PCRG October

The back end of September and October has been very busy as I have tried to catch up with the teaching, administration and research activity which somewhat accumulated whilst on field work!

Major tasks have been:
1) the marking and coordination for level 3 Geological Record of Environmental Change (S369) module examination,
2) getting used to my new role as Post Graduate Tutor looking after all things related to a doctoral students in the Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems, and
3) trying to find time to finish off three manuscripts for submission!

Other members of the lab have also been busy:
* Encarni has arrived from Valenti Rull‘s lab at the Botanical Institute in Barcelona as a NERC Fellow and is settling in to life in Milton Keynes, more details soon…
* Lottie is getting into data analysis and writing up of the Lake Bosumtwi pollen an N isotope data,
* Natalie is writing, crunching numbers and waiting for a machine to be fixed…
* Bryan is working on gelling biogeographic data together in GIS

Imagae of a Toarcian foraminifera taken by Alice Kennedy facilitated by the new cable which allows our microscope camera to talk to a computer – hooray!

* Hayley has been preparing for talking at the Linnean Society palynology meeting on 1st November “Understanding pollen and spore diversity”, and helping “steal” a microtome for sectoning her wood macrofossils,
* Frazer has started to plot Andean and Amazonian midge distributions against temperature, and
* Alice has been taking photos…

In the midst of all this fun I was sent this great video which brightened my day. I hope you enjoy it as well…

Diagenetic stability of sporopollenin opens door to study deep-time palynomorphs

Watson, JS, Fraser, WT & Sephton, MA (2012) Formation of a polyalkyl macromolecule from the hydrolysable component within sporopollenin during heating/pyrolysis experiments with Lycopodium spores. Journal of Analytical & Applied Pyrolysis 95, 138-144. doi:10.1016/j.bbr.2011.03.031

This article demonstrates the stability window of sporopollenin under laboratory simulated diagenetic conditions. We show that sporopollenin is resistant to chemical alteration when subject to low-to-moderate diagenetic conditions, maintaining its original aliphatic:phenolic co-polymer configuration. Under the most extreme of conditions tested here we show that the co-polymer configuration begins to defunctionalise and reploymerise to be replaced in-situ by a predominantly aliphatic polymeric structure, including aliphatic components significantly shorter than originally were present in the starting material. The outcome of this study shows that fossil sporopollenin may still retain its original chemical composition, even after being subjected to diagenesis. Such a finding opens the door for investigating deeper time chemical composition of sporopollenin and environmentally-influenced variations in sporopollenin structure, beyond that currently achieved.

Research Fellowships at The Open University

FOUR Research Investment Fellowship
Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems
Centre for Earth, Planetary, Space & Astronomical Research
Closing date : 30/11/2012

Asteraceae in Andes

The four fellowships are advertised in four areas of Earth & Environmental Science; however, applications from exceptional scientists in related fields are also welcome.

For further details visit:
Earth Science
* Integrated Earth System Modelling
* Terrestrial Ecosystem Science
* Ecosystem Services

If you are interested in any of these posts and want to discuss links to the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group please contact William Gosling.

Sediment sampling on the Andean flank, Ecuador

One of the key goals of the fieldtrip to Ecuador (August-September) was to sample organic and volcanic (tephra) layers from sedimentary exposures with the aim of obtaining new information about past envrionmental change in the region. Our Ecuadorian collaborator, Dr Patricia Mothes (Instituto Geofisico), had identified four of sites she thought might be useful too us: El Fatima Dique, Mera “2” Dique, El Rosol and Vinillos. 

Fatima section
At the Fatima site, near Puyo, a thin organic bed was sampled sandwiched between volcanic ash deposits. Wood macrofossils from this deposit have been dated to the last glacial period.

For further descriptions of what we found and field photos read on…

Read More

Evolutionary stasis of sporopollenin

Fraser,WT, Scott, AC, Forbes, AES, Glasspol, IJ, Plotnick, RE, Kenig, F & Lomax, BH (2012) Evolutionary stasis of sporopollenin biochemistry revealed by unaltered Pennsylvanian spores. New Phytologist, doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04301.x

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Fieldwork: Papallacta and Cosanga

The second part of our Ecuadorian expedition took in lakes and sections close to the towns of Papallacta and Cosanga. The variation in climatic conditions was marked as we experienced first hand the transition from freezing fog and driving rain to burning sun and heat within a few tens of kilometers as we travelled from >4000 m down to around 1000 m elevation.

Vinillos Section
Sampling the sedimentary section at Vinillos was hampered by a tropical downpour. Sediments recovered from here include volcanic ash, mud slide deposits including large wood macrofossils and fine grained organic sediments probably deposited in still water environments.
Antenas near Cujuca
Preparing to recover a short core from a pond near the antenas at Cujuca. Short cores will be used for Chironomid analysis.

Tomorrow we will attempt to recover short cores from two more lakes. Then our final few days here in Ecuador will be spent visiting partners and packing up.