Media coverage and outreach

This page showcases some of the times our research has been picked up by the media, as well as highlighting some of what we do to engage others in our work and science more generally.

Media coverage

In early 2017, Frank co-authored a research paper in the journal PNAS which was picked up widely in the media. The study, led by our collaborators in the University of Exeter’s Archaeology department, used phytoliths, charcoal and stable carbon isotopes to investigate the history of the huge geometric shapes (geoglyphs) that had been hidden under the south-western Amazon rainforest. They found that humans have long affected the forests, but that building the geoglyphs didn’t involve landscape-scale deforestation; the modern destruction of the forest that’s uncovering the shapes again really is unprecedented.

The study was covered nationally by the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Sun, and Metro, and internationally by the New York Times, Fox News, The Irish News, CBC and You can read the study yourself here, or see our publications page for alternative links.

Also in 2017, Frank and Macarena’s research in Brazil’s Araucaria forests was featured in Pesquisa FAPESP (the magazine of the Jê Landscape project’s Brazilian funding body) – see Maca’s blog post for more. In 2016, the Jê Landscapes research was featured in the Brazilian newspapers Folha de S.Paulo and Diário Catarinense, where it made the front page. The DC article in particular is highly recommended – the web version includes a fantastic video and some great interactive infographics. For more details (including how to translate the articles from Portuguese) see this blog post.


The TPRG’s research on geoglyphs was in the media again in 2014, when a study in PNAS led by John and Frank found that the shapes’ builders had managed to hold off the advancing Amazon forests for 1500 years. The paper, and its implications for the age of the area’s forests, were covered in Scientific American and Mongabay, among others.

Going further back, Frank and John’s research on the geoglyph builders and their effects on tropical forests was featured in the Amazon episode of the BBC4 documentary Unnatural Histories. The BBC page for this episode is here, and sections may also be available to watch on Youtube.





In November 2017, Oli took part in I’m A Scientist: Get Me Out Of Here! It’s an intense, brilliantly fun online outreach competition in which scientists try and avoid eviction by answering questions from school students to secure their votes. Oli was voted the winner of the Neptunium zone, and he plans to spend his £500 prize money making 3D-printed pollen models for outreach. You can read more about his experience here  or on the University’s Connecting Research blog.

June 2017 saw Oli take part in the University of Reading’s three minute thesis (3MT) competition, with a talk about ‘Lessons from the fossil pollen time machine.’ It was chosen as the judges’ winner and entered into the Vitae national semi-finals, eventually making it to the final 12 of the 57 semifinalists. You can watch the talk here, and read Oli’s reflections on the competition here.

In May 2017, Oli, together with Alastair Culham and Jonathan Mitchley (aka Dr M) from the School of Biological Sciences, took part in Fascination of Plants Day 2017! We looked at how many plants there are, which ones we use in our daily lives, and which could be found in the tropical glasshouses. You can read Dr M’s write-up of the day here, and the Botany Live video we made is here. In July, Oli got to continue the theme when he visited ORSA – the Oxford Road Community School’s brilliant STEM club – to run a session where the students could work out what plants they’d take to Mars.

In Winter 2015/6, Maca visited Colegio San Ignacio in Santiago, Chile, where she was able to talk about her research. She also left them some slides of pollen samples, donated from our reference collection, to be used in future lessons about cells and plants. You can read her blog about this here.

In May 2015, Macarena and Dr M battled horrendous weather conditions to put on the Fascination of Plants 2015 event, where 130 visiting school children were set a number of monkey puzzles about conifers like Araucaria. The event, which introduced the students to the wonder of plants and our research into the past of Brazil’s Araucaria forests, was a great success; you can read more about it in blog posts by Maca and Dr M, or in this article by Get Reading.