuadorian lakes (Banos and Pindo) and will hopefully begin to write up this data soon; attended the NERC stats course (very useful; would advise everyone to try and get on it).
  • Nick Loughlin: has split and logged the sediment cores recovered from Lake Huila (Ecuador) during recent fieldwork, and begun preparing the samples for pollen.
  • Adele Julier: has been preparing pollen trap samples from Ghana and  learning tropical pollen.
  • Emily Sear: has mostly been on holiday and we are still waiting for the post card! She has also been working at getting results that make sense from the MS2.
  • Phil Jardine:   has been oxidising spores to see what it does to the chemistry, generating FTIR data with the oxidised samples and starting the numerical analysis, and editing film footage from the 2013 Ghana trip.
  • Encarni Montoya: has been doing pollen lab and analysing pollen from Baños, and comparing the midges trends from Pindo and Baños with Frazer.
  • Wes Fraser: Reported back to Royal Society on finding from research grant – paper containing exciting results to follow in next couple of months.
Some pollen from Adele's pollen traps in Ghana
Some pollen from Adele’s pollen traps in Ghana

We have also had 4 papers published with 2014 dates on them:

  • Cárdenas, M.L., Gosling, W.D., Pennington, R.T., Poole, I., Sherlock, S.C. & Mothes, P. (2014) Forests of the tropical eastern Andean flank during the middle Pleistocene. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 393: 76-89. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.10.009
  • Fraser, W.T., Watson, J.S., Sephton, M.A., Lomax, B.H., Harrington, G., Gosling, W.D. & Self, S. (2014) Changes in spore chemistry and appearance with increasing maturity. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 201, 41-46. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2013.11.001
  • Miller, C.S. & Gosling, W.D. (2014) Quaternary forest associations in lowland tropical West Africa. Quaternary Science Reviews, 84, 7-25. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.10.027
  • Sayer, E.J., Featherstone, H.C. & Gosling, W.D. (2014) Sex & Bugs & Rock n Roll: getting creative about public engagement. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 29, 65-67. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2013.12.008

Back to the future: using proxy data to assess environmental change

PCRG’s Frazer Bird gives a leture for schools in Milton Keynes as part of the CEPSAR Christmas Lecture series:

To find out more read Frazer’s blog post about his research.