Quaternary Palaeoecology: Reconstructing Past Environments

19.08 - 30.08.2013
Jujuy, Argentina
Contact person:
S. Fontana, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Workshop report: 
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This intensive two-week course is designed for postgraduate students and young scientists based in Latin-American institutions, undertaking research in palaeoecology, with emphasis on microfossil analysis: e.g. pollen, charcoal, plant macrofossil remains, ostracods, diatoms, other. It aims to provide (1) an outline of the principles, methods and applications of selected proxies: (2) an overview of methods and software use for data analyses: and (3) an overview of spatial and evolutionary responses of organisms to different Quaternary driving forces, providing insight into general questions of species survival, spread and biodiversity.

The course will be taught over 12 days, in both Spanish and English, and will introduce the use of multi-proxy analyses for palaeoenvironmental reconstructions as well as current procedures for handling biostratigraphical data. It will consist of lectures, seminars, discussions and practical classes, including two field excursions. The first part of the course will focus on data collection: site selection and coring: sub-sampling techniques: routine sediment analyses: overview of biological proxies: pollen, charcoal and macrofossil analyses. The second part of the course will consist of data handling: chronology: data analyses: zonation, ordination techniques, diversity estimates, rate of change. Emphasis will be placed on the application of the different proxies to Quaternary research, as well as on the different forcing factors responsible for change in South America: external factors (climate, fire, volcanic eruption, human impact) and internal dynamics (migration, competition, succession).

Special weight will also be placed on: (i) Data collection and associated errors: Confidence intervals: analysis of error in the data. Calculating percentages and establishing the size of the sum: proportion within the sum of the taxon of interest. Concentrations: volume, exotic added, exotic counted and size of the count of the taxon of interest. Accumulation rates: concentration and sediment accumulation uncertainties. (ii) Data handling with the computer programs: psimpoll and Tilia, for plotting and analysis of pollen and other microfossil data: BCal, Calib, Oxcal, Clam, Bacon, R, CANOCO. Data format, file conversion and moving data between packages.

The course aims to bring together postgraduate students and young scientists from Latin America working with different proxies of environmental change research for the Quaternary period. It offers a rich learning experience for attendees, who will have plentiful opportunities to learn and interact with the docents. The course provides a unique opportunity to Latin American students and researchers to meet and discuss, and to enhance contacts, exchanging perspectives and increasing interaction among the regional scientific community and with colleagues from overseas.

Supplementary activity

Synergy LATINA

This is a collaborative project of young palaeo-scientists from Latin America: participants working on different proxies will be able to engage in co-operative research, with the goal of combining their skills and knowledge in order to address research questions jointly. A working team will design a palaeoecological multi-disciplinary research project, based on the samples collected during the fieldwork (second day of the course), making use of theoretical concepts, methods and techniques learned throughout the course. The initial phase of the project will be conducted during the course (e.g. description and sub-sample of the sediment core), while the analyses of the different proxies will be carried out at a later stage, at the home institutions of the different team members. Findings from this research will be presented at international conferences and submitted to a peer-review journal.


The course will be limited to c. 30 participants: postgraduate students and young scientists based in Latin-American institutions. PAGES will support subsistence (accommodation -in shared rooms- including breakfast), for all participants. Participants will have to pay their own travel costs (and meals), but those with insufficient funds for travel can apply to have all or part of their travel covered by PAGES (max 5 participants). There are no other costs for the course.

Contact and additional information

If you are interested in participating, send a CV (2 pages max.) and a short motivation letter (up to 300 words) to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Please combine both documents in one pdf file, and identify the file with your name and country. The documents can be written in Spanish, English or Portuguese.

Conference website in English and Spanish

Workshop leaders

Sonia Fontana, University of Göttingen

Keith Bennett, Queen's University Belfast


Post-meeting material

Poster and presentation abstracts (in Spanish)