Frank Mayle spent much of his summer 2015 doing fieldwork in tropical South America. Late June to late July was spent in the Bolivian Amazon, accompanied by his two PhD students (Richard Smith and Heather Plumpton), postdoctoral researcher (John Carson) and Bolivian botanist Daniel Soto. This involved collecting sediment cores from lakes and bogs and digging soil pits. These samples are then shipped back to Reading where they are analysed for their microfossils – pollen, charcoal and phytoliths – using light microscopy, to understand the impact of climate change and indigenous human land use upon Amazonian forests over the past several millennia.
After a few weeks back home, Frank was then off to Brazil for a month (mid August to mid September), where he is a visiting scientist at the University of Sao Paulo – funded by Brazil’s CNPq Science Without Borders programme. After 2 days on the road, the UK-Brazil research team reached the field area of northern Espirito Santo and southern Bahia – in the core of the Atlantic rainforest, or what’s left of it. As with Bolivia, the fieldwork involved using coring equipment to collect sediment cores from bogs in order to analyse the preserved fossil pollen to reconstruct the long-term history of rainforest dynamics in response to environmental change, in this case dating back to the last ice age.
This research will improve understanding of the response of South America’s tropical rainforest ecosystems to drier climate conditions of the distant past, and thereby provide important insights into the likely response of these globally important ecosystems to future increased drought predicted by most climate models.
You can read more about Frank at his staff profile.