PhD: Stress in Paradise

October 19, 2017

Title: Stress in Paradise: Quantifying the frequency and impacts of ENSO driven droughts in tropical Pacific Island Nations

Location: University of Soithampton (Geography & Environment)

Supervisory team: Prof. David Sear, Prof. Justin Sheffield, Prof Ian Croudace (National Oceanographic Centre, Southampton).

Rationale: Because of their small size and isolation, islands in the Pacific have limited and fragile natural resources, making them more vulnerable to climate hazards and stresses than are continents1. Pacific Island Nations (PINS) also occupy the region of the earth’s surface most immediately impacted by ENSO events. The impacts of El Nino events are felt across 3,975 islands, 13 island nations, affecting a population of 12.9 million who rely on rainfall for freshwater and food security. To date our understanding of the mechanisms of drought, their frequency and duration, and their biophysical effects in PINs remain poorly quantified. In addition island types experience droughts differently, varying according to their location, topography, geological history and ecology. Droughts are also thought to have been important drivers of the human colonization of the Pacific2. Drought frequency is likely to increase in the tropical pacific but again its specific impacts are largely unknown. This PhD seeks to develop a step change in our understanding of droughts based on novel coupling of long term data on drought frequency with process based drought modelling.

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Introducing Tessa Driessen

February 16, 2015

Tessa DriessenHi I’m Tessa and really excited to introduce myself here!

I’m an Environmental Biology Master student from Utrecht University (UU) doing a research internship in Amsterdam with William Gosling and Rike Wagner of the UU. Most people would describe me as a typical biologist because I like identifying plants and know some birds by their name. Personally I disagree because I lack the beard and hardly wear woollen socks. Besides looking at birds and plants I’m also interested in biodiversity and palaeoecology, and I will try to combine these interests in my research project on a sediment core from Samoa. I will be working on lake sediment cores from Samoa and hope fossil record can give me an overview of the natural history of the island (past c. 10,000 years); and an insight into what impact human colonisation had on the biodiversity. To explore the islands natural history I will be looking at pollen, charcoal and non pollen palynomorphs.

The sediment core on which I will be working has already been recovered and currently resides in beautiful Southampton (UK). So I’m spared of a 30 hour trip to tropical Samoa and the opportunity to return with some Samoan tattoo’s and a tan… So thanks to David Sear and his team at the University of Southampton with whom I will be collaborating for this project.

I have a long standing interest in tropical islands. Before commencing this research internship I did my first masters internship at WWF Indonesia. For my WWF internship I spent three months in the tropics collecting baseline ecological data on timber companies located in a new reserve in Sumatra. Furthermore, during my bachelor degree, I did a research internship at Naturalis Biodiversity Center investigating the “Correlation between higher altitudes and endemic plant species” in the Malayan archipelago. Our results turned out much better then we hoped for and fingers crossed our article will be accepted soon!

In three weeks I will be starting in the lab in Amsterdam and hopefully in a few months will be able to post an update about my results here.


INQUA 2015: Climate change in the tropical South Pacific during the Late Quaternary

October 27, 2014


inqua-JPPosted on behalf of Prof. David Sear (University of Southampton)

The next INQUA Congress will be held in Nagoya (Japan) on July 27 – August 2, 2015

This is a call for contributions to session P05 on ‘Climate change in the tropical South Pacific during the Late Quaternary’.

The session abstract is as follows:
Establishing well dated, quantitative, highly resolved palaeoclimate data for the major climate systems of the tropical south Pacific has become a research priority owing to the paucity of instrumental data from this critical region of the Earth. Whilst the quantity of proxy climate data for this region is increasing rapidly, compared to records from the Northern Hemisphere there is a surprising paucity especially when considering the importance of this region to global climate. Such information is vital for fully understanding inter-hemispheric climate linkages, global energy fluxes and the long-term evolution of natural climate variability such as the El Nino-Southern Oscillation. The dearth of pre-industrial climate records from this region contributes to large uncertainties associated with future climate change impacts far beyond the south Pacific. This session aims to bring together researchers working on Late Quaternary ocean/climate proxies with those whose research lies in modelling ocean-climate processes and dynamics in the tropical south pacific region, and their implications for global climate.

We hope this session will be of interest to you. If you plan to contribute to this session, please submit your abstract before December 20, 2014 click here.

We hope to see you at INQUA 2015.

Best Wishes,

David Sear, Julian Sachs, Kim Cobb, John Chiang, Peter Langdon – session conveners.

Professor David Sear
Geography & Environment
University of Southampton

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