“Can you go back?” by Mark Bush – Part 3

September 23, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

The third of three guest blog posts by Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology). Click here to read Part 1. Click here to read Part 2.

Fast forward to 2019, the Aguarico is now lined by small homesteads interspersed with larger settlements, some laid out by the oil companies, and a couple of oil ports. I asked our guide how far the park was ahead of us, and he looked surprised and said “We are in it”. When we arrived at the Zancudo River there was a cell tower and a village of probably 30-50 houses on the junction with the Aguarico. Ten minutes downstream was a tourist lodge. What a difference! The frontier had expanded ~140 km down the Aguarico. One family with a shotgun eliminates all game larger than a marmoset within 5 km, and these homesteads were packed so tight it was unsurprising that we saw almost no wildlife.

The cell tower at the village of Zancudococha. Photo: M. Bush.

The cell tower at the village of Zancudococha. Photo: M. Bush.

The next day we ventured onto Zancudococha. The Zancudo stream was still pretty, overhung by trees, and had no barriers to navigation. Three boats full of tourists passed us coming out of the lake, clearly having spent the night there. There were no logs to clear, and the path through the Montricardia marsh was two boats wide. There are only two patches of high, dry land on the edge of the lake. One was regularly used as a campsite and the other had a lodge built on it that was operated intermittently by the Zancudo community.

We saw no monkeys, let alone tapirs, this was an empty forest. But we weren’t there to be ecotourists, we were there to raise a sediment core. This time our questions were about the Pre-Columbian use of the lake. Was the lake occupied prior to European arrival? How much did people alter the forest? Was there a surge of forest regrowth following Conquest?  Given these questions, the 1 m of sediment that we recovered with a Universal piston corer was all that we needed. One meter of mud from this system spans about 1500 years and that would provide us with the trajectory of use (or non-use) into the colonial period and its aftermath. Our mood in camp was happy, we had been successful in our intent. So, my message is you can’t go back to find what was there before, but that doesn’t mean that it will be a bad experience. Shifting baselines apply to nature in every setting, but they also apply to science as our questions and interests undergo inter-generational changes.

Mark Bush is a Professor of Biological Science at the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL, USA.

 

Looking at a time capsule from Twente

May 29, 2019
WDG

Dobrochna wondering what kind
of pollen and phytoliths are hidden
it that piece of dirt (Krakenven, 2018)

Looking at a time capsule from Twente

By Dobrochna Delsen (currently studying for BSc Biology at the University of Amsterdam)

An unusual early morning.

It is 8:15. My train arrives at Science Park. After a ten-minute walk accompanied by other students I arrive at the university. After a short contemplation about whether I should take the elevator, I decide to take the stairs. The stairs are a bit exhausting, especially since the microscope room is at the top floor, but it gives me the necessary ‘exercise’ for the day. As I walk to the room at the end of the corridor I can see that the coat rack is still empty, except of the one lab coat that hangs there since the day my bachelors project started. I take out my student card and hold it against the door handle. The sound of the unlocking door gives me feeling of satisfaction and power. I step into the empty room with a feeling of superiority and go to my microscope where I will sit for the rest of the day.

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Scientific Methods in Archaeology

November 21, 2018
WDG

VU AmsterdamOver the last two weeks I have been giving my lectures at the VU Amsterdam “Scientific Methods in Archaeology” bachelor program. In my lectures we think about how to detect past environmental change with particular reference to tracking past human activities. As part of our exploration of past human-environment-climate interactions each student is asked to choose a scientific article, summerise it, and we then discuss it in class. The three papers sected this year covered the Neolithic of the Netherlands (Weijdema et al., 2011), a overview of Mediterranean and north African cultural adaptations to drough events during the Holocene (Mercuri et al., 2011), and an exploration of the role of humans in mega-faunal extinctions in South America (Villavicencio et al., 2015). All papers provided interesting points of discussion and an opportunity to think about different aspects of how we investigate past environmental and societal change.

Read the full student summaries below.

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Amazonian coring isn’t boring

February 2, 2018
WDG

By Seringe Huisman (MSc Biological Sciences, Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem DynamicsUniversity of Amsterdam)

Hello all! You might have been wondering if I died in the middle of Amazonian nowhere, since I haven’t come back to writing a blog after we left for fieldwork in July. Given we were in an Amazonian region full of venomous snakes that could have been the case, but the good news is I just didn’t get around writing it because I got carried away by the findings of my project! We actually had a very successful field trip – apart from some minor issues like the lake swallowing equipment, sinking waist-high into the mud each step of our 7 hour long ‘trail’ to the lakes, and almost not getting my precious samples through airport security.

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Aquatic community response to volcanic eruptions on the Ecuadorian Andean flank

October 9, 2017
WDG

Online, open access:

Matthews-Bird, F., Brooks, S.J., Gosling, W.D., Gulliver, P., Mothes, P. & Montoya, E. (2017) Aquatic community response to volcanic eruptions on the Ecuadorian Andean flank: Evidence from the palaeoecological record. Journal of Paleolimnology 58: 437-453. DOI: 10.1007/s10933-017-0001-0

An undergraduate eye-view of an Andean lake-coring expedition

August 25, 2017
WDG

Part 2: Progresso
by Molly Kingston (a BSc Biological Sciences student at Florida Institute of Technology, taking part in an expedition lead by Prof. Mark Bush)

With a fresh set of clothes and a shower after almost a week without one, it was time to set off for the next lake, Progresso.

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In the news:

First Farmers Were Also Sailors, by Michael Balter in Science.

John Bostock: The man who ‘discovered’ hay fever, by Justin Parkinson in BBC News Magazine.

DNA study shows yeti is real (sort of) – and Oxford scientist prepares expedition to find it, by Adam Withnall in The Independent.

Tibetan altitude gene inherited ‘from extinct species’, by Paul Rincon BBC News Website

Scientific articles:

Bonatelli, I.A.S., Perez, M.F., Peterson, A.T., Taylor, N.P., Zappi, D.C., Machado, M.C., Koch, I., Pires, A.H.C. & Moraes, E.M. (2014) Interglacial microrefugia and diversification of a cactus species complex: phylogeography and palaeodistributional reconstructions for Pilosocereus aurisetus and allies. Molecular Ecology, 23, 3044-3063.

Bush, M.B., Restrepo, A. and Collins, A.F. (2014) Galápagos history, restoration, and a shifted baseline. Restoration Ecology, 22, 3, 296-298.
Summary (Nick): A concise and pithy look at how a robust long-term ecological system can be transformed rapidly by human impact. The paper demonstrates how the fossil pollen record is fundamental if a near-natural vegetation state is to be restored to the Galápagos islands, to avoid restoration to a shifted baseline.

Froyd, C.A., Coffey, E.E.D., van der Knaap, W.O., van Leeuwen, J.F.N., Tye, A. & Willis, K.J. (2014) The ecological consequences of megafaunal loss: giant tortoises and wetland biodiversity. Ecology Letters, 17, 144-154.

Giguet-Covex, C., Pansu, J., Arnaud, F., Rey, P.-J., Griggo, C., Gielly, L., Domaizon, I., Coissac, E., David, F., Choler, P., Poulenard, J. & Taberlet, P. (2014) Long livestock farming history and human landscape shaping revealed by lake sediment DNA. Nat Commun, 5

Gillson, L. & Marchant, R. (2014) From myopia to clarity: sharpening the focus of ecosystem management through the lens of palaeoecology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 29, 317-325.
Comment (Will): For a good example of feeding palaeoecology into management see Bush et al. above.

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