I am sitting on the shore of Lago Condorcillo in Southern Ecuador, after a long day of travel, trying to control my shivering. At roughly 10,500 ft. above sea level, the lake is very cold, with wind that howls over the barren hills dotted with giant boulders. The lake is also almost always blanketed by thick fog and pelted by driving rain. When you’re surrounded by the thick fog punctuated by lightning bolts, it’s easy to believe that some lost civilization lurks just out of sight. Tonight we are experiencing lightning storms, which is adding to the feeling that some angry, ancient life form must live at Lago Condorcillo.
Tomorrow, I will be out in the cold and rain, balancing on an inflatable boat and fighting frostbite. Mark Bush, who is my Ph.D. advisor, Courtney Shadik, who is my lab partner and tent buddy, and I will be collecting cores of mud from the bottom of Condorcillo. We will create our rig for coring by tying two inflatable boats together, and placing a wooden platform between them. Mark, Courtney, and I will then collect our mud cores from this platform.
As I’m contemplating the hazards of camping in a lightning storm, Mark says, “Tell me everything that went wrong today.” Courtney pulls a sleeping bag closer to her. I begin to describe how Google Maps can’t seem to understand distance in the Andes, and so traveling to Lago Condorcillo took much longer than we anticipated. Courtney laughs beside me and adds, “We don’t have any matches to start a fire.” Despite our troubles, I am grinning from ear to ear, no doubt spoiling the grim mood Mark is attempting to cultivate and Lago Condorcillo is doing its best to enforce.
I recently joined the editorial board of Plant Ecology & Diversity at the invitation of editor-in-chief Laszlo Nagy (University of Campinas, Brazil). The journal focuses on ecological and evolutionary issues within plant biology with broad themes covering biodiversity, conservation and global change. Furthermore, I think this is a particularly interesting journal to be involved with because of its option for double-blind peer reviews, commitment to providing a platform for ‘negative results’ and ‘repeat experiments’, and its open access Grubb Review series (Nagy & Resco de Dios, 2016); which already includes many significant articles, including: Ashton (2017), Barbeta & Peñuelas (2016), Grubb (2016), Körner (2018), Valladares et al. (2016), and Wilkinson & Sherratt (2016). In addition to the invited Grubb Reviews the journal publishes: research articles, short communications, reviews, and scientific correspondence. My role on the editorial board will be to cover submissions related to tropical palaeoecology and biogeography. So please consider submitting to Plant Ecology & Diversity if you have some exciting new research or ideas that you think would be appropriate.
Yesterday was the second, and final, day of the Netherlands Annunal Ecology Meeting (NAEM) for 2018. Having stayed up rather later than I would normally for a Tuesday night, due to the the gezellig atmosphere, the scrambled eggs and coffee were very welcome for breakfast. We were then on with the conference with parallel sessions starting at 08:30.
First up I opted for the session on “Monitoring biodiversity change: Essential biodiversity variables and beyond” organised by Daniel Kissiling (University of Amsterdam) and Rob Jongman (Wageningen University & Research). In the session new IBED PhD research Zsofia Koma presented a nice talk on the potential of LiDAR for evaluating ecosystem change, and Franziska Schrodt (University of Nottingham) looked at how we can link biodiversity and geodiversity. I found the talk by Franziska highlighting the importance of linking the abiotic and biotic components of the landscape particulalry stimulating as it links very well with much ongoing work within both the Department of Theoretical & Computational Ecology (Biogeography & Macroecology) and Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics (Biodiversity & Geodiversity in the tropics) here at IBED.
Having fun online at #NAEM2018
To take us to lunch were two plenary lectures on the theme of these were given by Katja Poveda (Cornell University) and Erik Polman (replacing Marchel Dicke; Wageningen University). Both talks illustrated the complexity of natural systems and landscapes.
After lunch I chose the “Animal Ecology” session charied by Chris Smit (University of Groningen) and Patrick Jansen (Wageningen Research & University). I really enjoyed the first two talks in this session which highlighted the complexity that animals add to ecosystems. First up Esther Rodriguez (PWN) showed the differential impact of European bison and wild horses on vegetation (Cromsigt et al., 2017). Then Annelies van Grinkel (University of Groningen) presented her work trying to discover if deer in the Netherlands are still scared of wolves after the absence of wolves from the Netherlands for the last 150 years; this included some nice camera trap footage of deer running away from hand soap!
Overall a fun meeting, I met lots of new people, and saw lots of great talks so will definatly be back next year. Thanks to all the organisers for putting on such as show.
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!