Figure 1: Las Cueavs Forest Reseach Station (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)
As mentioned in my last postI have recently returned from a 2 week field course in tropical botany run by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) in conjunction with their MSc course on the ‘Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants’. The field course allowed for 10 NERC funded PhD students in relevant fields to accompany the MSc students out to Belize to learn a host of valuable skills in tropical botany and ecology.
Getting back to the UK after fieldwork is always jarring and this time is certainly no different, the change from 32°C days walking through the savanna and lowland forests of Belize to the -2°C early mornings walking through snow in Milton Keynes is an abrupt transition. I have recently returned from a 2 week field course in tropical botany run by the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) in conjunction with their MSc course on the ‘Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants’. The field course allowed for 10 NERC funded PhD students in relevant fields to accompany the MSc students out to Belize to learn a host of valuable skills in tropical botany and ecology. During our time in Belize we visited 2 main locations, Las Cuevas Research Station within the Chiquibul forest reserve and the Rio Bravo Conservation and Management Area (RBCMA), in my next two posts I will briefly cover the places we visited and the botany we learned.
A very small selection of the plants we sampled and identified during the course (Photographs by Anna Turbelin and Nick Loughlin)
Before I get going I would just like to thank all of the staff from the RBGE who led the field course, (David, Louis, Tiina, Becky, Chris and Helen) their ability to teach the major characteristics of 70+ tropical families to many of us who are not botanists or taxonomists in an engaging way was astounding, although I don’t believe I will ever be able to identify a Euphorbiaceae from its vegetative characteristics. Also thanks to the students from the MSc course who were great fun, if any of you move away from botany and taxonomy and want more of an idea about the world of tropical palaeoecology, give me a shout.
On our way to see the Mayan ruins at Xunantunich (Photograph by Anna Turbelin)
Last month I had the opportunity of attending the 3-days non-pollen palynomorphs (NPP) workshop that was held at the Tallinn University, Estonia. It was perfectly organised by Tiiu Koff and Egle Avi among other members of the university, as it was a join workshop of Cladocera remains (XII Subfossil Cladocera workshop; 16-18th June) and NPP (18-20th June). Unfortunately, I was just present in the NPP workshop, so my comments will be focus on it.
With around 40 participants, we greatly enjoyed the discussions that came up about the state-of-the-art of this broad and interesting proxy and its implications for archaeology, palaeolimnology, and different aspects of ecology like human landscape management, biodiversity and conservation, or community assemblages. Current methodological problems like taxonomy, standardisation of lab techniques, etc., were also debated.
Opening and key lectures were from Bas van Geel and Emilie Gauthier, showing the development of this discipline over the last 40 years, and a great example of multi-proxy project aimed to study the human arrival and impact in Greenland respectively. Besides oral and poster presentations, last day there was a microscope session, very useful for sharing knowledge and uncertainties! In our specific case, Will, Hayley and I contributed with a poster titled “Non-pollen palynomorphs in Ecuador: starting from scratch”.
Personally, among the things I most like from the NPP meetings is the friendly and close environment, where everyone is more than glad to help others, regardless the experience. Following this feeling of small and scattered group of people dealing with the same issues, we used to do a final remark session every workshop raising the advances and inconveniences found so far, updating our NPP papers repository (managed by Antonella Miola), and addressing future directions as a group (for instance, we have now our own project in ResearchGate, thanks to Lyudmila Shumilovskikh!). In this particular workshop, I was very happy when I found out that Tallinn University has a green policy (paper free), and they replaced book abstracts etc., by iPads to follow the workshop schedule.
Although these meetings are normally biannual, next conference location and date is yet to be decided, but we hope to have the chance to join this very friendly and supporting community again. In addition, there will be a NPP session in the next European Palaeobotany and Palynology congress, tobe held in University of Padova (Italy), next August 2014. We encourage people with all kind of experience (or lack of) to attend further events.
Well, we’ve heard from Wes and Adele, and now it’s my turn (Phil Jardine) for a bit of a chat on the “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel. Similar to the previous interview videos, I’m talking about my role on the Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project, and what I’ve done (academically speaking) prior to coming to the Open University. Enjoy!
With the redesign and refocusing of the blog underway, I’m delighted to announce the launch of our very own “Ecology of the past”YouTube channel. Initially this will host videos produced as part of the Lake Bosumtwi pollen chemistry project, which includes a strong emphasis on impact and outreach activities. The videos are being targeted to a secondary school/sixth form audience, and will demonstrate both how we are doing the research and who we are as academics, highlighting the different roles and career pathways within the team. As time goes on this channel will be a platform for videos from other members of the research group, again showing who we are, what we do and how we do it.
For now, here are the first two videos: a diary of the field trip to Ghana that Adele and I went on last Autumn, and an accompanying piece showing how you too can make your own pollen trap. Enjoy!
Tardigrade egg found in Ghanaian pollen trap by Adele
Here is a summary of what other people have been up to:
Lottie Miller: submission and approval of thesis corrections (hooray), working on British Ecological Society grant application.
Hayley Keen: is finishing up lab work (macro charcoal – done, XRF – done, wood macrofossils – thin sectioned, awaiting identification, pollen – just 4 more samples!); and dealing with minor review revisions to first submitted paper (hooray).
Frazer Bird: finished the data collection for two Ecuadorian lakes (Banos and Pindo) and will hopefully begin to write up this data soon; attended the NERC stats course (very useful; would advise everyone to try and get on it).
Nick Loughlin: has split and logged the sediment cores recovered from Lake Huila (Ecuador) during recent fieldwork, and begun preparing the samples for pollen.
Adele Julier: has been preparing pollen trap samples from Ghana and learning tropical pollen.
Emily Sear: has mostly been on holiday and we are still waiting for the post card! She has also been working at getting results that make sense from the MS2.
Phil Jardine: has been oxidising spores to see what it does to the chemistry, generating FTIR data with the oxidised samples and starting the numerical analysis, and editing film footage from the 2013 Ghana trip.
Encarni Montoya: has been doing pollen lab and analysing pollen from Baños, and comparing the midges trends from Pindo and Baños with Frazer.
Wes Fraser: Reported back to Royal Society on finding from research grant – paper containing exciting results to follow in next couple of months.
Some pollen from Adele’s pollen traps in Ghana
We have also had 4 papers published with 2014 dates on them:
Cárdenas, M.L., Gosling, W.D., Pennington, R.T., Poole, I., Sherlock, S.C. & Mothes, P. (2014) Forests of the tropical eastern Andean flank during the middle Pleistocene. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 393: 76-89. doi: 10.1016/j.palaeo.2013.10.009
Fraser, W.T., Watson, J.S., Sephton, M.A., Lomax, B.H., Harrington, G., Gosling, W.D. & Self, S. (2014) Changes in spore chemistry and appearance with increasing maturity. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology, 201, 41-46. doi:10.1016/j.revpalbo.2013.11.001