I covered topics including the motivation of students, designing a MSc level course, and setting up BSc/MSc research projects. My presentation was centered around my personal experience of running courses for BSc Biology and Future Plant Studies students (Palaeoecology), and for MSc Earth Science and Biological Science students (Environments Through Time) at the University of Amsterdam. It was nice to get a wider perspective from discussion with the audience and to pick up some additional ideas and advice. If you have other thoughts on this topic please feel free to comment on this post.
The entire African Pollen Database online seminar series is now available to watch via the associated YouTube channel. So to find more click here.
The University of Amsterdam “Environments Through Time” course is currently underway. This cross-disciplinary course is part of the MSc Biological Sciences program and also attracts many students from the MSc Earth Sciences. During the course students gain an understanding of the importance of having a long-term (centennial to millennial) context to understanding environmental problems, and how datasets can be generated that are relevant to these timescales. To gain an understanding of uncertainty in reconstructing past environmental change students conduct a re-analysis of previously published datasets (such as those archived in Neotoma) and assess if the findings of those papers was robust. To do this students develop skills in data mining, Bayesian probability modelling, multi-variate statistical analysis, and change-point analysis. At the end of the course students have gained experience in the critical evaluation of the scientific literature, transferable numerical skills, and a greater appreciation of Earth history and past environmental change.
The 2022 edition of the Environments Through Time course is taught by:
If you would like to learn more about past environmental change and its relevance to ongoing societal, climatic and ecological change sign up for the MSc Biological Sciences or MSc Earth Sciences and take this course. If this course sparks further your interest in exploring past environmental change then further opportunities exist to take on masters projects in this field with our team.
The 2018 edition of the University of Amsterdam masters course “Environments Through Time” is now up and running. The course sits at the interface between ecology, physical geography and archaeology and seeks to provide students with a better understanding of how long-term (>100’s years) datasets can provide insights in to past environmental change.
In the first week of the course the students had to present their ‘favourite’ paper in just three (3) minutes! Quite a challenge and lots of fun. This years selection of papers themed around:
mega-fauna extinctions (Bakker et al., 2016; Gill et al., 2009; van der Kaars et al., 2017),
impacts of human land use practices (Bitusik et al., 2018; Carson et al., 2014; Chepstow-Lusty et al., 2009; Gauthier et al., 2010; Tisdall et al., 2018), and
climatic drivers of vegetation change (Haug et al., 2001; Tierney et al., 2017; Tudhope et al., 2001).
For full list of papers presented see below.
In the second and third weeks (now ongoing) students get to deconstruct published chronologies and conduct time series analsis of multi-proxy datasets. Data for these excercises is frequently is extracted from databases such as Neotoma, Pangea, NOAA – paleoclimatology datasets database and the Global Charcoal Database – which shows the importance of these open access databases for developing effective research led eductation, as well as pushing forward to frontiers of research.
The second and third weeks of the Environments Through Time course at the University of Amsterdam has focused on obtaining practical experience of developing chronologies, analyzing multi-variate data-sets, and conducting time series analysis. The focus of the course has been on Quaternary environmental change, however, the skills learnt can be applied to almost any time-scale so long as you have time control points you want to tie together, and multiple things you can track changing through that time.
Over the two week period the students worked on a previously published paper that they had selected that contains: (i) chronological information (at least 3 control points), and (ii) multiple variables that change through the time series (at least 9 variables). In week two they deconstructed the chronologies and generated their own revised versions. For example students have (re-)calibrated radiocarbon dates, made different decisions on dates to include/exclude, and used different approaches to constructing the age vs. depth model, e.g. contrasting linear point-to-point vs. Bayesian methodologies. In week three they have taken the data-set(s) associated with their paper and re-evaluated it in light of the revised chronologies using cluster analysis, ordination techniques, and wavelets.
The joy of wavletes
Through this exercise students have gained experience of how to critically assess scientific literature and gained an appreciation of where re-analysis of data-sets can (and cannot) make a difference. Personally I have be delighted with the high level of engagement and enthusiasm for the material and have been excited to have a chance to delve into literature that I would not otherwise be aware of.