Palaeoecology out on the frontier

February 18, 2020
WDG

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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In the news:

Exploding flower blasts birds with pollen, by Xochitl Rojas-Rocha Science shot. (Research article behind this story is Dellinger et al. listed below). Also:

Scientific articles:

Dellinger, A.S., Penneys, D.S., Staedler, Y.M., Fragner, L., Weckwerth, W. & Schönenberger, J. A Specialized Bird Pollination System with a Bellows Mechanism for Pollen Transfer and Staminal Food Body Rewards. Current Biology, online.

Huntley, B., Midgley, G.F., Barnard, P. & Valdes, P. (2014) Suborbital climatic variability and centres of biological diversity in the Cape region of southern Africa. Journal of Biogeography, 41 (7): 1338-1351.

Matthew, T.J., Cottee-Jones, H.E., & Whittaker, R.J. (2014) Habitat fragmentation and the species–area relationship: a focus on total species richness obscures the impact of habitat loss on habitat specialists. Diversity and Distribution, 20 (10): 1136-1146.

Rijsdijk, K.F., Hengl, T., Norder, S.J.,  Otto, R., Emerson, B.C., Ávila, S.P., López, H., van Loon, E. E., Tjørve, E. & Fernández-Palacios, J.M. (2014) Quantifying surface-area changes of volcanic islands driven by Pleistocene sea-level cycles: biogeographical implications for the Macaronesian archipelagos. Journal of Biogeography, 41 (7): 1242-1254.

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