Time seemed to escape me in April so I have a lot of research group action to report in this post! Here are some highlights…
At The Open University (OU) the research students have all been busy (of course): Natalie presented her 3rd year talk at the CEPSAR student conference and attended a meeting in Durham, Lottie spent two weeks at University College London (Environmental Change Research Centre) learning to become a statistics guru studying the “Numerical Analysis of Biological and Environmental Data” course, while Hayley and Frazer have been writing up their first year probation reports ahead of their mini-vivas next month. Over in Florida Bryan submitted his first PhD paper and has headed off on field work in Peru; and most significantly… I am very pleased to report that Nikki successfully defended her PhD thesis! Congratulations Nikki!
Thinking of PhD I was also pleased to have the opportunity to welcome my PhD supervisor, Frank Mayle, to The OU to give a CEPSAR seminar last week. It was great to be able to show off the labs to Frank at last having promised to invite him down when I arrived at The OU in 2005! He gave a very interesting talk on new archaeological findings from beneath the rain-forest in the Amazon Basin.
Away from The OU a couple of weeks ago I was down at Charles Darwin House for the British Ecological Society meetings committee meeting! We were working on the program for the annual meeting in Birmingham during December this year and it is shaping up to be a very exciting event; keep up to date by following the BES on twitter (@BritishEcolSoc).
Abstract Amazonia has long been considered to be a pristine wilderness, largely untouched by human activity, supporting small, scattered indigenous tribes living in harmony with their rainforest environment.
However, recent discoveries of massive geometric earthworks, revealed by deforestation in recent decades, are challenging this ‘virgin wilderness’ paradigm and pointing to substantially greater environmental impacts by pre-Columbian societies than previously supposed.
In my talk I review these archaeological discoveries and discuss how a combined palaeoecological-archaeological approach has the potential to resolve the scale of environmental land use and disturbance associated with these ancient cultures. I also consider the implications of these findings for understanding rainforest ecology and biodiversity, as well as conservation policy.
If you are external to The Open University and wish to attend this lecture please contact William Gosling in advance.
On Friday I had the privilege of presenting research from the Palaeoenvironmental Change Research Group to the Hutton Club at the University of Edinburgh (Institute of Geography). My talk, entitled “Assessing the impact of Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles in the tropics”, drew on: 1) empirical data on past vegetation change from sedimentary records spanning multiple glacial-interglacial cycles; Lake Titicaca (370,000 years), Erazo (middle Pleistocene) and Lake Bosumtwi (500,000 years), and 2) model climate-vegetation data from the GENIE-1 model. The combination of these new long tropical records with model data strongly suggests that the long-term pattern of vegetation response to global glacial-interglacial cycles is differently structured at low-latitudes when compared with mid-latitudes. The different pattern of change suggested in response to past global climate variation might suggest that the response of tropical vegetation change to predicted future climate change could be different to that anticipated for mid- and high-latitudes.