Will’s BES T-shirt logo swabbed at Greenman; for more microbes on festival kit visit the “Hall of shame” on http://www.besfest.org
August was a month for travel with PCRG members heading for Peru (Bryan, and he is still there), Greenman festival (William), INTECOL conference (William and Frazer), and the Royal Geographic Society annual meeting (William, Encarni, Frazer and Hayley). Detailed reports of the UK based travels are already on the blog, and hopefully we will get a post from Bryan on his Peruvian adventure once he is back.
Back in Milton Keynes work progressed with:
Hayley producing a revised full draft of her pollen counting methodology manuscript,
Frazer starting with the first tentative attempts to apply his chironomid training data set to fossil chironomid records,
Phil trialing inverted microscopes and training on the FTIR,
Encarni plotting field work in Ecuador (more travel for November-December),
Lots of excitement in the Palaeo group over the last couple of months including:
Co-I Wes Fraser checks out the FTIR in its new lab. The FTIR will be the main kit used for pollen chemical analysis in the project.
1) Recruitment. Interviews, and offers, for the PhD and PDRA posts related to our recent NERC standard grant award. Hot competition made our life very difficult but we are delighted to be adding two new people to our team. More information as soon as positions have been confirmed…
2) Student conference. On 16 May it was the annual CEPSAR student conference. The standard of talks from our 2nd and 3rd year PhD students was as excellent. With both Hayley and Frazer representing the PCGR well. Frazer recieved a highly commended award from the judges which means that he is on the right track having just had a paper accepted for INTECOL in August – well done Frazer.
3) Outreach preparation & activity. The British Ecological Society “Sex and Bugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll” got its first outing at Imperialfest (04/05/2013), further activities and equipment were tested at The OU (24/05/2013) and hopefully we are now set for our first major outing at Wychwood – exciting times!
Rachel Gill and Encarni Montoya with sediment cores from Jamaica.
Quick and belated update on activity in March! Not sure where the time is going at the moment…
Early in the month we were delighted to welcome Prof. Jonathan Holmes and Rachel Gill from UCL who came to use our core splitter to open new sediment cores from Wally Wash Pond in Jamaica! A visit from Steve Brooks (Natural History Museum) early in the month to discuss midgy progress with Frazer was great. We are getting ever closer to developing a training data set… Also popping by was ex-PhD student and now Aberystwyth lecturer Joe Williams who we will hopefully be developing some new collaborations with over the summer and fingers crossed mounting an expedition back to Bolivia!
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.
For further information on the project and how to apply see the full advert: NERC PhD advert. Prior to applying please check eligibility for NERC funding by clicking here.
Closing date: 25th April, interviews will be held at The Open University during May.
Two NERC algorithm funded PhD studentships are currently available with the PCRG. The projects are focused on understanding past environmental change in west tropical Africa and Amazonian-Andean Ecuador. Both projects will involve field work and build on on-going research within the lab.
Closing date 31/01/2013
One project will work on samples collected during fieldwork in 2012 near Papallacta (Ecuador).
Time seemed to escape me in April so I have a lot of research group action to report in this post! Here are some highlights…
At The Open University (OU) the research students have all been busy (of course): Natalie presented her 3rd year talk at the CEPSAR student conference and attended a meeting in Durham, Lottie spent two weeks at University College London (Environmental Change Research Centre) learning to become a statistics guru studying the “Numerical Analysis of Biological and Environmental Data” course, while Hayley and Frazer have been writing up their first year probation reports ahead of their mini-vivas next month. Over in Florida Bryan submitted his first PhD paper and has headed off on field work in Peru; and most significantly… I am very pleased to report that Nikki successfully defended her PhD thesis! Congratulations Nikki!
Thinking of PhD I was also pleased to have the opportunity to welcome my PhD supervisor, Frank Mayle, to The OU to give a CEPSAR seminar last week. It was great to be able to show off the labs to Frank at last having promised to invite him down when I arrived at The OU in 2005! He gave a very interesting talk on new archaeological findings from beneath the rain-forest in the Amazon Basin.
Away from The OU a couple of weeks ago I was down at Charles Darwin House for the British Ecological Society meetings committee meeting! We were working on the program for the annual meeting in Birmingham during December this year and it is shaping up to be a very exciting event; keep up to date by following the BES on twitter (@BritishEcolSoc).
Abstract Amazonia has long been considered to be a pristine wilderness, largely untouched by human activity, supporting small, scattered indigenous tribes living in harmony with their rainforest environment.
However, recent discoveries of massive geometric earthworks, revealed by deforestation in recent decades, are challenging this ‘virgin wilderness’ paradigm and pointing to substantially greater environmental impacts by pre-Columbian societies than previously supposed.
In my talk I review these archaeological discoveries and discuss how a combined palaeoecological-archaeological approach has the potential to resolve the scale of environmental land use and disturbance associated with these ancient cultures. I also consider the implications of these findings for understanding rainforest ecology and biodiversity, as well as conservation policy.
If you are external to The Open University and wish to attend this lecture please contact William Gosling in advance.