The Ecology of the Past: Inagueral lecture

January 12, 2023
WDG

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.

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

December 7, 2022
WDG

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.

University of Amsterdam Toga!

December 1, 2022
WDG

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!

Environments Through Time

November 18, 2022
WDG

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.

Crystal McMichael making statistics fun with the Environments Through Time class of 2022!

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.

Inaugural lecture: The ecology of the past

November 9, 2022
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William D. Gosling ©KIRSTENVANSANTEN

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.

From new methods to new insights: Advancing palaeoecology with @PalaeoNick

September 21, 2022
WDG

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 recovers a sediment core for his PhD project.
Nick Loughlin during his PhD field work in Ecuador

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).

Lake Huila
Evidence of past ecological change recovered from Lake Huila (Ecuador) revealed how past peoples had modified the landscape of the eastern Andean biodiversity hotspot.

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!

References

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Palaeoecology course 2022 goes archaeology…

September 16, 2022
WDG

As part of this years BSc Palaeoecology course at the University of Amsterdam we visited the Department of Archaeology. Organised by Anja Fischer we visited the human bone collection, the animal bone collection and the archaeobotany section. Amazing collections and lots of opportunities for cross faculty projects and teaching.

In addition to explaining the physical reference collections Anja also explained how she has been developing data mining techniques to allow information to be synthesised from the thousands of archaeological reports across the Netherlands.

She used this approach to make new discoveries about the role of urban farming and ruralisation in Dutch history. Her findings formed a report for the Dutch national heritage organisation (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed) which can be downloaded for free (in English).

Fischer, A., van Londen, H., Blonk, A., Visser, R.M. & Renes, J. (2021) Urban Farming and Ruralisation in The Netherlands (1250-1850): Unravelling farming practice and the use of (open) space by synthesising archaeological reports using text mining. Nederlandse Archeologische Rapporten 68. Download free here.

Palaeoecology course UvA 2022

September 15, 2022
WDG

The University of Amsterdam (UvA) palaeoecology course is underway. The course is part of the BSc Biology program and the “Earth & Ecology” minor of the BSc Future Planet Studies.

Week 1 (last week) we got everyone up to speed with the fundamentals of palaeoecology (including: key principles, depositional environments, dating methods) and laboratory skills (pollen, phytolith and macrofossil identification). This week (week 2) we are out and about (coring sediments, surveying vegetation and visiting the archaeology department). By the end of the week the students will (should!?) have generated sufficient data in the laboratory and field to be able to identify the location from which their mini-project “mystery slides” were taken. Next week (week 3) will be number crunching to generate the statistical support for their ideas and inferences.

Students collecting sediments using a Russian corer at Langenboom (September, 2022). These samples were recovered in collaboration with the BosGroep Zuid Nederland as part of an ongoing project to gain new insights into the nature of the past landscape in the Netherlands and aid conservation efforts.

Characterising Dutch forests, wetlands and cultivated lands on the basis of phytolith assemblages

September 13, 2022
WDG

Open access:

de Wolf, I.K., McMichael, C.N.H., Philip, A.L. & Gosling, W.D. (2022) Characterising Dutch forests, wetlands and cultivated lands on the basis of phytolith assemblages. Netherlands Journal of Geosciences 101, e17. DOI: 10.1017/njg.2022.14

This paper started off as a research thesis undertaken by Iris de Wolf at the University of Amsterdam as part of her BSc Biology degree in 2018. The project was supervised by Crystal McMichael and William Gosling and has subsequently been further developed. If you are student or researcher interested in undertaking a similar type of projects please get in touch.

Listen to Iris’s journal podcast speaking about the subject here.

MSc Earth Sciences: Peru field course 2022

July 15, 2022
WDG

The University of Amsterdam MSc Earth Sciences “Geoecological Systems” field course to Peru took place this year during June and July (2022). A team of 18 students and 4 staff spent four weeks in Miraflores Town (c. 3700 m above sea level) working with, and for, local communities to study geomorphology, geology, land-use, water quality and carbon storage. The students were organized into teams of 3 or 4 each of which tackled a research question in the nearby landscapes that had been developed in conjunction with the local community. Access to the area and embedding within the community was enabled by The Mountain Institute Peru. The student reports will be translated into Spanish who will communicate findings to the community in Miraflores Town.

Want to join us on a future expedition? Check out our degree program here to enroll.

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