Lots of excitement in the Palaeo group over the last couple of months including:
1) Recruitment. Interviews, and offers, for the PhD and PDRA posts related to our recent NERC standard grant award. Hot competition made our life very difficult but we are delighted to be adding two new people to our team. More information as soon as positions have been confirmed…
2) Student conference. On 16 May it was the annual CEPSAR student conference. The standard of talks from our 2nd and 3rd year PhD students was as excellent. With both Hayley and Frazer representing the PCGR well. Frazer recieved a highly commended award from the judges which means that he is on the right track having just had a paper accepted for INTECOL in August – well done Frazer.
3) Outreach preparation & activity. The British Ecological Society “Sex and Bugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” got its first outing at Imperialfest (04/05/2013), further activities and equipment were tested at The OU (24/05/2013) and hopefully we are now set for our first major outing at Wychwood – exciting times!
4) Science outputs on track. The acceptance of two papers for publication (an African pollen atlas to be published in Review of Palaeobotany & Palynology, and palaeo-ecosystem services in the Andes paper for The Holocene).
Quick and belated update on activity in March! Not sure where the time is going at the moment…
Early in the month we were delighted to welcome Prof. Jonathan Holmes and Rachel Gill from UCL who came to use our core splitter to open new sediment cores from Wally Wash Pond in Jamaica! A visit from Steve Brooks (Natural History Museum) early in the month to discuss midgy progress with Frazer was great. We are getting ever closer to developing a training data set… Also popping by was ex-PhD student and now Aberystwyth lecturer Joe Williams who we will hopefully be developing some new collaborations with over the summer and fingers crossed mounting an expedition back to Bolivia!
Closing date : 25/04/2013
We are seeking a PDRA to study past climate and vegetation change in tropical West Africa as part of the NERC-funded “500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes” project. You will join a multidisciplinary collaborative research team and will work with an international network of project partners. The project will utilise cutting-edge organic geochemical techniques to generate the longest continuous record of fossil pollen chemistry change. The study will build upon previous research into the sediments recovered from Lake Bosumtwi (Ghana). The data generated will shed new light on the role of climate in driving vegetation change in the tropics.
You will already hold a PhD, or be near to completing your PhD, in a relevant scientific discipline with a background in the Earth or Environmental sciences. You must have substantial experience of organic geochemistry or tropical palynology, with well-developed self-management skills and the ability to prioritise effectively.
Prof . Yadvinder Malhi (University of Oxford)
Prof. Mark Sephton (Imperial College London)
Dr Tim Shanahan (University of Texas, Austin)
Dr Stephen Abu-Bredu (Forestry Research Institute of Ghana)
Fully funded NERC PhD studentship tied to 500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes project.
To start October 2013 now avaliable with the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group.
Title: Tropical vegetation, environment and climate: The present is the key to the past
William D. Gosling (The Open University),
Wesley Fraser (Oxford Brookes University),
Barry Lomax (University of Nottingham),
Mark Sephton (Imperial College London) &
Yadvinder Malhi (University of Oxford)
Understanding how vegetation responded to past climate change requires the development of well constrained relationships between living floras, environment and climate. This project will help constrain the great uncertainty which exists as to how tropical ecosystems are represented in the fossil record by examining the relationship between modern vegetation and the pollen it produces. The project will analyse modern pollen rain using a combination of traditional microscopic analysis  and cutting edge geochemical techniques . We anticipate that the findings will provide new insight into past vegetation and climatic change.
Closing date: 25th April, interviews will be held at The Open University during May.
To find out more about the department, research environment and student life at The Open Univerity visit the Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems, the Centre for Earth, Planetry, Space & Astronomical Research (CEPSAR) and OU RocSoc web pages.
 Gosling, W.D., et al., Differentiation between Neotropical rainforest, dry forest, and savannah ecosystems by their modern pollen spectra and implications for the fossil pollen record. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 2009. 153(1-2): p. 70-85.
 Lomax, B.H., et al., Plant spore walls as a record of long-term changes in Ultraviolet-B radiation. Nature Geoscience, 2008. 1(9): p. 592-596.
Excitement in February saw the arrival of a new research grant within the PCRG, to look at pollen and spore chemistry from Lake Bosumtwi (watch this space for new post-doc and PhD studentship positions), and (just in time) the expansion of benches in the microscope lab which will ensure that the new people will have spaces to sit in! In addition, we had a paper published with long time friends and collaborators at the University of Leeds; Roucoux et al. (2013).
Despite the disruption of the lab refit Hayley and Frazer have been cracking on with pollen and chironomid analysis. Encarni and Frazer returned from field work in Ecuador and half the samples have so far made it back to The Open University; we now wait with anticipation for customs to release the other box!
Meanwhile I have been working on exam questions for the Geological Record of Environmental Change module (S369), interviewing prospective PhD candidates for the October 2013 start projects and have been on a training course to learn about the Vitae support for research student training.
PCRG COMPLETE AGAIN
I am glad to say that after almost two months out of the office running around with 8 bags of equipment, Frazer and I have finished our tour of the Americas. As the work has been so diverse, we would like to split our comments and impressions into two different posts, we hope you enjoy them!