Keen PhD Thesis 2015

September 30, 2015

Hayley Keen getting excited about sediments during fieldwork in Ecuador (2012). Photo: J. Malley

Hayley Keen getting excited about sediments during fieldwork in Ecuador (2012). Photo: J. Malley

Keen, H.F. (2015) Past environmental change on the eastern Andean flank, Ecuador. PhD Thesis, Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems, The Open University.

The eastern Andean flank of Ecuador (EAF) contains some of the world’s most biodiverse ecosystems. Andean montane forests are threatened due to anthropogenic pressures and both current and projected climate change. This thesis examines the palaeoecological history of two stratigraphic sequences (Mera Tigre West [MTW] and Mera Tigre East [MTE]) obtained from the Ecuadorian modern lower montane forest. The sediments preserved were analysed using eight analytical techniques, allowing an insight into the ecosystem’s potential response to projected changes derived from their past responses. Palaeoecological studies on the EAF are rare, and those that do exist are debated relating to: i) the inference of robust ecological data from pollen records in floristically diverse locations, and ii) the past source area of sediments preserved in fluvially exposed sequences, potentially leading to contamination with older material.

A statistical sub-sampling tool was developed (debate i), capable of producing statistically robust count sizes for each pollen sample; MTW and MTE count sizes ranged from 196-982 showing the diversity within sequences. The depositional environment of MTE was analysed, investigating sediment provenance throughout (debate ii). Results found that large scale volcanic events were critical in the preservation of the sediments, whereas fluvial influence caused a regional sediment source area in the upper stratigraphy, impacting on the palynological interpretation of MTE. Pollen records demonstrated the presence of a diverse vegetation community with no modern analogue at MTE (abundant taxa (>15 %): Hedyosmum, Wettinia, Ilex) and upper montane forest at MTW (Alnus, Hedyosmum, Podocarpus). Fire was not the main driver for the vegetation reassortment at either site (MTW correlation coefficient: -0.37, MTE: 0.16). The two sites have demonstrated the EAF plays host to floristically dynamic ecosystems, susceptible to drivers of change (fire and landscape) and should be considered when predicting the montane forests’ future response to environmental change.

Supervisors: Dr. William D. Gosling (The Open University/University of Amsterdam), Dr. Encarni Montoya and Dr. Sarah Sherlock (both The Open University).
Examiners: Dr. Dunia Urrego (University of Exeter), and Prof. David Gowing (The Open University).
Chair: Dr. Mark Brandon (The Open University).

To borrow a copy from The Open University Library click here.

Publications (so far): Continue Reading

Theses rush at The Open University

May 17, 2015

Hi palaeo-people!!

Alice Kennedy (far right) celebrating post-viva examination.

Alice Kennedy (far right) celebrating post-viva examination.

It is been a while since the Milton Keynes’s part of the group have manifested in the blog. The main reason is that we have been a bit busy basically…submitting theses!!!!

So this very short post is to congratulate Hayley Keen, Frazer Bird and Alice Kennedy for their recent handing in during the last two months and to celebrate that we have a new doctor in the group!!! Alice defended her thesis on 14th May, having as tribunal Prof. John Marshall (Southampton), Dr Phil Sexton (Open University) and Dr Sarah Sherlock (Open University). Next viva will be Hayley’s on 28th May (exam panel: Dr Dunia Urrego [Exeter], Prof. David Gowing [Open University], and Dr Mark Brandon [Open University]). Frazer will be defending his research next 25th June in front of Dr Pete Langdon (Southampton), Dr Neil Edwards (Open University), and Dr Sarah Sherlock (Open University).

Well done guys, this has been hard work and we are sure that your projects will have amazing contributions to high quality research!

Sedimentary Rocks and Fossils in the Field

July 31, 2013


Students examining the sedimentary deposits at Howick Haven

Students examining the sedimentary deposits at Howick Haven

SXG288 Practical science: Earth and environment
Sedimentary Rocks & Fossils in the Field
23-29 July 2013

Face-to-face teaching of practical skills in field geology is one of the most interesting and rewarding aspects of being a lecturer at The Open University. Over the last few days I have been lucky enough to participate in the running of the Sedimentary Rocks & Fossils in the Field topic within our second level Practical Science module (SXG288). This is one of two opportunities that students taking this module get to head into field, examine rocks, develop observational skills and test scientifc hypotheses; the other field based topic is Igneous & Metamorphic Rocks in the Field.

Sedimentary Rocks & Fossils is based from Longridge Towers School in Northumberland (whilst the regular students are away). Longridge provides the ideal base for this topic because of its close proximity to some world class sedimentary rock and fossil exposures. Over an intensive three day field experience students examine sedimentary deposits from the Silurian and Carboniferous exposed mainly along the Northumberland coast; however, this is not a simple guide to the geology of the region. The topic is founded on the principle of problem based learning and at each field location students are expected to make observations, record them accurately and interpret the past environment. Findings are consolidated and dicussed during evening lab sessions.

On the rocks at Scremerston

On the rocks at Scremerston

This year we were delighted to welcome >40 students, some of who flew in from abroad, to study this topic over two sessions. Given the positive feeback recieved so far I think all enjoyed the topic and gained important geological field skills (for evidence of this also see photos below). I wish them all luck in their future studies and hope that they continue to be interested in Earth Science and progress towards our Natural Science degree qualification.

For further photos see below, follow #SXG288 on twitter, or visit the SXG288 Facebook page.

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