An interview with Phil Jardine

July 1, 2014

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!

For more videos check out the “Ecology of the past” YouTube channel.

Macroecology workshop

April 9, 2014

Phil Jardine taking charge at the macro-ecology meeting

Phil Jardine taking charge at the macro-ecology meeting

On 1st April, Alice, Encarni, Hayley and Nick attended the joint British Ecological Society Macroecology Special Interest Group and Palaeontological Association workshop held in the Natural History Museum, called Challenges in Macroecology – Scaling the Time Barrier. The workshop was co-organised by our member Phil Jardine (jointly with Victoria Herridge, Adriana de Palma and Isabel Fenton), and it was a mix between deep and shallow time, neoecologists and other researchers interested in any kind of macroecology topics.

We enjoyed so much how this one-day meeting was scheduled, with some formal approach including four plenary and lighting talks, and other informal initiatives such as speed dating and discussion groups. This way, all participants could interact with other non-directly related researchers.

The focuses of the plenary talks were related to different fields within macroecology. In this sense:

  1. Andy Purvis opened the session with the definition of macroecology, the trends and shifts of study topics it has carried out since the discipline began and ended with what macroecology is not any longer.
  2. David Jablonski explored through examples of bivalves studies how climate in time and space affects the studies of diversity dynamics, mainly addressed to three key questions: a) Extinctions, b) Latitudinal Diversity Gradients, and c) Geographical ranges.
  3. Lee Hsiang Liow encouraged us to evaluate both processes and observations, and highlighted the importance of modelling both to take into account the “unobservable” or latent truth including examples of capture-recapture and occupancy methods.
  4. Kathy Willis gave a review of the trends followed for conservation strategies since 1980s, until the development of the “ecosystems services” idea of given an economic value to biodiversity. Her main statement was focused on how palaeo-data can help in providing information to some “knowledge gaps” related to human resources including: a) trends in biomass, b) trends in nutrient cycling, c) trends in in final ecosystems services, and d) sustainability of ecosystems services.

Lighting talks were related to more specific study cases of macroecology, including specific researches about turtles, fungi, beetles, crocodiles, foraminifera or dinosaurs, in several spatial and temporal scales .

We would like to thank again Phil, Victoria, Adriana and Isabel for the great day that finished with a nice and warm wine reception sponsored by BMC Ecology. We hope to attend further events like this soon.

For more on this meeting see blog post by @protohedgehog “Macroecology – scaling the time barrier”  and storify of the twitter feed, click here.

“Ecology of the past” YouTube channel

March 19, 2014

"Ecology of the past" YouTube channel launched

“Ecology of the past” YouTube channel launched

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!

A new addition to the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group

August 30, 2013

Phil Jardine

Phil Jardine

My name’s Phil Jardine, and I’ve recently joined the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group as a post-doc, on the NERC-funded ‘500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes’. For this project I’ll be analysing the chemistry of pollen grains from a 500,000 year long sediment record from Lake Bosumtwi in Ghana, with the aim of generating a long-term historical record of solar irradiance.

Before coming to the Open University I was based at the University of Birmingham, where I did PhD and post-doc research on North American pollen records from the early Palaeogene (~65 – 45 million years ago). For this work I was particularly interested in the role of climate in driving changes in plant communities, especially during a rapid global warming event 55 million years called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). Having worked for some time now on pretty old material, I’m looking forward to researching something a bit more recent – if you can call the last 500,000 years recent – and going out to Ghana and looking at real, live, tropical plants.

If you would like to get in touch about the Lake Bosumtwi project, or something else pollen related, please feel free to get in touch.

BES Macroecology meeting

August 5, 2013

BES Macroecology SIG

BES Macroecology SIG

Last week I attended the annual meeting of the British Ecological Society Macroecology Special Interest Group (or BES Macroecology SIG for something a bit more manageable) at the University of Sheffield. Macroecology deals with ecological patterns and processes that occur over large spatial and temporal scales, and so is a natural fit for a lot of palaeoecological data.

The organisers deliberately moved away from the standard conference format of back-to-back talks, and instead built in lots of time for discussions around several themes (‘provacations’) that addressed the current status of macroecology and possible future directions for it. Several areas for progress were identified here, including finding more efficient ways of generating, curating and accessing large (global scale) datasets, increasing dialogue between numerical modellers and empirical ecologists, and more statistical and computational training for undergraduate ecologists and biologists.

Sessions of presentations were also formulated to encourage discussion and debate, with either rapid, five-minute presentations or longer methodological talks forming the starting point for further discourse. I struggled enormously with the five-minute time limit during my talk (conference talks are often built around a 15 minute slot) but hopefully interested a few people in the uses of 60 million year old pollen for addressing macroecological questions.

 A workshop on ‘Spatial analysis in R’ followed the two-day meeting. This was taught by Barry Rowlingson, and was co-organised by the Macroecology and Computational Ecology SIGs. Barry started by introducing the programme R and then went on to demonstrate its uses for handling, mapping and analysing spatial data. This type of analysis was largely new to me, and this workshop was a brilliant introduction to what R can do with geographical data.

To join these British Ecological Society SIGs and find out about other groups visit the BES SIG pages by clicking here.

New PCRG members

June 7, 2013


Dr Phil Jardine joining us from the University of Birmingham

We are pleased to announce the imminent arrival of three new PCRG members Phil Jardine, Adele Julier and Nicholas Loughlin. Phil and Adele will be working on the African based, NERC funded, “500,000 years of solar irradiance, climate and vegetation changes” project as PDRA and PhD student respectively. While Nick will be working on South American palaeoenvironmental records looking at “Tropical forests response to past global climate change” as a NERC/CEPSAR funded PhD student. Phil will start in the department on Monday and the others will arrive with the October PhD student intake… exciting times.

Blog at