The Ecology of the Past: Inagueral lecture

January 12, 2023
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William Gosling giving his oratie “The Ecology of the Past” at the Aula (University of Amsterdam), 22 December 2022.

On the 22 December I gave my oratie (inaugural lecture), entitled “The Ecology of the Past”, related to my appointment as Professor of Palaeoecology & Biogeography at the University of Amsterdam. I really enjoyed the opportunity to mark this personal milestone with some many colleagues, friends and family. In case you missed the event you can watch it online via the universities portal by clicking here (or on the photo).

Note: (1) to flip between seeing the slides and the video feed just click on the screen, (2) running time of lecture until 50 minutes.

Six research vacancies within the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics

December 13, 2022
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Assistant and / or Associate Professor positions in:

  • Carbon cycle dynamics in terrestrial ecosystems
  • Biological feedbacks in the marine carbon cycle
  • Impacts of climate-related environmental change on ecological systems
  • Land cover and land use dynamics
  • Geomorphology and tropical landscape evolution
  • Aquatic ecotoxicology and water quality

Closing date for all positions 8 January 2023

Jobs: Two Assistant Professorships within Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics

December 7, 2022
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I am pleased to announce two new vacancies within the Department of Ecosystem & Landscape Dynamics at the University of Amsterdam. These position are part of a recruitment drive across the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics triggered by new funding from the Dutch government (Earth & Environmental Science Sector Plan). Both positions will be at the Assistant Professor level (either Tenure Track, or directly tenured following a period of probation; dependent upon the experience of the successful candidate). For full detail, and how to apply, check out the below links:

Closing date: 8th January 2023

These positions are designed to compliment, and strengthen, existing expertise within the department in biogeochemistry, Earth surface science, landscape ecology and palaeoecology. We are looking for scientists who are engaged with laboratory, field and/or modelling focused research, have a proven track record of publishing, and are looking for a base to build their own research group. We are looking for enthusiastic and innovative educators keen to lead and develop practical and field based courses and projects for students in our BSc Future Planet Studies and MSc Earth Sciences degree programs.

If you have any question please do not hesitate to get in contact with me directly: William D. Gosling

If you are interested to join IBED but feel you do not fit to one of these position check out our other vacancies at by clicking here.

A stronger role for long-term moisture change than for CO2 in determining tropical woody vegetation change

May 5, 2022
WDG

Gosling, W.D., Miller, C.S., Shanahan, T.M., Holden, P.B., Overpeck, J.T. & van Langevelde, F. (2022) A stronger role for long-term moisture change than for CO2 in determining tropical woody vegetation change. Science 376, 653-656. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abg4618

To access this article FREE through the Science author referral service click here.

For more on the palaeoecological dataset underpinning this research check out the PhD thesis of Charlotte Miller by clicking here or here.

Why palm fossils are important for the Amazon rainforest

March 14, 2022
ninahylkjewitteveen

With all the horror chaos in the world, science doesn’t seem like the most important thing. I forgot all about my paper, until I received an email, that… the first chapter of my PhD is published! Some positive news I would like to share with you.  

If you think about a stereotypical scientist, hidden in a lab, investigating every detail of a tiny thing…. that is great description of what I was doing! 

A snapshot of data analysis
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A palaeoecological perspective on the transformation of the tropical Andes by early human activity

March 8, 2022
WDG

Bush, M.B., Rozas-Davila, A., Raczka, M., Nascimento, M., Valencia, B., Sales, R.K., McMichael, C.N.H. & Gosling, W.D. (2022) A palaeoecological perspective on the transformation of the tropical Andes by early human activity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 377, 20200497. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2020.0497

Detecting past peoples in the tropics

January 22, 2020
WDG

Vegetation History & ArchaeobotanyDetecting the presence, and impact, of peoples past impact in ecosystems and landscapes in the tropics is a challenging because the traces that they leave behind are few and disentangling them from ‘natural’ (non-human related) variability is a challenge. As an Associate Editor for Vegetation History & Archaeobotany (VHAA) I enjoy handling manuscripts that think about these issues and explore the role of humans in tropical landscapes. Two recent papers published in VHAA touched on this subject (one of which I “communicated” as an editor).

  • Bodin et al. (2020) studied charcoal recovered from soil at sites with a gradient of archaeological evidence for past human activity in French Guiana.
  • Goethals & Verschuren (2019) explored the relationship between the amount of dung fungi found in lake sediments and the herbivore populations living around the lakes.

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“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 1

September 17, 2019
WDG

Mark Bush

Mark Bush

This is the first in a special series of three guest blog posts by my friend, mentor and collaborator the tropical palaeoecologist and biogeographer Prof. Mark Bush (Florida Institute of Technology).

We are often told that you “cannot go back”, meaning that a place that provided wonderful memories will disappoint when revisited. Putting this into current conservation-speak we don’t like to be reminded that our baselines are shifting. Recently I had a chance to revisit a part of Ecuadorean Amazonia I had not been to for 30 years. I was a bit hesitant to go. Would I be disappointed or could the experience live up to my recollection?

In 1988, I went on a lengthy field season in Ecuador. We were searching for a glacial-age record that could test the refugial hypothesis of Amazonian speciation. Some lakes that lay in Ecuadorian Amazonia showed promise as they appeared to be a long way from major river channels, and only connected by their outlets into the Cuyabeno River. Would these lakes hold glacial-aged records? Would they show a history of rainforest or savanna during the last ice age?

We started from the frontier town of Lago Agrio, which was rough in every way, dirty, and somewhere we couldn’t wait to leave.  Driving to the end of the road and then picking up motorized canoes we were, by nightfall, able to get to the first tourist/research lodge to be established in what is now the Cuyabeno Faunistic Reserve. The trip there was basically uneventful, but a quick tour of the lake in our motorized dugout revealed a substantial inflowing river that had been hidden by cloud on the aerial imagery. We had been hoping for a headwater system, not an essentially riverine lake. Nevertheless, we cored the middle of the lake. The coring was tough as the river was washing clays into the system and these settled to form stiff, sticky, gray sediments. After one or two meters of coring, hammering was essential to get any penetration, but getting the core back out was the real challenge. The inflatable boats were sinking as we strained upward on the coring rig, but still we couldn’t break the device free from the clay. We tried everything: we clamped the boats to the coring rig when they were fully flooded, then bailed the boats out, hoping the added buoyancy would break the corer free. It didn’t. So we refilled the boats, re-clamped, bailed, and then all jumped out. Still nothing. In the end we resorted to the nuclear option, which is to hammer upward on the drill rig. The modified Livingstone coring rig we were using was designed to be hammered downward, but hammering upward can seriously damage the drill string. Nevertheless, it worked. Darkness was closing over us by the time we managed to free the rig, but already we knew that the core wasn’t the glacial-age record we had been hoping for. Faces in camp that evening were pretty glum. As the old axiom goes, we defined insanity by repeating the procedure in the next lake in the chain and, unsurprisingly, got the same outcome – another young core.

Victoriano, Haki, shaman and head of the Siona Nation in Cuyabeno. Photo: M. Bush.

Victoriano, Haki, shaman and head of the Siona Nation in Cuyabeno. Photo: M. Bush.

We resolved to move on and try another target system, Laguna Zancudococha. Our hosts and guides were members of the Siona nation, and their Hako (Chief) was a vibrant 82-year old called Victoriano. There was a long discussion deciding whether we could go to Zancudococha as it was their ‘origin’ lake and therefore sacred. Eventually, it was decided that we could go. The journey would take at least two days and although Victoriano knew the way, none of the others had been there before.

To be continued…

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