All change please

September is nearly over, the trees and weather have decided to get autumn underway, and campus is again buzzing as thousands of new and returning students arrive for the start of a new term. It seems like an appropriate time to reflect on a summer of changes here in the TPRG.

The first change, and possibly the biggest, was Macarena leaving us for pastures new at Earthwatch in Oxford. Since starting her post-doctoral research post in 2014, Maca had been a popular and integral part of many areas in SAGES (the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences) – to say nothing of her roles in the TPRG, managing the lab and running the blog. Small wonder, then, that so many people came to her farewell celebration!

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Welcome to our website! We’re the University of Reading’s Tropical Palaeoecology Research Group. Here you can find out more about us – who we are and what we do – as well as what research projects we’re currently working on. You can also explore our recent publications, and the impacts they’ve made beyond the scientific community. Have a look at our blog posts below to learn more about what we’re up to at the moment, and feel free to get in touch with us if you want to learn more about us and our research.

The TPRG team



What we do

Our Tropical Palaeoecology Research Group seeks to understand the long-term interactions between climate change, fire, human land use, and vegetation across tropical South America. We do this by using a range of palaeoenvironmental proxies from lake/bog sediments and soils (in particular, pollen, charcoal and phytoliths), and are interested in environmental changes spanning recent millennia, the Holocene, and Quaternary glacial-interglacial cycles. This palaeo perspective can provide important insights into ecosystem resilience/fragility, biogeochemical cycling, and conservation policy, especially in the context of future climate change and human land use. We have a well-equipped tropical palaeoecology laboratory with a modern pollen reference collection of > 2000 species from South American tropical rainforest, dry forest and savanna ecosystems.

Where we do it

Long-term forest-savanna dynamics in Amazonian Bolivia has been the focus of our research for many years, although recent projects have expanded our geographic scope across Brazil – throughout the Amazon basin, the coastal Atlantic Forest, and the southern Brazilian Araucaria (monkey-puzzle) forests.

Who we work with

Because a cross-disciplinary approach is needed to tackle many of our research questions, we have forged close collaborative links with a broad spectrum of scientists, in particular archaeologists and botanists, but also GIS/remote-sensers, modellers, diatomists, and soil scientists/geochemists. We therefore have strong links with a range of institutions, not just across the UK (e.g. Universities of Exeter, Swansea, and Nottingham), but around the world; e.g. University of Utah (USA), Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum (Bolivia) and the Federal University of Para and University of Sao Paulo (Brazil). We are always open for new collaborative opportunities, so please contact us if interested.

Who funds our work

Our recent and ongoing research has been supported by the University of Reading, NERC, AHRC, The Leverhulme Trust, National Geographic, FAPESP (Sao Paulo state, Brazil), and CNPq ‘Science Without Borders’ programme (Brazil).



Members of the group, from left to right: Top: Prof Frank Mayle, Dr John Carson; Bottom: Dr Macarena L. Cárdenas, Dr Joy Singarayer, Heather Plumpton and Richard Smith.