The second day of our fieldwork saw us; transfer from Accra to Fumesua where FORIG is located (approximately 20 km south of Kumasi); meet up with FORIGs deputy director Dr Stephen Adu-Bredu to discuss fieldwork and outreach plans; and settle in to FORIG for the next two weeks.
The next two days will involve building pollen traps ready for deployment next and finalising the detailed day-to-day plan of work.
The latest round of fieldwork in Ghana is underway. Adele and myself are travelling out to collect pollen traps deployed last year as part of Adeles PhD research. We will be revisiting the sites in Ankasa, Bobiri and Kogyae that Adele and Phil visited last year. This time we are also accompanied by Lottie who will be delivering workshops on outreach activity engagement and the palaeoecology represented in the sediment record of Lake Bosumtwi.
Flying into land at Accra in the twilight we passed over a storm cell, with some fantastic convective clouds illuminated by flashes of lightning within. Once out of the airport, we were taken through the hustle and bustle of Accra streets, alive with evening activity. Finally reaching our destination for the night, the FORIG guesthouse. All three members of our party readily made for bed to get a good nights sleep before tomorrows journey to Kumasi.
We’ve got a bumper crop of palaeoecological film making for you today, with three videos uploaded to our very own ‘Ecology of the Past’ Youtube channel. We’ve got an interview with Will Gosling, talking about the Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project and his own background and career (it’s a timely and somewhat poignant addition to the channel, because this is Will’s last day at The Open University before heading off to Amsterdam). Also posted are research presentations by Frazer Bird and Hayley Keen, which were filmed during the PhD student conference on 21st May. For the first time at the Open University these presentations were carried out in the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) format.
Our next video to be uploaded to the ‘Ecology of the past’ Youtube channel is a short interview with Wes Fraser, Co-Investigator on the Bosumtwi project and developer of the pollen chemistry ultraviolet-B proxy. Wes talks about his role on the project, his background, and what excites him most about this current research. Similar ‘talking heads’ style interviews will follow over the coming weeks for each of the key researchers on the project.
My first fieldwork from the OU, in 2005, was pollen trapping on the Galapagos. Here I am looking beardy on Bainbridge.
February was an exciting month for me principally because of the finalization of my move to the University of Amsterdam (UvA) where I will become head of Paleo and Landscape Ecology in September. The decision to leave The Open University (OU) has been a difficult one. When I joined the OU as a RCUK Research Fellow in Ecosystem Science in 2005 I would not have believed that I would be in a position to take on a job such as the one in Amsterdam only nine years later. Building the group here during the last nine years has been a lot of fun and I have got to work with some great people. Stand out moments include:
Obtaining my first grant as Principle Investigator (c. US$20,000 from the National Geographic for field work in Bolivia),
Recruiting, and graduating, my first PhD research students (Joe Williams and Macarena Cardenas),
Being invited to participate in large international research efforts (notably the Lake Bosumtwi project),
Co-editing my first book (Bush et al., 2011), having my first student to publish a paper getting it in Science (Cardenas et al., 2011), and helping to write a popular science text co-published by the Natural History Museum (Silvertown et al., 2011)
There have been many more amazing things here but I don’t want to swamp this post with a retrospective of my OU career…
Ongoing excitement within the PCRG is happening on a number of fronts:
Hayley Keen: “Continual pollen counting, second lot of Argon dating done, and first set of wood macrofossils back and ready for identification!”
Frazer Bird: “At the start of September I began working as a technician as part of Encarni’s project. I am looking at the midges from the core we collected together on our last field trip. Things are going well, although the midges are hard to find in the older sections the preservation in early sequences is great. The resolution of this core looks to be fantastic also so and hopefully we will get some interesting results when we compare all the proxies. Away fromthe lab I presented at INTECOL 2013 in London, The talk seemed to go down well and was noted as highly commended by the judging panel. Great publicity all round for the midges!!!”
Bryan Valencia: Has been on field work in Peru during this time he presented a talk on climate change to the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica, and gave interviews to local journalists and two TV stations. He also collected sediments from two locations, and manged to obtain a new US visa. He is now working on the final stages of submitting his thesis.
Phil Jardine: Phil has been busy ordering in microscopes and other equipment for the Lake Bosumtwi project (the first of which arrived today), and setting up the trip to Ghana that he’ll be going on with new PhD student Adele Julier in late October. He’s also been attempting to learn more about geochemistry, which has proved challenging.
Lake Pindo: We have finally the results of 6 samples radiocarbon dated from NRCF through our collaborator Dr Pauline Gulliver, and we have sent 4 more to “range find” the key interval of interests for the FORSENS project. We have started the midges’ analysis although it seems this going to be focused to the upper 4 meters of sediment. We would like to discern possible preservation issues in tropical records for this proxy. Some samples for a preliminary screening looking for diatoms ahve been collected and sent to the new FORSENS collaborator Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia. MS samples have been also collected for the first three drives and we hope to run this analysis next month.
Lake Banos: We have started the pollen prep. for the upper section of the record.
Management tasks: We are now ready for the tropical record Lake Marcacocha pollen prep., collaborating with an ongoing project lead by Alex Chepstow-Lusty. On a different topic, I have started the organisation of department seminars, so I would like to highlight if you have any potential speaker, please contact me.
Publications: a co-authorship in a paper published in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics authored by Valentí Rull and his research group in the Botanical Institute of Barcelona is now available on line (click here)
William Gosling: “I have been promoted to Senior Lecturer (hooray),started work on the new level 2 environmental science module, been working on a new paper from the Erazo study site, and had a holiday!”
My name’s Phil Jardine, and I’ve recently joined the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group as a post-doc, on the NERC-funded ‘500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes’. For this project I’ll be analysing the chemistry of pollen grains from a 500,000 year long sediment record from Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana, with the aim of generating a long-term historical record of solar irradiance.
Before coming to the Open University I was based at the University of Birmingham, where I did PhD and post-doc research on North American pollen records from the early Palaeogene (~65 – 45 million years ago). For this work I was particularly interested in the role of climate in driving changes in plant communities, especially during a rapid global warming event 55 million years called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Having worked for some time now on pretty old material, I’m looking forward to researching something a bit more recent – if you can call the last 500,000 years recent – and going out to Ghana and looking at real, live, tropical plants.
If you would like to get in touch about the Lake Bosumtwi project, or something else pollen related, please feel free to get in touch.
Woodland resources in the high Andes have varied through the last 5000 years and influenced human societal development. The relationship between people and natural resources in the Andes is explored in the recently published Gosling & Williams (2013); http://dx.doi.org/doi:10.1177/0959683613496296
In July we have managed to get a number of individual blog posts out so teaching activity on summer school, publications and conference reports have already been covered. Behind the scenes progress in the lab has continued despite the hot weather:
Frazer has commenced writing of his Chironomid training data set paper, and analysis of a fossil chironomid record.
Hayley has been plugging away at the analysis of pollen from Mera, and has got the first of her wood macrofossil samples prepared for thin sectioning (fingers crossed next month we may start to get some identifications on these!).
Lottie, Natalie and Bryan are keeping their supervisors very busy with reading material as they continue a pace with writing up.
Phil is setting up the Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project (we now have an offical grant code!) and is settling in; hopefully he should be moved down to MK very soon!
And Encarni is multi tasking and organising everything as usual 🙂