A Study in Green

July 5, 2019
WDG

By Rachel Sales (Florida Institute of Technology, USA)

My bike is angry at me.

I’m rattling down an unpaved road in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The brakes screech at every turn, and the chain is close to falling off. Unsurprisingly, the rain is pouring, turning the road into a maze of puddles and mud. The road follows the Anzu River, and I can hear its roar off to my right.

I’m forcing a perfectly innocent bike to brave the Amazon because this road leads to the Herbario Amazónico of the Universidad Estatal Amazónica (ECUAMZ). ECUAMZ (an acronym for “Ecuador Amazon”) is the only herbarium in the Amazon, and contains a repository of plant specimens for preservation and help with field identifications. It was established by Dr. David Neill, a specialist in the Fabaceae (legume) family and world-renowned expert in tropical botany, and Dr. Mercedes Asanza, the coordinator of the herbarium. They have agreed to mentor me over the summer and teach me about tropical plants. The Herbario Amazónico, which contains over 17,000 vascular plant species, is the perfect place to learn.

The view from the top of the tower at Jatun Sacha.

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Amazonia – natural wilderness or abandoned parkland?

April 5, 2019
WDG

Judith being enthusiastic on fieldwork in the Austrian Alps during her Bachelors degree

Amazonia – natural wilderness or abandoned parkland?

By Judith Kirschner (currently studying for MSc Earth Sciences: Geo-ecological Dynamics track at the University of Amsterdam)

In the 4th edition of our “Amsterdam Paleoecology Club” (APC), we discussed ‘A 6900-year history of landscape modification by humans in lowland Amazonia’ by Bush et al. (2006)1. The high-resolution record presented in this paper shows impressively that what we might perceive as native rainforest today could rather be a since a long time actively modified landscape.

The chronology from Lake Sauce (Peruvian Andes) suggests a continuously forested landscape under significant anthropogenic impact over the last 6900 years. Indicators of human activity are taken to be the varying presence of crop pollen (Zea mays) throughout the record, combined with the continuous occurrence of charcoal. Two extra-large fire events are dated at c. 6700 and between 4500-4230 cal BP, probably enhanced by the relatively drier climate of the mid-Holocene. However, it is not clear yet if human actions formed a response to climate change or were part of social and cultural changes.

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A 7000-year history of changing plant trait composition in an Amazonian landscape; the role of humans and climate

March 18, 2019
WDG

Open access:

van der Sande, M.T., Gosling, W.D., Correa-Metrio, A., Prado-Junior, J., Poorter, L., Oliveira, R.S., Mazzei, L. & Bush, M.B. (2019) A 7000-year history of changing plant trait composition in an Amazonian landscape; the role of humans and climate. Ecology Letters DOI: 10.1111/ele.13251

Read Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics press release:
Millennial-scale effects of human disturbance on tropical forests

Introducing Britte Heijink

March 2, 2018
WDG

Veerle and I trying to protect ourselves from the mosquitos.

Veerle and I trying to protect ourselves from the mosquitos.

Hi all!

My name is Britte Heijink and I’m doing my MSc Biological Science thesis research project with Crystal McMichael and William Gosling. I travelled with Veerle Vink and Crystal to the Colombian part of Amazonia to collect samples for my project. At Amacayacu National Park, we collected soil cores from different locations in the plot. Now that we’re back in Amsterdam, I’m analysing the soils to reconstruct the fire and vegetation history from the plot using charcoal and phytoliths. I am specifically looking to see if humans have been present in the system and how they potentially affected the vegetation at Amacayacu.

 Here I’m Sampling pieces of soil cored by Louisa and checking for large pieces of charcoal

Here I’m Sampling pieces of soil cored by Louisa and checking for large pieces of charcoal

I’ve completed my bachelor thesis for Bèta-Gamma (Liberal Arts and Sciences) under the supervision of Crystal and Will here at the UvA. I’m really excited to work with them again, and already looking forward to our meetings at the Oerknal 😉  I will be finished by the end of September, and then possibly return for a literature study.

One of the most wonderful experiences in my academic career so far has been the fieldwork to Panama and Colombia with Crystal, Veerle, and Nina. It was a lot of hard work, and 90% of our time was spent covered in mud, sweat, and insect repellant, but the experience of working in a tropical rainforest was completely worth it! Veerle and I will write another blog about our fieldwork soon. Come see us in the microscope lab if you want to hear our dangerous and amazing stories before that!

Cheers,

Britte

Our last day in the Amazon was spend with some of the local students, Louisa Fernando Gomez Correa and Mariana Gutierrez Munera.

Our last day in the Amazon was spend with some of the local students, Louisa Fernando Gomez Correa and Mariana Gutierrez Munera.

Amazonian coring isn’t boring

February 2, 2018
WDG

By Seringe Huisman (MSc Biological Sciences, Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem DynamicsUniversity of Amsterdam)

Hello all! You might have been wondering if I died in the middle of Amazonian nowhere, since I haven’t come back to writing a blog after we left for fieldwork in July. Given we were in an Amazonian region full of venomous snakes that could have been the case, but the good news is I just didn’t get around writing it because I got carried away by the findings of my project! We actually had a very successful field trip – apart from some minor issues like the lake swallowing equipment, sinking waist-high into the mud each step of our 7 hour long ‘trail’ to the lakes, and almost not getting my precious samples through airport security.

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Job: Post-doctoral researcher in Palaeoecology

November 30, 2017
cmcmicha

Job: Post-doctoral researcher in Neotropical Palaeoecology
Location: Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam
Duration: 3 years
Deadline for applications: 15 January 2018

We are seeking to recruit a Neotropical palaeoecologist to join the recently funded “The past peoples of Amazonia: Assessing ecological legacies” project (PI Dr. Crystal McMichael, funding NWO, based within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics). The project aims to reconstruct cultural histories from lake sediments in northwestern Amazonia, and link past human activities with modern ecological observations. The project involves analyzing microfossils (including pollen, phytoliths, and charcoal), and the development of a transfer function that estimates past human impacts in tropical forest systems.

We are particularly looking for a candidate with  expertise and experience, in:

  • Fieldwork in remote areas.
  • Neotropical pollen.
  • Quantitative analysis, including familiarity with R and Geographical Information Systems.
  • Academic publication.

For more details and how to apply click here.

Rubicon project to link fossil pollen with plant traits

July 20, 2017
WDG

Dear Ecology of the past blog readers,

This time you are reading a message from a non-expert in paleoecology. My name is Masha and I will spend the next two years on a very exciting postdoctoral fellowship funded by NWO (Dutch National Science Foundation) under their Rubicon scheme in close collaboration with William Gosling (University of Amsterdam).

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