Off to the tropics!!

December 26, 2017
cmcmicha

On Jan 1, 2018 I (Crystal McMichael) get to ring in the New Year in the best way possible by heading off to the tropics to do fieldwork! And this time I get to take two students with me. Britte Heijink and Veerle Vink are both in the Biological Sciences MSc program (Ecology and Evolution track), and they are going to work on research projects that are associated with a recent grant that I was awarded through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute CTFS-ForestGEO Research Grants Program.

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Environments Through Time – weeks 2 & 3

November 19, 2017
WDG

Britte reconfiguring the chronology for Lake Pata

Britte reconfiguring the chronology for Lake Pata

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

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.

For more information on this course see: Environments Through Time – week 1

 

Environments Through Time – week 1

November 3, 2017
WDG

Me teaching human impacts on environmental change...

Me teaching human impacts on environmental change…

The first, ever, week of the Environments Through Time course at the University of Amsterdam has just finished. The course sits within the MSc Biological Sciences (Ecology & Evolution) and MSc Earth Sciences (Geo-ecosystem Dynamics) but is also avaliable to other masters students. In the first week we have thought about four main topics:

  1. Scales of change (ecological, geological, and human).
  2. Humans as drivers of environmental change.
  3. Extra-terrestrial forcing of environmental change.
  4. Earth system feedbacks.

The week was completed with each student giving a three (3) minute presentation of their favourite paper. The papers presented ranged from the extinction of giant sharks, through forest-savannah transitions, to how climate change thwarted Ghengis Kahn. Next week we continue by disecting how chronologies are constructed.

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The Enviornments Through Time course is taught by: William Gosling, Crystal McMichael, and Milan Teunissen van Manen.

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Introducing: Seringe Huisman

July 3, 2017
WDG

Seringe Huisman

Hi all! My name is Seringe (Dutch for lilac flower), and unsurprisingly I am a biology student. I completed my BSc Biology at the VU University, specializing in ecology. Being fascinated by tropical rainforest since I was a kid, I attended a Tropical Ecology course at the University of Amsterdam (UvA), resulting in a research project with Crystal McMichael from the Palaeoecology & Landscape Ecology group on the late-Holocene fire history of western Amazonia. Besides performing this palaeoecological project, focusing on the aspect of ancient human activity, I followed courses of Latin America Studies to broaden my perspectives on the current socio-environmental complexity and conservation status of the area. This year, I have gotten the amazing opportunity to join Crystal McMichael on a fieldwork expedition to the Ecuadorian Amazon!

Seringe Huisman in the field...

Seringe Huisman in the field…

The fieldwork will be part of my Master’s thesis, elaborating on the regional patterns of vegetation composition changes in relation to human disturbance. I will be taking sediment cores from two lakes in the Sangay region of Ecuador, perform charcoal and phytolith analysis to reconstruct fire and vegetation assemblages over the late Holocene and compare the results to previously established records across western Amazonia. While I am currently attending the MSc Biological Sciences Limnology & Oceanography Master’s track at UvA, I could not help but directing my first project into Paleoecology again! My field trip is largely made possible by obtaining €1150 of grants through the Treub-Maatschappij and the Amsterdam University Fund, for which I am very grateful.

I am super excited to be heading to Ecuador soon, and will be back in a month with field stories, mosquito bites and hopefully some suitable sediments!

Seringe Huisman and palaeoecology friends

Seringe Huisman and palaeoecology friends

Exploring ancient cesspits in Deventer (Netherlands)

June 26, 2017
WDG

Jippe Kreuning

University of Amsterdam MSc Biological Sciences student Jippe Kreuning investigated the contents of cesspits in the Dutch city of Deventer for his research project. Jippe investigated fossil pollen, seeds and other biological remains to discover what people in the ancient city were eating. In doing so Jippe gained new insights into ancient trade routes.

To find out more about Jippe’s project watch his video courtesy of FOLIA YouTube channel (in Dutch)

Jippe Kreunings zoektocht naar versteende poep

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