For full program click link: LinnSoc-Palynology2018
An international team of scientists have reconstructed the longest ever record of past sunshine using pollen trapped in lake sediments collected in Ghana, Africa. The study published today in Scientific Reports enables us to understand past changes in solar input to the global system over the past 140,000 years. Previously we have had to rely upon computer models to mathematically determine past solar inputs to the Earth. “This work really is a first; being able to peer back in time to understand how the Sun has driven our global system over many of thousands of years is a very exciting prospect” said joint-lead author Dr. Phillip Jardine of The Open University.
The Sun is a key component of our natural environment, driving a multitude of processes at Earth’s surface, from photosynthesis generating energy within plants, through to global-scale circulation patterns in our oceans and atmosphere. Understanding more about how the Sun has behaved in the past, and the influence this had on Earth’s environment, will help scientists predict future climate change.
Dr. Jardine used a technique pioneered by one of his co-authors, Dr. Wesley Fraser of Oxford Brookes University, to determine past changes in solar input, specifically changes in ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Plants protect themselves from the harmful nature of ultraviolet radiation by incorporating a number of specific chemical compounds into their tissues that absorb and dissipate the energy of UV radiation. Pollen grains of flowering plants are also provided protection by these UV-absorbing chemicals, thus act as a long-term recorder of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.
Pollen grains are readily trapped in lake sediments, where they can be preserved for millions of years. By extracting material from Lake Bosumtwi, Ghana, the pollen that was released by flowering plants thousands of years ago can be separated from the lake sediment and chemically analysed for UV-absorbing chemical compounds. It is this chemical signature within the ancient pollen grains that provides us with information about past levels of solar ultraviolet radiation.
“What we present here is a new opportunity to explore how the Earth has changed” said Dr. William Gosling (University of Amsterdam). “I am particularly excited about this because it will means that we can gain a better understanding of why vegetation changed in the past, and consequently this will allow us to anticipate better what the likely impacts of projected future climate change will be.”
This study is available now at www.nature.com/articles/srep39269
Jardine PE, Fraser WT, Lomax BH, Sephton MA, Shanahan TM, Miller CS & Gosling WD (2016) Pollen and spores as biological recorders of past ultraviolet irradiance. Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038/srep39269
The Cross-disciplinary Palaeo-Environmental Research Training (XPERT) network commences in 2015. This international network will bring together early career researchers from five countries to learn new skills and develop collaborative projects. Training will be provided during a field school in Ecuador, and a summer school at the University of Amsterdam. For further details please visit the respective field school, summer school and staff pages hosted on this blog.
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.
Investigators on the project are:
Supported by project partners:
Much thanks to the many people who have supported and helped us in the development of this proposal. Now time to do some fun science…
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.
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).