TPRG into 2020

I meant to write this post as a retrospective on 2019 at the end of last year, which gradually faded into a hope to publish it in early January. It’s now unavoidably the middle of February and the ‘new’ year is well underway, but so many TPRG things happened in 2019 that a review is still very much in order! Here’s a whistle-stop tour of some highlights… 

Farewells and hellos

Both Heather and Richard completed their PhDs last year, so huge congratulations to Drs Plumpton and Smith! In 2019 Heather also spent several months in the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, thanks to a fellowship with the British Ecological Society, before starting work at the Walker Institute as an Interdisciplinary Research Fellow

While it’s sad not to have Richard and Heather around any more, we’re very excited that Marco Raczka has joined the TPRG as a Postodoctoral Research Associate in Amazonian Palaeoecology (this post). He’ll be working on Frank’s new HERCA project over the next three years. Speaking of which…


The HERCA project was possibly the biggest news for the TPRG last year. Co-funded by AHRC (UK) and FAPESP (Brazil), this three-year, multi-million pound project will investigate Human-Environment Relationships in pre-Columbian Amazonia (hence HERCA). Frank and Prof. Eduardo Neves are the respective principal investigators for the UK and Brazilian branches of the research (the Brazilian project is known as PIMA), and are heading up a multinational and interdisciplinary research team. You can read more about the project here or on the UKRI website. A dedicated project website is in the pipeline, and you’ll hear plenty more about this research over the coming months and years!

The project is already well underway. Fieldwork took place in Bolivia and Brazil over the summer, and in November collaborators gathered in Reading for a workshop on the project.  As well as introducing the project, there were visits to Christopher Ramsey’s radiocarbon lab in Oxford, and to a chilly Stonehenge!

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Mudando a paisagem! Esta semana uma parte da equipe do Arqueotrop esteve na Inglaterra para dar início ao projeto HERCA – Human-Environmental Relationships in Pre-Columbian Amazon, desenvolvido através de uma parceria entre seus coordenadores/instituições, Eduardo Neves (MAE-USP) e Frank Mayle (UoR – Reading, UK). Dentre os objetivos do projeto está aliar a Arqueologia e a Paleoecologia para compreender a relação entre as relações sociopolíticas indígenas pretéritas e as estratégias de manejo ambiental e produção de alimentos. Acompanhem!! __________ Changing the landscape! This week part of the Arqueotrop team was in England to start the HERCA project – Human-Environmental Relationships in Pre-Columbian Amazon, developed through a partnership between its coordinators / institutions, Eduardo Neves (MAE-USP) and Frank Mayle ( UoR – Reading, UK). Among the objectives of the project is to combine Archeology and Paleoecology to understand the relationship between past indigenous sociopolitical relations and strategies for environmental management and food production. Follow up !! #amazonia #arqueologia #paleoecologia #paleoecology #archaeology #stonehenge #indigenoushistory

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In an ideal world there’d be both space and time to give entire blog posts to each of the lab’s recent publications, as with this one from April. Sadly, this world is way busier than ideal and 2019 saw the release of four further papers first-authored by TPRG members (three of them by Heather!), and giving each their own blog post feels like a bit too much of a mountain to climb. You can, however, find summaries of each of them in a separate post here. And, in a new feature for the site (thank you Alex from IT), our TPRG publications page now automatically updates – you can find it here.

Conferences and outreach

As well as publishing our research, we’ve been involved in a lot of work this year sharing it with different audiences. We’ve collectively presented at a number of conferences: Josie spoke at the South American Archaeology Meeting in Exeter in May; all the PhD students were involved in the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science doctoral conference later that month; James and I presented at INQUA in the summer; I also made it to the BES Annual Meeting in December (below). Not technically in 2019, but Josie also gave a talk at IMAA last week and several of us are looking forward to the Early Career Biogeographers’ Conference in Amsterdam in April.

There have been some conferences for non-specialist audiences too. I spoke at the Linnean Society’s Student Conference in February – it was my first day back after paternity leave so I was both delighted and surprised that my presentation was coherent enough to win the judges’ runner-up and people’s choice awards! I also went to the University’s Doctoral Research Conference in June, where my 3D Pollen Project won the research engagement prize and something I made from it won the research image competition.

The 3D Pollen Project has been at the heart of a lot of the outreach we’ve done this year, and the ability to hand out props/toys has been a great addition to many of our talks! (It’s a great way to bribe an audience…) There have been a number of different outreach events, but the biggest was probably the Berkshire Show in September, which both Josie and I were involved in. I co-led the design and delivery of a stand in the University’s exhibition that linked 3D pollen with smelly plants, on the back of an event Biological Sciences had developed for Fascination of Plants Day. The University’s stand had more than 3,500 visitors across the weekend and won second prize in its category – it was exhausting, but an incredible way of introducing a huge range of people to pollen and our research! 

To 2020!

So, that’s a brief (well, brief-ish) and doubtless incomplete summary of our last year. With 2020 bringing a new project (HERCA), postdoc (Marco), publications (probably) and PhD student (hopefully), as well as more of all of the above, we’re looking forward to this year!


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