PCRG October to December

December 20, 2013

The latter half of 2013 seems to have been incredibly busy and I have not managed to get my monthly update posts completed since October. Rather than a rapid series of backdates here is a quick summary of what I think the main activities through this period have been!

Thesis defence: Congratulations to both Lottie and Natalie for sucessfully defending their PhD theses! Exeptional effort and hard work from both of you. Well done.

Publications: Four articles have gone through the final stages and been published in top journals. Well done to Lottie, Maca, Wes for leading three of those publications covering Lake Bosumtwi, Erazo and pollen/spore chemistry respectively. Personally I am delighted that the revised tropical pollen atlas is now online and open access. The final stages of publication of the atlas with Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology were hard work but great to see it online and avaliable. Thanks to Lottie and Dan Livingstone for their invaluable contributions.

Grant: We have been awarded further 14C dates from NERC radiocarbon facility to improve the chronology on Laguna Khomer Kotcha Upper so that the timing of temperature osscilations revealed by new chironomid analysis (by Frazer Bird) can be related to the last global degalciation (c. 18,000 years ago) and the Younger Dryas cooling event (c. 12,800 – 11,500 years ago). This research builds on that of former PCRG PhD student and current research collaborator Joe Williams (Williams et al., 2011; Williams et al., 2012).

Teaching: I have been working primarily on the Geological record of environmental change (S369) presentation, and writing the landforms section for the new level 2 environmental science module.

Fieldwork: Trips to Ghana (Adele and Phil) and Ecuador (Nick, Encarni and Will) have been super successful; AND all the samples have made it back! See posts elsewhere on the blog for details of field work fun.

I am sure other stuff has happened… more in the New Year… and maybe some more pictures when I can get back on my newly “optimized” (killed) office computer 🙂

PCRG February

March 1, 2013

Four new workstations installed in the Past Environmental Change microscope lab

Four new workstations installed in the Past Environmental Change microscope lab

Excitement in February saw the arrival of a new research grant within the PCRG, to look at pollen and spore chemistry from Lake Bosumtwi (watch this space for new post-doc and PhD studentship positions), and (just in time) the expansion of benches in the microscope lab which will ensure that the new people will have spaces to sit in! In addition, we had a paper published with long time friends and collaborators at the University of Leeds; Roucoux et al. (2013).

Despite the disruption of the lab refit Hayley and Frazer have been cracking on with pollen and chironomid analysis. Encarni and Frazer returned from field work in Ecuador and half the samples have so far made it back to The Open University; we now wait with anticipation for customs to release the other box!

Four shiny new benches from the other side

Four shiny new workstations from the other side – woo

Meanwhile I have been working on exam questions for the Geological Record of Environmental Change module (S369), interviewing prospective PhD candidates for the October 2013 start projects and have been on a training course to learn about the Vitae support for research student training.

PCRG January

January 31, 2013

BES centenary logo

We are taking the BES festival of ecology to music festivals in 2013! “Tell me when”… you’d better read the blog!

January seems to have flown past and has been another active month. With group members variously involved in:

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PCRG November & December

January 10, 2013

The last two months of 2012 were exceptionally busy! 

On the research front

On the teaching and administration front

Two tasks dominated the non-research activity: 1) teaching the Geological Record of Environmental Change (S369) exams assessment and assigment, and 2) as Post Graduate Tutor keeping up with NERC developments for the new Doctoral Training Partnerships.

PCRG members on filed work in Cayabe-Coca National Park (2012). Left to right: Hayley, Encarni, William and Frazer.

PCRG members on field work in Cayabe-Coca National Park (2012). Left to right: Hayley, Encarni, William and Frazer.
Encarni and Frazer have returned to Ecuador Jan-Feb 2013 to collect further sedimentary cores. More on the blog soon…

Finally all that remains is to say “Happy New Year” from the PCRG and on with 2013… 🙂

PCRG October

October 31, 2012

The back end of September and October has been very busy as I have tried to catch up with the teaching, administration and research activity which somewhat accumulated whilst on field work!

Major tasks have been:
1) the marking and coordination for level 3 Geological Record of Environmental Change (S369) module examination,
2) getting used to my new role as Post Graduate Tutor looking after all things related to a doctoral students in the Department of Environment, Earth & Ecosystems, and
3) trying to find time to finish off three manuscripts for submission!

Other members of the lab have also been busy:
* Encarni has arrived from Valenti Rull‘s lab at the Botanical Institute in Barcelona as a NERC Fellow and is settling in to life in Milton Keynes, more details soon…
* Lottie is getting into data analysis and writing up of the Lake Bosumtwi pollen an N isotope data,
* Natalie is writing, crunching numbers and waiting for a machine to be fixed…
* Bryan is working on gelling biogeographic data together in GIS

Imagae of a Toarcian foraminifera taken by Alice Kennedy facilitated by the new cable which allows our microscope camera to talk to a computer – hooray!

* Hayley has been preparing for talking at the Linnean Society palynology meeting on 1st November “Understanding pollen and spore diversity”, and helping “steal” a microtome for sectoning her wood macrofossils,
* Frazer has started to plot Andean and Amazonian midge distributions against temperature, and
* Alice has been taking photos…

In the midst of all this fun I was sent this great video which brightened my day. I hope you enjoy it as well…

PCRG February

March 5, 2012

Laboratory activity has continued through February with progress on pollen counts (Lottie and Hayley) and chironomid (non-biting midges) picking (Frazer). Hayley also managed to escape the microscope lab for a short period: 1) to commence work on selecting samples from tephras for Ar-Ar dating, and 2) to counduct loss-on-ignition analysis of organic samples to identify the constituents of her sediment. I did not make it on to the microscope 😦

I was however very pleased to welcome Macarena Cardenas back into the lab as a visiting Research Fellow. Maca will be working on the pollen reference collection, assisting with PhD student analysis and continuing to write papers during her renewed association.

Frazer, Hayley and I have also begun planning for field work in Ecuador for April-May. We will be working in collaboration with the Instituto Geophisico in Quito and the plan is to visit the Mera site which Hayley is working on, and to collect lake surface samples for Frazer to examine the midges. In preparation for the collection of midges samples expert, and project co-supervisor, Steve Brooks (Natural History Museum) visited for a day to brief us on how best to do this.

Away from research I have been working on writing exam questions and tutor marked assignments for the level 3 module The geological record of environmental change (S369, to those familliar with OU codes!). Hopefully, I have managed to set some interesting and challenging tasks for our students. . .

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