The impact of people on islands

January 19, 2018
WDG

Since being appointed as an Associate Editor of Vegetation History & Archaeobotany last year I have the pleasure of working on a number of exciting and interesting manuscripts from the tropics. I am particularly delighted that the first of these (Astudillo, 2018) has now been published. I particularly liked this manuscript because of: (i) the close relationship that was shown between the historical and fossil records, and (ii) the clear signal shown from working on a island system. This linkage is something I have been thinking about in my own research on Mauritius recently (Gosling et al., 2017) and is, I believe, particularly valuable to do because it demonstrates the validity of techniques to track human activity when applied in contexts without historical documentation. The impact of people on the Galapagos is shown by Astudillo (2018) from investigation of multiple proxies (charcoal, phytoliths and macrofossils) to build up a comprehensive picture of human impacts on one of the most famous places for biodiversity on Earth. Hopefully this study is just the start of investigations into past human impacts on the Galapagos islands, and I hope that you enjoy reading the manuscript!

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Environments Through Time – weeks 2 & 3

November 19, 2017
WDG

Britte reconfiguring the chronology for Lake Pata

Britte reconfiguring the chronology for Lake Pata

The second and third weeks of the Environments Through Time course at the University of Amsterdam has focused on obtaining practical experience of developing chronologies, analyzing multi-variate data-sets, and conducting time series analysis. The focus of the course has been on Quaternary environmental change, however, the skills learnt can be applied to almost any time-scale so long as you have time control points you want to tie together, and multiple things you can track changing through that time.

Over the two week period the students worked on a previously published paper that they had selected that contains: (i) chronological information (at least 3 control points), and (ii) multiple variables that change through the time series (at least 9 variables). In week two they deconstructed the chronologies and generated their own revised versions. For example students have (re-)calibrated radiocarbon dates, made different decisions on dates to include/exclude, and used different approaches to constructing the age vs. depth model, e.g. contrasting linear point-to-point vs. Bayesian methodologies. In week three they have taken the data-set(s) associated with their paper and re-evaluated it in light of the revised chronologies using cluster analysis, ordination techniques, and wavelets.

The joy of wavletes

The joy of wavletes

Through this exercise students have gained experience of how to critically assess scientific literature and gained an appreciation of where re-analysis of data-sets can (and cannot) make a difference. Personally I have be delighted with the high level of engagement and enthusiasm for the material and have been excited to have a chance to delve into literature that I would not otherwise be aware of.

For more information on this course see: Environments Through Time – week 1

 

More on “Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition”

October 20, 2017
WDG

Crytsal McMichael (University of Amsterdam)

Discussion on human impacts on Amazonian forest…

McMichael, C.H., Feeley, K.J., Dick, C.W., Piperno, D.R. & Bush, M.B. (2017) Comment on “Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition”. Science 358. DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8347

Junqueira, A.B., Levis, C., Bongers, F., Peña-Claros, M., Clement, C.R., Costa, F. & ter Steege, H. (2017) Response to Comment on “Persistent effects of pre-Columbian plant domestication on Amazonian forest composition”. Science 358. DOI: 10.1126/science.aan8837

Exploring ancient cesspits in Deventer (Netherlands)

June 26, 2017
WDG

Jippe Kreuning

University of Amsterdam MSc Biological Sciences student Jippe Kreuning investigated the contents of cesspits in the Dutch city of Deventer for his research project. Jippe investigated fossil pollen, seeds and other biological remains to discover what people in the ancient city were eating. In doing so Jippe gained new insights into ancient trade routes.

To find out more about Jippe’s project watch his video courtesy of FOLIA YouTube channel (in Dutch)

Jippe Kreunings zoektocht naar versteende poep

Vegetation History & Archaeobotany

February 12, 2017
WDG

vhaI am delighted to report that I have recently been appointed as an Associate Editor for the journal Vegetation History & Archaeobotany (VHA). The journals scope is global and covers Quaternary environmental and climatic change, with a specific focus on the Holocene and pre-historic human impacts on landscapes; often linking palaeoecological and archaeological research. My remit with VHA is to provide expertise on tropical, and in particular South American, studies. Recent articles in VHA with a South American focus include:

I hope that over the next few years we can publish some more exciting articles on the tropics in VHA and I would therefore like to encourage you to submit interesting high quality original research, reviews, or short articles for our consideration.

To find out more about the journal and submit an article click here.

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Scientific methods in archaeology

November 10, 2016
WDG

Preparing my lecture for the new Scientific Methods in Archaeology course for VU Amsterdam and University of Amsterdam students studying a minor in Geoarchaeology. The focus will be on detecting human activity in the past, to illustrate this I will include Easter Island/Rapa Nui as a case study. We will focus on how palaeoecological evidence can be used to gain insights into past human activity. Whilst putting this together I discovered these nice documentaries looking at humans and their environmental impacts on Easter Island/Rapa Nui which I wanted to share, they show how much effort people would have had to put into altering their landscape:

For further information see also:

Rull, V., Cañellas-Boltà, N., Saez, A., Margalef, O., Bao, R., Pla-Rabes, S., Valero-Garcés, B. & Giralt, S. (2013) Challenging Easter Island’s collapse: The need for interdisciplinary synergies. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 1, DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2013.00003

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