A fortnight of palaeoecology at the University of Amsterdam!

June 27, 2017
cmcmicha

BSc student Henk Cornelissen presents his thesis work on identifying charcoal characteristics that represent specific fire parameters, such as burn temperature. Photo: C. McMichael

BSc student Henk Cornelissen presents his thesis work on identifying charcoal characteristics that represent specific fire parameters, such as burn temperature. Photo: C. McMichael

by Crystal McMichael

Wimbledon tennis fortnight is on its way, but we’ve had our own palaeoecology fortnight here at the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam. We’ve seen seminars on reconstructing past landscapes and climates on timescales of decades to millions of years, and on spatial scales ranging from single sites to the entire Earth. Our presenters included our BSc students, MSc students, PhD candidates, faculty members, guest researchers, and even an internationally known palaeoclimatologist and contributor to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports!

BSc student Isa Mulder presents her thesis on reconstructing glacial-aged fire histories from the Andes. Photo: C. McMichael

BSc student Isa Mulder presents her thesis on reconstructing glacial-aged fire histories from the Andes. Photo: C. McMichael

We began with a three-day series of presentations from our BSc students in the Future Planet studies program. William Gosling and I had four students that presented their final theses. We continued with a seminar series organized by the Palynologische Kring (the Dutch palynology society). Eric Grimm, a guest researcher at UvA, presented a high resolution record of hydrological variability, vegetation, and fire from the Great Plains of the United States. Guest researcher Carina Hoorn showed us how the Amazon River formed, and the associated plant turnover that occurred during the Neogene. PhD student Keith Richards explained to us why the Arctic seal became land-locked in the Caspian Sea over 2.6 million years ago. PhD student Suzette Flantua presented a multi-proxy approach to exploring the biogeographic history of the Andes Mountains. She came back the following day to present her PhD thesis entitled, “Ecosystems in Pleistocene Latin America”. And we are happy to report that Suzette is now Dr. Flantua!!

Suzette Flantua highlights the work in her PhD thesis. Congratulations Suzette! Photo: C. McMichael

Suzette Flantua highlights the work in her PhD thesis. Congratulations Suzette! Photo: C. McMichael

Dr. William Gosling and Prof. Jonathan Overpeck discuss the future of palaeoecology and upcoming collaborations. Photo: C. McMichael

Dr. William Gosling and Prof. Jonathan Overpeck discuss the future of palaeoecology and upcoming collaborations. Photo: C. McMichael

Professor Jonathan Overpeck from the University of Michigan also delivered a seminar entitled “New paleoclimatic perspectives on the future of terrestrial systems: bigger change, higher confidence?” Our society faces serious challenges involving current and future rates of climate change, and this seminar highlighted the importance of palaeoecology for assessing how the planet will respond to these changes.

Our presenters included males and females from multiple countries at an array of career stages. I am glad to have been a part of this fortnight, and I am glad that our current students got to see such a diverse integration of people and palaeoecology. My hope is at least one of these students has been inspired by these seminars, and will develop the same passion for palaeoecology as what we’ve seen here over the last two weeks.

 

 

PCRG September

October 2, 2013
WDG

Section of fossil wood from Ecuador

Section of fossil wood from Ecuador

Having been away for half of the month I asked people to provide a summary of what they have been up to. Here is what they admitted to…

Natalie Ludgate and Lottie Miller have submitted their theses! Well done.

Hayley Keen: “Continual pollen counting, second lot of Argon dating done, and first set of wood macrofossils back and ready for identification!”

Frazer Bird: “At the start of September I began working as a technician as part of Encarni’s project. I am looking at the midges from the core we collected together on our last field trip. Things are going well, although the midges are hard to find in the older sections the preservation in early sequences is great. The resolution of this core looks to be fantastic also so and hopefully we will get some interesting results when we compare all the proxies.   Away fromthe lab I presented at INTECOL 2013 in London, The talk seemed to go down well and was noted as highly commended by the judging panel. Great publicity all round for the midges!!!”

Bryan Valencia: Has been on field work in Peru during this time he presented a talk on climate change to the Asociación para la Conservación de la Cuenca Amazónica, and gave interviews to local journalists and two TV stations. He also collected sediments from two locations, and manged to obtain a new US visa. He is now working on the final stages of submitting his thesis.

Phil Jardine: Phil has been busy ordering in microscopes and other equipment for the Lake Bosumtwi project (the first of which arrived today), and setting up the trip to Ghana that he’ll be going on with new PhD student Adele Julier in late October. He’s also been attempting to learn more about geochemistry, which has proved challenging.

Encarni Montoya:

  • Lake Pindo: We have finally the results of 6 samples radiocarbon dated from NRCF through our collaborator Dr Pauline Gulliver, and we have sent 4 more to “range find” the key interval of interests for the FORSENS project. We have started the midges’ analysis although it seems this going to be focused to the upper 4 meters of sediment. We would like to discern possible preservation issues in tropical records for this proxy. Some samples for a preliminary screening looking for diatoms ahve been collected and sent to the new FORSENS collaborator Teresa Vegas-Vilarrúbia. MS samples have been also collected for the first three drives and we hope to run this analysis next month.
  • Lake Banos: We have started the pollen prep. for the upper section of the record.
  • Management tasks: We are now ready for the tropical record Lake Marcacocha pollen prep., collaborating with an ongoing project lead by Alex Chepstow-Lusty. On a different topic, I have started the organisation of department seminars, so I would like to highlight if you have any potential speaker, please contact me.
  • Publications: a co-authorship in a paper published in Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics authored by Valentí Rull and his research group in the Botanical Institute of Barcelona is now available on line (click here)

William Gosling: “I have been promoted to Senior Lecturer (hooray), started work on the new level 2 environmental science module, been working on a new paper from the Erazo study site, and had a holiday!”

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