Tracking 800,000 Years of Climate Change: Snippets from a Field Campaign in Tajikistan

by Aditi Krishna Dave

Exploring loess deposits

Loess (or wind-blown dust) deposits are natural archives that preserve responses to past climate and environmental change – thus, allowing for reconstruction of climate over the past hundreds of thousands of years, especially in arid and semi-arid areas. The piedmonts of the Alai-Pamir ranges in southern Tajikistan (Figure 1) are blanketed by thick loess deposits that act as crucial archives for understanding palaeoclimatic variability in continental Eurasia [1]. Furthermore, owing to its topography and location, which lies at the intersection of major climate subsystems, the deposits in this region provide unique insight into the dynamic interplay between geomorphic processes and climate change on dust transport, deposition and preservation [2, 3]. However, these loess records have remained largely unexplored.

In 2018, our research group at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry (Mainz, Germany) undertook a 5-week campaign to continuously…

In Search of Past Underwater Light

by Marttiina Rantala

Importance of light

Have you ever been mesmerized by the beauty of light filtering through the water column, or the ripples of light dancing at the sandy bottom of a lake? While many can undoubtedly relate to such moments of awe, few have probably ever considered the implications of this play of light on the underlying biota or, indeed, on ourselves. In effect, light is essential for the underwater realm. As on land, light fuels life in lake ecosystems as photosynthetic organisms, such as algae, harness solar energy for their own growth, thereby making the precious energy available to all other lake organisms. Yet, sunlight also has a destructive side which most of us have very tangibly witnessed at some point in our lives. 

The fundamental importance of light in aquatic systems is, however, much more than energy input for photosynthesis or the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. Notably, the energy from the Sun has a strong control over the movement of water …

How to Become a Paleobiologist

by Caitlin MacKenzie
A few weeks ago, in the middle of a busy rush of lab work on a sediment core, I spent a morning curled up in a comfy chair with a giant mug of coffee. While snow fell outside my window, I was reminiscing about spring in the Maine mountains. It wasn’t exactly daydreaming — I was reading the proofs for a paper from one of my dissertation chapters, ‘Trails-as-transects: phenology monitoring across heterogeneous microclimates in Acadia National Park, Maine. ’ The open granite ridges of Acadia were a second home during my PhD. Today, my relationship with Acadia’s plants is a little different: instead of recording their fresh flowers in the field, I’m counting the grains of pollen they left behind thousands of years ago. Reading through the proofs for this paper brought me back to my biology and ecology roots — somewhere along the way toward my chosen career as a conservation biologist, I became an accidental paleoecologist.

An alpine masters and a ridge top PhD

I’ve wo…

Holey Science - Gaps in the Research Career

No matter what profession we look at, career gaps are a common experience. Sometimes career gaps are a choice, all too often they are not. In the research world, where short-term contracts are considered the norm, especially during the early part of a career, researchers often find themselves looking for a new position and source of income every few years. Regardless of the reason, unemployment often comes at a high emotional cost in addition to financial difficulties.
In this post, we collect stories from five authors from different backgrounds, touching on family planning, mental health, privilege, difficulties, and ways to success in and outside of academia. We thank our authors for sharing their experiences and advice to provide early-career researchers and those who support them with insight into challenges and opportunities associated with career breaks.

FEATURED STORIES: Deirdre D. Ryan: "The whole process did help me realize where I really wanted to take my career."


Recovery Times After Catastrophic Events in the Caribbean Islands

by Josh Mueller

Natural Threats to Caribbean Islands

Hurricanes throughout the Caribbean are recognized as the dominant ecological cause of ecosystem and economic disruption [1, 2]. For example, recent storms such as hurricane Irma in September 2017 broke records of sustained hurricane size and wind speed for Atlantic Ocean tropical depressions. Irma caused significant economic damage with estimates in the range of over $100 billion in costs and damages throughout the Caribbean islands (Figure 1). The hurricane also resulted in over 130 human casualties making it one of the deadliest and costliest ever recorded. Yet, what remains unknown are the lingering economic and ecological costs from ecological threats to many of the island nations whose markets depend greatly on the tourism industry. Additionally, little is known regarding the future behavior of hurricanes as global climate change continues to influence atmospheric and oceanic conditions.

Wildfires, both naturally occurring and h…

Senior Scientist - How to Be an ECR in Your Fifties

by Paul Butler

There was a time, I believe, when you had to be under 35 to stand any chance whatsoever of being an early-career researcher (ECR). On the “expected” academic career path, that allowed you to spend up to 5 years doing your PhD, then enjoy the following nine years as an ECR, with all sorts of career advantages, including reserved access to special grants, cheapo rates at conferences and other benefits that made up for being on the tragic salaries and job security typical of early-stage ECRs. This did not go unnoticed by researchers who had made a jump later in life from some other career into academia, and by researchers who had had their careers interrupted by time taken out to raise families or because of illness. Some people started wondering whether there needed to be an age criterion at all; see the comments here for an idea of the kinds of discussions that were taking place back in 2010 about ECR criteria and how they were failing people with “unconventional” career…