A research expedition in Peru, the land of the Paddington Bear

English: Paddington Bear at Paddington Station

I whish I could start with “ Once upon a time…” because that would be the easiest way to begin this paragraph (or a paper). Besides, to some extend, “Once upon a time” can be appropriate because this is a story related to the OLD friends of the Paddington Bear. By that, I mean a story about the mega fauna in South America.

I, Kobrina Olga, have drawn reconstruction on ...
Macrauchenia drawn by Kobrina Olga (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Reconstructing environmental change in Jamaica

by Mick Burn and Suzanne Palmer (University of West Indies)

Our whistle-stop tour of the UK brought us to the PCRG on the 26-27 June. We are undertaking a multiproxy (ostracods, gastropods, forams) study of different coastal lagoons along the south coast of Jamaica in order to reconstruct coastal environmental change over the last Millennium. Jamaica lies not only within the firing line of Atlantic tropical cyclones but also forms part of the Gonave microplate, which has been responsible for a series of large earthquakes within the region, including the infamous 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti. As a consequence, one of our main challenges is to distinguish between sediments deposited during abrupt climatic and tectonic events over the last ca. 1000 years.

Figure 1: A section of the sediment record from Albion Ponds.
Figure 1: A section of the sediment record from Albion Ponds.

The purpose of our UK visit this year was to split cores recovered from Albion Ponds in preparation for ITRAX XRF core scanning at Aberystwyth University in August. We are very grateful for the hospitality at PCRG and look forward to developing further collaboration on projects in the very near future.

Do plants wear sun-block?

A growing body of evidence suggests that plants alter their chemical composition in relation to the amount of incoming solar radiation (“insolation“) they are exposed to during life.  Chemical changes are induced in order to provide protection against the deleterious effects of ultraviolet (UV) radiation; a relatively small, but important component of the total solar spectrum.  UV radiation is linked with a range of detrimental biological effects, primarily stemming from damaged DNA.  As sessile organisms, plants need to employ various mitigation mechanisms to prevent/reduce damage induced by UV radiation.  Such mechanisms include effective DNA repair pathways, physiological adaptations, and UV-absorbing compounds.  It is this last mechanism, UV-absorbing compounds (UACs), that is discussed here.

Lycopodium spore chemistry
Lycopodium spore chemistry can be divided into two distinct groups; aliphatic components and phenolic components.

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Response of Chironomids to late Pleistocene and Holocene environmental change in the eastern Bolivian Andes

Williams, J.J., Brooks, S. & Gosling, W.D. (2012) Response of Chironomids to late Pleistocene and Holocene environmental change in the eastern Bolivian Andes  Journal of Paleolimnology48: 485-501. doi: 10.1007/s10933-012-9626-1.




On Tuesday the UK participation in the International Continental scientific Drilling Program (ICDP) was officially launched at the British Geological Survey (Keyworth). The ICDP is designed to help scientists with the aquisition of samples to answer fundemental questions related to geological and enviornmental science. Now that the UK has membership to the ICDP, thanks to investment from the BGS, UK based scientists can take more of a lead in developing projects. Having worked on two projects based on ICDP sediments (Lake’s Titicaca and Bosumtwi) I am delighted by this development and hope over the next few years to be able to get involved in further exciting research.

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NERC Fellowship success

I am delighted to report that Dr Encarnacion Montoya Romo (currently of the Botanical Institute of Barcelona) has been awarded a NERC Fellowship to join the PCRG. The project is entitled “Evaluation of tropical forests sensitivity to past climate change” (FORSENS) and will examine environmental change at four study sites from different regions of the Neotropics: 1) Khomer Kotcha (Bolivia; 17oS, 4100 m above sea level [asl]) [1-3], 2) Consuelo (Peru, 13oS; 1400 m asl) [4-5], 3) Banos (Ecuador; 0oS, 4000 m asl), and 4) a new lowland site from Columbia/Ecuador to be collected during field work during the project.

The aim of the project is to explore the spatial and temporal consitance of tropical vegetation response to aridity (mid-Holocene dry period) and warming (last deglaciation). The project will use fossil pollen, chironomids, charcoal, non pollen palynomorphs and organic biomarkersto build up a comprehnsive picture of environmental change. The diversity of the project means we have a number of exciting partners, including: Steve Brooks (Natural History Museum), Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Tech),  Prof. Valenti Rull (Botanical Institute of Barcelona) and the Dr. Pauline Gulliver (NERC radicarbon facility).

The fellowship will commence in October 2012. Further information will appear on is blog and group website soon.

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I have been engaged with two major activities during June: 1) submission of a research proposal to NERC, and 2) excitement of my first online teaching module going live to students, Cyprus activity, within Practical science: Earth and environment module (SXG288). Other members of the group have been writing up methods chapters (Natalie), number crunching and submitting abstract to the International Paleolimnology Symposium (Lottie), and submitting first year probation reports (Hayley and Frazer).

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