Postgraduate course


Quaternary palaeoecology:

reconstructing past environments

a Latin American workshop sponsored by PAGES and the postgraduate program in biology of the Univ. of Cuyo, PROBIOL

23rd November - 4th December 2015 San Rafael, Mendoza, Argentina

Sonia Fontana and Thomas Giesecke, University of Göttingen

Local organizer: Leandro Rojo, Univ. of Cuyo; with the collaboration of Natalia La Spina, Univ. de Cuyo, Sabina D'Ambrosio, IANIGLA, Marcos Echeverria, Univ. of Mar del Plata and Daniela Piraquive Bermúdez, Univ. Javeriana, Colombia

Registration deadline: extended to the 30th of October 2015 or until free places are filled

Cost: The course will be limited to c. 30 participants: postgraduate students and young scientists based in Latin-American institutions. There is no registration fee, however this year participants will have to pay accommodation cost (in shared rooms), in addition to their own travel cost and meals. The course will take place in a resort of cabañas, accommodation cost for the full period is 2000 Argentine Pesos per person (ca. 140 USD). If you are interested in participating, send a CV (2 pages max.) and a short motivation letter (up to 300 words) to Sonia Fontana ( 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.


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 in Spanish and English, over 12 days and 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 2 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 activities

SR logoE2

Synergy LATINA

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.

It is expected that the proposed work will be a pilot study, leading to a proposal of larger scale joint investigations. The exchange of knowledge should lead to the development of new ideas and research questions and stimulate continued cooperation.

Contribution of scientific papers

participants present a poster related to their research projects, including an abstract which is published online in

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