Talking Anthropology, Climate and Weather Conference

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Three of our TPRG members will be giving a talk at this weekend’s Conference “Anthropology, Climate and Weather Conference” at the British Museum at our session:

P31. Indigenous populations-vegetation-climate relationship in the past: what can this teach us about sustainable vegetation use in the present?

 

The talks will include palaeoecological findings and the meaning for human and climate:

  • Francis Mayle, Ruth Dickau, Bronwen Whitney, Jose Iriarte. Pre-Columbian raised-field agriculture in Amazonian Bolivia — What lessons for sustainable land use today?
  • John Carson, Francis Mayle. Looking for anthropogenic forests in Amazonia: the potential and challenges in detecting a legacy of pre-Columbian land use.
  • Macarena Cárdenas, Francis Mayle, Jose Iriarte, Lauri Schorn. Dynamics of the Brazilian Araucaria forest and its responses to human land use and climate change, a long term perspective

If you are around, come to see us!

 

Click here for more details

By Macarena

Je Landscapes Project makes the Brazilian News!

The third year of our Je Landscapes project has just started and the team has been full on. This year the project started with a successful field trip in Southern Brazil, and with attendance to international conferences at the European Conference of Tropical Ecology and the Society for American Archaeology in Orlando where oral presentations from the team were made.

Considering also that the archaeological research started back in 2013, it is no surprise then that the project has had good attention from newspapers and media in Brazil lately. Here are links to some of the news and posts we definitely like:

 

Newspapers:

Historia Revelada by Diario Catarinense Includes a video with the reconstruction of the findings

Origens povo catarinense

 

Escavações revelam hábitos de índios que viveram há mil anos no Sul do país Povos Jê by Folha de S. Paulo

Excavaciones revelan

 

Je Landscape in the cover of Diario CatarinenseCover_Je

Youtube:

Expedição Arqueológica em Urubici by EXPERIÊNCIA VMA

VMA

 

And more to come.

By Macarena

 

INQUA ECR 2016 Early Career Researcher Conference and Summer School

 

website

We are delighted to announce that we are finally ready to receive abstract submissions for the INQUA ECR Conference and Summer School 2016, at Reading, UK.

 

We have a wide range of activities and fun things to do at this event that you cannot miss, including lectures from renowned researchers, hands-on-training using models and empirical datasets, and of course the great opportunity to share your own research by giving an oral or poster presentation.

 

Check the website for more information

INQUA ECR Committee

 

 

Brain’s pick: European Conference of Tropical Ecology

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Here I want to share what my brain grabbed and maintained the most from the conference I attended last week in Germany.

 

First to mention is that I had a great time at the European Conference of Tropical Ecology. There was a great selection of fantastic talks, really good quality research, and outstanding projects.

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At the Opening Ceremony, Gottingen University, and plenary talk with Professor Richard Corlett

There was a full-day session in paleoecology which I thought was well rounded covering topics such as ‘Ecological baselines for the high Andes’ with William Gosling, ‘Long-term dynamics of Amazonian rainforest and wetland ecosystems and the role of climate, sea-level, fire and human impact’ with Prof Hermann Behling, ‘Phytolith signatures along a gradient of ancient human disturbance in western Amazonia’ with Crystal MicMichael, and ‘History of geographical parthenogenesis of Neotropical Ostracoda using fossil and molecular data – a consequence of climate fluctuations?’ with Sergio Cohuo.

 

My contribution in this conference was talking about the preliminary findings of the Je Project in an oral presentation entitled ‘Araucaria forest, human land use, and climate change linkages in southern Brazil during the late Holocene’, which was well received and commented.

 

 

Other talks that stand out for me were:

Yadvinder Mahi(University of Oxford), gave a plenary talk on ‘New insights into the metabolism and carbon cycle of tropical forests from a global network of intensive ‘, where he showed some surprising outcomes from their project with GEM (Global  Ecosystem Monitoring Network ). GEM is massive network that measures productivity and gas flux within forest of the Amazon, Africa and Asia. I totally recommend to look at their webpage to look at what they are doing (for example: outstanding results come from Chiquitania in Bolivia)

 

Professor Susan Page (University of Leicester)gave a plenary talk on ‘Swamped! The trials and tribulations of tropical peatland science’: where she shared controversial information regarding management of peats from Indonesia, and the raw reality. A fantastic example of how we can use research for a common good.

 

Minnattallah Boutros a former researcher in conservation, now a business owner, brought another, feared topic to the conference, ‘Bridging the gap – Biodiversity conservation in the frameworks of research and development cooperation’, where she shared her knowledge in how to bring money to do research in ecology and conservation. She seemed to know very well what she was talking about, a great eye opener.

 

Kyle Dexter (University of Edinburg) gave a great presentation on ‘Patterns of dominance in tree communities vary across the major biomes’ and he highlighted how there are hyperdominant taxa, this time also including the Matta Atlantica (finally someone is talking about other biomes other than the Amazon!)

 

 

Other thoughts

Trends. It was very interesting to see stronger trends of research in ecology. A strong current seem to be appearing about Ecuadorian Amazon and Andean vegetation. There was a large session entitled “Developing sustainable land use and functional monitoring systems for the Ecuadorian Andes to cope with environmental change effects” where interesting research was shown. Other strong focus was towards wetlands and their role in carbon cycling, a whole session was on “Tropical wetland ecology”.

 

Staying connected. If there is something that always stands out of the conferences is that I take the most at seeing and talking to people from my field that I wouldn’t normally. Here is the most fun. Talking about projects and getting to know future plans are equally important (specially so you don’t step out in each other’s toes!).

 

Food. Not a minor topic for me (apparently I am a foodie). A delightful surprise from the organisation was to find out fantastic buffet at the Conference reception in the first night, accompanied with a live band that played from jazz, to modern rock. The snacks at coffee breaks were also delightful with selection of food even for vegan-gluten free people, finally!

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Snacks at coffee break… fresh fruit and nuts. Why nobody thought about this before?!

 

Well done to the organisation committee, and everyone attending.

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The band at the reception with a very keen academic

Looking forward to other conferences!

By Macarena

 

PhDs confirmed!

 

Congratulations to Heather Plumpton and Richard Smith that just got their PhD confirmed at SAGES, University of Reading (Panel chair: Dr Nick Branch, current Head of School).

They did a fantastic job not just at presenting their projects and with their report, but in their overall achievements during the first part of their PhD.

Guys, nobody said it would be easy! Well done and carry on!

 

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Heather presenting her project “Amazonia and the 6K drought: what are the long term impacts of drought on south-west Amazonian forests?” Supervisors: Frank Mayle, John Carson & Shovonlal Roy

Amazonia under a mid-Holocene drought

Richard presenting his project “Amazonia under a mid-Holocene drought” Supervisors: Frank Mayle, John Carson, Shovonlal Roy, & Joy Singarayer

 

TPR in a Chilean School

 

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San Ignacio School (Colegio), Source La Tercera

Our lab made presence in South America during late December 2015, specifically in Santiago of Chile. This was a visit during which I had the opportunity to be at the facilities of San Ignacio School and enjoyed using one of the microscopes in their large teaching laboratory with wooden tops (it was like being back to school!).

On the other hand I took the opportunity to share some knowledge about our research and the world of pollen. I had a great conversation with Mr Luis Lara and Miss Carolina Guerrero (photo below), both responsible at the Sciences Department of the School. TPR donated samples of pollen reference collection of key taxon with some fun morphologies that they will use for future botany classes and highlight the amazing world of cells.

Thanks to Colegio San Ignacio for opening the doors for me and special thanks to Luis and Carolina that made me feel like at home.

 

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Luis and Carolina at the San Ignacio School’s laboratory

 

About San Ignacio School:

San Ignacio School (Colegio) is one of the top schools of Chile. Every year San Ignacio’s graduates get national score in the test to enter the University, best scores include in tests in the area of science.

 

By Macarena

 

 

PhD opportunity with us

 

NERC ‘Scenario’ DTP PhD project at University of Reading:

 Assessing the resilience of Brazil’s iconic Araucaria forest

to past and future climate change

 

Araucaria

 

Lead Supervisor: Francis E. Mayle, Dept. Geography & Environ. Science, Univ. Reading.

Email: f.mayle@reading.ac.uk

Staff profile 

Broader context of the project 

Co-supervisors: Richard Walters, School of Biological Sciences, Univ. Reading; Joy Singarayer, Dept. Meteorology, Univ. Reading; Macarena Cárdenas, Dept. Geography & Environ. Science, Univ. Reading.

Collaborator: Jose Iriarte, Dept. Archaeology, Univ. Exeter.

 

Background:

The Parana pine (Araucaria angustifolia) of southern Brazil is an iconic ‘living fossil’, dating back to the Mesozoic, when it was likely grazed upon by Sauropod dinosaurs.  This evergreen conifer once dominated highland areas of Brazil’s southern Atlantic Forest (a global biodiversity hotspot) until the colonial period, but is now critically endangered and is a key conservation priority.  To gain a robust understanding of the likely response of Parana pine to future climate change, a better understanding of the underlying reasons for its current biogeographic distribution is first needed, which can only be gained via knowledge of the long-term dynamics of this species over the past several millennia, in relation to both past climate change and pre-Columbian (pre-1492) human land use.  The overall aim is to determine the relationship between Araucaria forest, climate change, and human land use over the past ~ 6,000 years in southern Brazil, and thereby improve understanding of the likely response of this species to future climate change and the implications for conservation policy.  This PhD project complements an ongoing AHRC(UK)-FAPESP(Brazil)-funded project which provides the archaeological context.

 

Approach and Methods:

The student will use a novel, multi-disciplinary approach, which combines palaeoecological and archaeological data with ecological and climate models.  Fossil pollen will be analysed from bog sediments and fed into land-cover models (REVEALS, LOVE) to reconstruct the history of Araucaria forest over the last ~ 6,000 years.  These data will be integrated with ongoing archaeological studies and previously published palaeoclimate records to determine the respective roles of people versus climate change in driving late Holocene Araucaria expansion.  Climate models and ecological niche models (e.g. MAXENT) will be tested against these palaeo data and used to map the environmental niche of Araucaria through time, in response to past and future climate change.

Training opportunities:

Training will be given in field- (bog coring) and laboratory-based (pollen microscopy) palaeoecological skills (Mayle & Cárdenas), climate (Singarayer) and ecological (Walters) modelling, and integration with archaeological data (Iriarte).  Sediment cores have already been collected, but there will be scope to visit the field area and collect further material if necessary and any relevant ecological data.

Student profile:

Applicants should hold a minimum of a UK honours degree at 2.1 level, or equivalent, in a relevant subject such as biology, geography or environmental science.  A strong background in numerical/statistical techniques is essential and knowledge of ecology, microscopy and coding/modelling would be advantageous.

 

How to apply:

Full details of how to apply, as well as a podcast of this advert, can be found at:

http://www.met.reading.ac.uk/nercdtp/home/available/

The deadline for applications is 25th January 2016, although later applications may be considered.  For further details about the project, please contact the lead supervisor, Francis Mayle.

 

 

Summer in Bolivia-Fieldwork experience

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A sunset in the field. Richard and Frank returning at sunset from coring Laguna San Jose

This summer I went on my first fieldwork season to the tropics. It was definitely an experience! Since I’ve come back everyone who I’ve spoken to about it has said how wonderful it must have been, and how lucky I am to be able to do this as a job. And I completely agree; it was an amazing opportunity to work in such a different and exciting environment, and to see/touch the vegetation that I study and discuss all the time from afar. I also got the chance to experience Bolivian culture and improve my Spanish speaking skills (which really needed it!).

 

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Sunlight on Laguna San Jose

 

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The road to one of our sites, Tumichucua

However it was also a lot of hard work, and definitely not a free holiday. We were often up early and working in the 34 degree heat and humidity all day, staying out as long as the sun was up and then sometimes processing samples in the evenings. But I knew that was going to happen. I think the most important lesson I learnt about fieldwork, especially in the tropics, is the amount of time that needs to be spent on logistics, organisation and communication once you’re out there. You can’t set out on your fieldwork with a completely fixed idea of what you’re going to sample and where. Of course it is important to have a plan, but you need to accept that everything can change once you’re out there. You can’t hope to understand the logistics of accessing a site using googlemaps alone! Local knowledge and co-operation are absolutely key, and we were lucky enough on our trip to have some great help from colleagues and locals.

 

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Richard and I covered in orange road dust after riding on the back of the truck

We are out there to do work, and get the samples that will form the backbone of our research for the next few years (hopefully!), but it is also easy to get lost in the work and forget how beautiful the place you are working in really is. One day after a hot day digging a soil pit in the dry forest near Concepcion we decided to go swimming in a local lake as the sun set. It was beautiful and cold(ish) but sadly we didn’t pay quite enough attention to the large sign with a sad face on it next to the lakeside. We paid for it dearly the next day, when I came down with a pretty rough intestinal infection and left the others to dig the soil pit without me!

So my first experience of tropical fieldwork was challenging, but also incredibly inspiring and enjoyable. I hope I get the chance to go again!

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Commuting to work…

by Heather Plumpton

Swapping Amazon fieldwork stories with Sir Ghillean Prance

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Front of the Kew Millennium Seed Bank (courtesy of Frank Mayle)

 

On 26th October I gave a talk at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at their symposium entitled ‘Amazing Amazon – seed biology and the bio-economics of native species’.  While there I had the great privilege of fulfilling a long-term ambition of mine – to finally meet Sir Ghillean Prance – the world-renowned expert on Amazonian botany.  Over a rack of ribs and a few pints at a local village pub I really enjoyed chatting with him about our respective fieldtrip adventures in the Amazon over the years.  I was also delighted to receive a signed copy of his latest book ‘That Glorious Forest’ where Ghillean regales us with his field expeditions in the Amazon, dating back to his first trip in 1963!  Great bedtime reading for me at the moment.

 

by Frank Mayle