Training in Belize!

2016 - the year where the exciting news just keeps on coming! I found out recently that I've been selected to take part in a NERC training course, Fieldwork Skills in the Tropics, run by the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, as part of their MSc in Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants. The course runs over two weeks next year, in Belize! It's been over a decade since I first left the UK on my first fieldwork abroad, but the thought of travelling somewhere new is still as exciting now as it was then. Probably even more so as I have some idea what I'm doing now. This course covers vegetation survey, monitoring and plant identification, with some GIS. Part of the application process involved a statement of why you would like to attend, with priority given to those with NERC funding, ECRs and students. Whilst I now work as an archaeologist, my background is in geosciences/geography, and I've always maintained that perspective in my research and teaching. My long term aim is to assess how we can use the long-term perspectives of environmental archaeology to help inform modern day environmental sustainability. This goal will require dialogue between those of us who study the past, and those who study the present. In reality the relationships between people and the environment are all part of a long term process of environmental change.

This will be a fantastic opportunity for networking and collaboration with scientists in ecology and conservation, and will also help with one of my methodological interests. Yes, phytolith analysis again. Phytolith analysis is very underdeveloped compared to other microfossils such as pollen. I believe a major reason for this is the lack of long term collaboration with botanists, and a poor understanding of how phytolith formation is linked to plant cell structure. The NERC training course will help me develop better skills in taxonomy, and also the skills to build an informed reference collection of specimens from which I can prepare an open access image collection of phytoliths.

Obligatory picture of Belize (Cockscomb basin Wildlife Sanctuary, Wikipedia)