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.
Scales of change (ecological, geological, and human).
Humans as drivers of environmental change.
Extra-terrestrial forcing of environmental change.
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.
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…
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!
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.