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.




(More interactive than it looks..!)

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! In the course of a fantastic morning spent with some great students from the Oxford Road Community School in the University’s Harris Garden, we looked at how many plants there are, what plants we use in our daily lives, and which useful plants we could find in the tropical glasshouses. Afterwards we took part in Botany Live, showing others what we’d learned using the livestreaming app Periscope. You can read Dr M’s write-up of the day here, and our Botany Live video is here. In July, Oli got to follow on from the Plants Day’s useful plants 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.

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.