Revealing pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial Kenya

June 29, 2020

Rahab Kinyanjui


By Rahab KINYANJUI (National Museums of Kenya: Nairobi)

In spite of the challenges and uncertainties that the larger scientific community is currently facing, I am delighted and humbled to accept one of the British Ecological Society’s Ecologist in Africa research grant for 2020. The grant will support my historical ecology project whose main goal is to apply palaeoecological and archaeological proxies to investigate the extent of anthropogenic impacts on vegetation structure and composition of one of the Kenyan Central highlands before, during, and after the colonial period.

The Aberdare range forest provide an ideal setting for this study because they have been farmed by local populations since long before colonialism, and they were heavily impacted during colonial times because of their fertile soils. This pilot project aims to reveal the land-use and land-cover dynamics of the Aberdare range forest, and it is hoped that eventually similar studies will be undertaken in other parts of the Kenyan highland forests.

Environments Through Time paper presentations

November 6, 2018

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.

Environments Through Time is taught in English, delivered by myself (William Gosling), Crystal McMichael and Milan Tunissen van Manen and currently has 31 registered students from MSc Biological Sciences and MSc Earth Sciences degrees.

Full list of papers presented by students on the Environments Through Time course in 2018 Continue Reading

INQUA 2019: The changing tropical landscape

July 26, 2018

20th Congress of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA)

Abstract submission is now open for INQUA 2019 in Dublin Ireland (25-31 July 2019). Please consider submitting to the special session I am co-organizing on landscape change in the tropics. Submissions welcome from the fields of biogeography, palaeoecology, geomorphology, volcanology, and archaeology. Click here to submit your abstract.TITLE: The changing tropical landscape
ORGANIZERS: William D. Gosling and Crystal N.H. McMichael (University of Amsterdam)

Eighteenth century explorers marveled at the diversity of tropical ecosystems seemingly untouched by human activity. As a result of these observations, the notion of tropical stability, in terms of vegetation and climate, came to underpin theories of evolution, ecology, and biogeography. Gradually, however, it has become apparent that tropical landscapes have changed markedly through time in response to global climate cycles, (a)biotic factors, and human activity. For example, Continue Reading

Blog at