Meet team “Global change & vegetation dynamics” @ Plant Ecology & Diversity

August 4, 2020
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Plant Ecology & DiversityWithin the overarching context of Plant Ecology & Diversity the “Global change & vegetation dynamics” subject area aims to place a temporal component on key themes such as biodiversity, conservation and ecosystem function. Manuscripts are welcome that use long-term (palaeo-) ecological approaches, modern field observations and laboratory experiments, and computational modelling to explore change and dynamics within ecosystems. We welcome all formats of manuscripts to this section (original research articles rapid communication articles, review articles, and perspectives articles). If you have any questions about the potential suitability of your research in the journal please do not hesitate to get in contact.

The editorial team handling this section of the journal currently comprises myself as Subject Editor and six Associate Editors. To find out more about us, our research interests and expertise read on…

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Palaeoecology out on the frontier

February 18, 2020
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Guest post by Dr. Lynne Quick (Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory)

Lynne QuickThe transition from Early Career Researcher (ECR) to head of a new laboratory

When you are in the midst of working on your PhD you feel that this must surely be the toughest challenge you’ll ever face, only to emerge on the other side and realise that it was a holiday in comparison to the academic journey post-PhD.

I completed my PhD at the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and immediately launched myself into a postdoctoral fellowship embedded in a relatively large international research initiative. Building on the expertise and knowledge I gained from my postgraduate work, I generated new pollen and microcharcoal records from the southern Cape and west coast regions of South Africa in order to reveal details about how climate and associated environmental conditions have changed during the Holocene. I found the transition from working almost entirely independently on my PhD to collaborating within the context of a large multidisciplinary and multinational team equally very exciting, and very challenging. At this time imposter syndrome hit me hard and I had a bit of an existential crisis (I’m overqualified, too specialized and not earning enough, what the hell am I doing with my life? – I know we’ve all been there!). Just as I was about to give up on academia, I was approached by Nelson Mandela University, one of the smaller, lesser known, public universities in South Africa, situated in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape Province. After a lot of soul searching, I accepted a research fellowship at NMU, moved out of my home in Cape Town (where I had lived my entire life) and relocated to a new city – by myself, with no contacts, friends or family there.

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Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory

February 17, 2020
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Guest post by Dr. Lynne Quick (Nelson Mandela University Palaeoecology Laboratory)

NMU Palaeoecology LaboratoryThe primary focus of the new state-of-the-art palaeoecology laboratory at Nelson Mandela University is to conduct palynological studies, with a strong geographic emphasis on the Cape south coast and the Cape Floristic Region in general. While our initial and primary focus will be on pollen analysis, our overarching goal is to establish a highly versatile open science resource-base for palaeoscience research at Nelson Mandela University.

Lynne QuickHead of Laboratory:  Dr Lynne Quick

Lynne Quick is a Senior Research Fellow associated with the African Centre for Coastal Palaeoscience at Nelson Mandela University. She is a palynologist with interests in palaeoecology and palaeoclimatology. She is working on the development of new palaeoenvironmental records in southern Africa and has a key focus on the vegetation history and past climate dynamics of the Cape Floristic Region. Lynne is the President of the Southern African Society for Quaternary Research (SASQUA), a Vice President of the International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) and a member of the scientific steering committee of the AFQUA (African Quaternary: Environments, Ecology and Humans) initiative. [Email: lynne.j.quick@gmail.com |Twitter: @drljquick]

Erin HilmerSenior Laboratory Technician: Ms Erin Hilmer

Erin Hilmer completed an undergraduate BSc degree at Nelson Mandela University followed by an honours in geology at the University of Stellenbosch. In addition to her role as the Senior Laboratory Technician of the new palaeolab, she manages Port Elizabeth’s only pollen and spore trap and generates weekly pollen and spore data for the city. This work forms part of a national monitoring network (www.pollencount.co.za). She also has expertise in geochronology and scanning electron (SEM) microscopy.

Using the Past to Inform a Sustainable Future: Palaeoecological Insights from East Africa

February 4, 2020
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Esther-Githumbi

Esther Githumbi

New book chapter by African Pollen Database data steward Esther Githumbi and collegues:

Githumbi, E., Marchant, R. & Olago, D. (2020) Using the Past to Inform a Sustainable Future: Palaeoecological Insights from East Africa. Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals (ed. by M. Ramutsindela & D. Mickler), pp. 187-195. Springer Nature, Switzerland AG. DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-14857-7_18

African Pollen Database – Data stewards

January 29, 2020
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Neotoma PackratAn African Pollen Database data steward training event was held at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dyanmics (University of Amsterdam, 27-29 January 2020) where training in the use of the Neotoma database was provided by Eric Grimm. The participants are now enabled curate and archive data within Neotoma. If you have a palaeoecological data set that you would like to contribute to Neotoma, or if you would like training as well, these people can now help you. Contact details below:

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African Pollen Database data steward training event

January 24, 2020
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APD “Awesome” in Paris October 2019 – Vincent Montade, William Gosling, Chris Kiathipes, and Manu Chevalier (l-r)

The African Pollen Database (APD; Vincens et al., 2007) has recently received a new life thanks to the work of Anne-Marie Lezine, Eric Grimm, Sarah Ivory and Jack Williams who have obtained funding to develop the digital infrastructure and link to the Neotoma Palaeoecology Database (Williams et al., 2018) and the Institut Pierre-Simon Laplace (IPSL) Paleoclimate database. The kick off meeting was held at the IRD centre in Bondy (October 2019), and the next step (training the data stewards) will be held in my department within the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystems Dynamics (University of Amsterdam) next week (January 2020).

Pollen data recorded in Neotoma for Africa on 24 January 2020. Hopefully after the data steward training event we will have a few more dots on the map, and the potential for many more.

We are delighted to be able to host sixteen researchers of many nationalities conducting research in many different countries. The aim of the training event is to provide researchers with the skills to manage Neotoma and strengthen the African pollen research community.  I am excited to be involved, I am confidence that much new research will be brought together, and I hope that we can get good plans in place for further steps and growth of this network.

REFERENCES
Vincens, A., Lézine, A.-., Buchet, G., Lewden, D. & Le Thomas, A. (2007) African pollen database inventory of tree and shrub pollen types. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology 145, 135-141.  DOI: 10.1016/j.revpalbo.2006.09.004

Williams, J.W., Grimm, E.C., Blois, J.L., Charles, D.F., Davis, E.B., Goring, S.J., Graham, R.W., Smith, A.J., Anderson, M., Arroyo-Cabrales, J., Ashworth, A.C., Betancourt, J.L., Bills, B.W., Booth, R.K., Buckland, P.I., Curry, B.B., Giesecke, T., Jackson, S.T., Latorre, C., Nichols, J., Purdum, T., Roth, R.E., Stryker, M. & Takahara, H. (2018) The Neotoma Paleoecology Database, a multiproxy, international, community-curated data resource. Quaternary Research 89, 156-177. DOI: 10.1017/qua.2017.105

“Can you go back?” by Mark Bush – Photo gallery

September 27, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

The three part guest blog posts “Can you go back?” by Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology) contained images collated by Mark over his career, here they are all together for you to enjoy.

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To read the story click on the links:

“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.

 

“Can you go back?” by Mark Bush – Part 2

September 21, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

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

The next two days were spent in motorized dugouts sitting on our gear bags, with tarps pulled over us. Every now and then the driving rain would relent and we would see macaws and toucans flying across the Aguarico River. We stayed one night in a village that had been abandoned due to recent floods, another with Siona hunters who were preparing their blow darts (for monkeys). There were very few houses along the river and we hardly saw another boat in three days. Then we arrived, well almost. We had turned off the main channel onto the tiny Zancudo river.  Little used, this stream was a jumble of fallen trees that the Siona chopped their way through. A large tree just beneath the surface posed a problem that was solved by stripping the bark from Cecropiatrees and laying it inside surface facing up, backing up, revving the engine, and aiming straight for the bark. The slick insides of the Cecropiaallowed the canoes to shoot the trunk and on we went. Then we reached the marsh. When I say ‘marsh’ it was a forest of Montricardia arborescens. This is an aquatic Aroid that grows about 3 m high. The trunks are about 3-5 cm in diameter and is THE favored hangout for caiman and anaconda (I have since learned). No Siona in their right mind gets out of a boat in such a marsh and so we were stuck……so close but yet so far. Our only chance of getting through the marsh was to hop out of the boats and pull them through.

The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988. Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.

The author pulling a canoe through the marsh at Zancudococha in 1988.
Photo: Miriam Steinitz-Kannan.

We had two boats and so the most dispensable members of the team, Paulo de Oliveira and I, were given the job of hauling the boats. A couple of happy hours later we were through the marsh and onto the lake.

Our first jobs were to find somewhere dry enough to camp, unload, set up camp, and survey the lake. Paul Colinvaux the team leader always launched an inflatable and surveyed the lake on first arrival. Meanwhile the rest of us set up camp. About 20 minutes into all this activity there was the unmistakable crack of a shotgun. In a few more minutes the Chief’s sons emerged from the forest with the news that they had shot a large tapir. The tapir fed the group for the next few days, but I ate tuna and a sausage that had turned blue and slimy, unable to reconcile my role in, what to me, was an unfortunate outcome of our petitioning the Siona to bring us to their sacred lake. The coring was more successful than at Cuyabeno in that we recovered 5m of sediment, but it was clearly a young system and wouldn’t answer our research question. This expedition was a disappointment scientifically, but an incredible snapshot along the gradient of Amazonian development.

To be continued…

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