I covered topics including the motivation of students, designing a MSc level course, and setting up BSc/MSc research projects. My presentation was centered around my personal experience of running courses for BSc Biology and Future Plant Studies students (Palaeoecology), and for MSc Earth Science and Biological Science students (Environments Through Time) at the University of Amsterdam. It was nice to get a wider perspective from discussion with the audience and to pick up some additional ideas and advice. If you have other thoughts on this topic please feel free to comment on this post.
The entire African Pollen Database online seminar series is now available to watch via the associated YouTube channel. So to find more click here.
The course “Landscape Dynamics in an era of change: Learning from the past to face the future” took place in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa between 5 and 15 March 2023. The course was run by the Graduate School for Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PERC) and participants were drawn from universities in the Netherlands and South Africa. The main goal of the course was to investigate the past and current dynamics of the region and predict possible futures in an inter- / trans-disciplinary context. Consequently the content of the course was incredibly diverse including: geology, geomorphology, palaeoecology, cultural history, vegetation studies, soil science, farming systems and forestry. These topics were integrated into four group projects centered on invasive species, rewilding, commercial farming and small scale farming.
At the University of Amsterdam the MSc Earth Science is split into two tracks, one of these is entitled: “Earth System Science”. Earth System Science is a research intensive track focused on understanding the fundamentals of abiotic and biotic interactions across the globe and through time. During this degree you will spend around 6 months studying to pick up specialist knowledge and skills, and around 18 months actively developing yourself – in your key areas of interest – through project work.
The taught part of the Earth System Science track includes courses such as:
The Earth System: Learn how to analyse Earth system function across space and through time.
Analysis & Modelling Lab: Develop skills in data handeling, analysis and modeling relevant to Earth science.
Biogeochemical Cycles in the Earth System: Study how the dynamics of carbon and nitrogen link to societal challenges.
Climate Change: Explore the scientific basis for climate change an its implications for the environment and society.
Environments Through Time: Consider and analyse environmental change on timescale relevant to landscapes, societies and climates.
GIS and Remote Sensing in Ecosystem Dynamics: Learn how to use large remotely sensed datasets to gain insights into geological, geomorphological and soil systems.
In addition, free elective courses are possible from across the University of Amsterdam, or at other approved organizations or universities, i.e. it is possible to pick up skills in other specialisms (for example in languages, AI, or programming), or study a course at a university abroad, and have this included within your University of Amsterdam MSc Earth Science degree.
The project part of the Earth System Science track includes two research projects, or one research project and one internship with an external organization (such as a company or NGO). MSc research projects are often closely linked to active research within the Institute for Biodiversity & Ecosystem Dynamics. Some projects and literature reviews conducted by our MSc researchers reach a high enough level to be published in international scientific journals, either on there own or as part of a wider collaboration. Examples of recent papers including MSc researchers (highlighted in bold) are:
Lee, C.M., van Geel, B. & Gosling, W.D. (2022) On the use of spores of coprophilous fungi preserved in sediments to indicate past herbivore presence. Quaternary5, 30. DOI: 10.3390/quat5030030
de Nijs, E.A. & Cammeraat, E.L. (2020) The stability and fate of Soil Organic Carbon during the transport phase of soil erosion. Earth-Science Reviews 201, 103067. DOI: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2019.103067
The MSc Earth Sciences at the University of Amsterdam has a new look for the start of the next academic year (starting September 2023). Drawing on the international research expertise of our staff it is now possible to tailor your studies within two complementary tracks:
Earth System Science: Focused on fundamental aspects of Earth science, such as biogeochemical cycles, climate dynamics, and past environmental change. Our education follows our research in exploring how abiotic and biotic elements of the Earths system interact through time and across the globe.
Environmental Management: Focused on the interface between Earth science and society, key topics include: management of coastal systems, ecosystem dynamics in urban environments, and the relationship between science policy and ethics. During your internship you will have the opportunity to engage with societal partners to develop skills and projects.
For both tracks education is delivered through lectures, field courses, laboratory practical’s, and data analysis. Furthermore, you will get the chance to develop your own research agenda by conducting a project with one of our scientists, or at an external partner or university. In addition to expert knowledge our graduates have transferable skills in data handeling, numerical analysis, and science communication.
To find out more about our program visit click here to visit the MSc Earth Sciences pages on the University of Amsterdam web site.
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:
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.
Yesterday I picked up my Professorial Toga from Togamakerij Rhebergen on the Amsteldijk in Amsterdam. For me it was quite a moment as this item symbolizes so much work over so many years, and is thanks to the help, support and training of so many people. I am looking forward to my Oratie (inaugural lecture) on the 22 December and celebrating further with friends and family. I hope that you will agree that the hard work was worth it to have the privilege to wear this gown, and personal thanks to Helen Sahin of Togamakerij Rhebergen for making such a beautiful item of clothing for me!
The University of Amsterdam “Environments Through Time” course is currently underway. This cross-disciplinary course is part of the MSc Biological Sciences program and also attracts many students from the MSc Earth Sciences. During the course students gain an understanding of the importance of having a long-term (centennial to millennial) context to understanding environmental problems, and how datasets can be generated that are relevant to these timescales. To gain an understanding of uncertainty in reconstructing past environmental change students conduct a re-analysis of previously published datasets (such as those archived in Neotoma) and assess if the findings of those papers was robust. To do this students develop skills in data mining, Bayesian probability modelling, multi-variate statistical analysis, and change-point analysis. At the end of the course students have gained experience in the critical evaluation of the scientific literature, transferable numerical skills, and a greater appreciation of Earth history and past environmental change.
The 2022 edition of the Environments Through Time course is taught by:
If you would like to learn more about past environmental change and its relevance to ongoing societal, climatic and ecological change sign up for the MSc Biological Sciences or MSc Earth Sciences and take this course. If this course sparks further your interest in exploring past environmental change then further opportunities exist to take on masters projects in this field with our team.
I am delighted to announce that the inaugural lecture for my becoming Professor of Palaeoecology & Biogeography will take place at the Aula (Lutherse kerk) of the University of Amsterdam on the 22 December 2022 (16:30). If you would like to attend this event please let me know (via email) before 1 December 2022 so that an appropriate level of catering can be organized.
For further details visit the university web site here.
For my contact details visit my university web page here.
During the delivery of this years BSc Palaeoeclogy course at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) I discussed with a number of students about the nature and purpose of understanding the ecology of the past. This lead me to highlighting the research of Nick Loughlin (@PalaeoNick) from his PhD at The Open University and the subsequent work that he has done. I though it might be interesting to also share this here…
Nick’s study sought to understand better the ecological history of the biodiverse eastern Andean flank in Ecuador. To achieve this he went into the field and recovered sediments from a lake and a sedimentary section exposed by a road cutting. He analysed the sediments to reveal vegetation change (pollen analysis), fire histories (charcoal analysis), and past animals in the landscape (non-pollen palynomorphs, or NPPs). To extract extra ecological information from his samples he developed the methodological approach for examining NPPs in a tropical setting (Loughlin et al. 2018a). He then combined all the different palaeoecological approaches to reveal the drivers of vegetation change during the last glacial period (in the absence of humans; Loughlin et al. 2018b), and during the last 1000 years (when indigenous and European human populations radically altered the landscape; Loughlin et al. 2018c). The insights gained from Nicks research provided empirical evidence of how humans have been modifying this biodiversity hotspot on the timescales relevant to the lifecycles of tropical trees. These findings and ideas were collated in his PhD Thesis at The Open University which was supervised by Encarni Montoya, Angela Coe and myself (Loughlin, 2018a). Subsequently, Nick has been working to broaden the impact of his work and to communicate his findings to the broader scientific and conservation community. This has lead to two new publications focused on understanding baseline ecological function and conservation implications (Loughlin et al. 2022, Nogué et al. 2022).
The arch of research carried out by Nick, I think, really demonstrates the important of understanding the ecology of the past – without his detailed investigation of microfossils we could not have seen the impacts of indigenous communities on the past Andean landscape, or identify the consequences of the European depopulation; or been able to estimate the timescales of the ecological change!