Do you have a PhD in Physical Geography, Environmental Sciences, Landscape Ecology or Soil Ecology? Have you got educational and research experience working with digital data to contribute to climate, geographic or biodiversity science? If so please consider applying for the 4-year post-doctoral position “Digital Environmental Sustainability” currently available within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics (Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam).
The 2018 edition of the University of Amsterdam masters course “Environments Through Time” is now up and running. The course sits at the interface between ecology, physical geography and archaeology and seeks to provide students with a better understanding of how long-term (>100’s years) datasets can provide insights in to past environmental change.
In the first week of the course the students had to present their ‘favourite’ paper in just three (3) minutes! Quite a challenge and lots of fun. This years selection of papers themed around:
mega-fauna extinctions (Bakker et al., 2016; Gill et al., 2009; van der Kaars et al., 2017),
impacts of human land use practices (Bitusik et al., 2018; Carson et al., 2014; Chepstow-Lusty et al., 2009; Gauthier et al., 2010; Tisdall et al., 2018), and
climatic drivers of vegetation change (Haug et al., 2001; Tierney et al., 2017; Tudhope et al., 2001).
For full list of papers presented see below.
In the second and third weeks (now ongoing) students get to deconstruct published chronologies and conduct time series analsis of multi-proxy datasets. Data for these excercises is frequently is extracted from databases such as Neotoma, Pangea, NOAA – paleoclimatology datasets database and the Global Charcoal Database – which shows the importance of these open access databases for developing effective research led eductation, as well as pushing forward to frontiers of research.
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.
Two weeks ago I attended the biannual International Biogeography Society (IBS) conference in Bayreuth, together with 600+ other people from more than 50 different countries. This IBS conference, my first IBS meeting, proved to be an exciting event during which I met scientists from many different disciplines and heard talks on cutting-edge biogeographical research.
The IBS conference was held in the Bavarian city of Bayreuth, in the middle of the biodiverse landscape of Upper Franconia. This landscape provided the training ground for Alexander von Humboldt, the founder of the field of biogeography. The 4-day conference included a wide variety of symposia and many, many posters. The conference dinner in the German Steam Train Museum was highly memorable. The conference was closed by a lecture from Daniel Simberloff, once a doctorate student of Edward O. Wilson, who received the Wallace Award for his outstanding contributions to invasion ecology.
I had a talk in the plenary symposium of ‘Ecosystem response to past climate change’, organized by David Nogués-Bravo and Francisco Rodríguez-Sánchez. The symposium covered the dangers of climate change to biodiversity and tried to assess if the range and rate of adaptation, migration, persistence, or extirpation, that are registered in deep-time records, palaeorecords, and the recent past, are adequate responses for predicted climate change in the future. I addressed this issue from the point of view of a small remote island, where migration is obviously a limiting factor. I showed how I reconstructed climate and its effect on island biota during the last 40,000 years using long-term palaeoecological records from Mauritius (de Boer et al, 2013 & 2014). These records show that different climate regimes result in different ecosystem response to climate change in the past. Local extirpation or population collapse of larger vertebrates was a natural phenomenon in the lowlands of Mauritius due to frequent climate extremes (I will discuss this in more detail in my next blog; de Boer, 2015). Despite these population collapses, island biota have always (in the timeframe of my records) survived natural climate change. Therefore, my take home message was not to focus on the effects of (future) climate change alone. Other key components of global change, such as invasive species and habitat destruction, are more imminent threats to the biodiversity of many islands. For more information on my research, including publications, click here.
More information on the IBS read on (below) or visit the IBS website or blog. All abstracts and other details of the IBS conference in Bayreuth can be found here. The next IBS meeting will take place in Salvador, Bahia (Brazil) in March 2017.