Fieldwork in the Congo

Travelling on the UbanguiCampsite in a peaty swampGreta Dargie, Ian Lawson and Simon Lewis spent several weeks in the Republic of Congo searching for peatlands. Greta’s PhD research, in collaboration with WCS Congo, aims to make the first systematic study of peatlands in the Congo Basin, developing the same kinds of themes that our group has been working on in Peru. Recent political developments mean that it is now safe, though still challenging, to work in the sparsely populated wetlands of the Congo Basin.

Elephant tracks in peatThe fieldwork involved long journeys on foot and by river, thousands of bees, dozens of tins of sardines, a very damp campsite, and some amazing scenery. The first sighting of peat came when the team stumbled across elephants’ footprints, 30 cm deep in the peat layer of a palm swamp…

Peru Fieldwork Round Two

Tom at workHugo and surface sediment
This summer saw the completion of our second round of fieldwork in the Peruvian Amazon.

Tom Kelly, Ian Lawson and Katy Roucoux spent three weeks in Loreto, continuing their work on the peat swamp at Quistococha and surveying the wetlands around Jenaro Herrera on the Rio Ucuyali.

The majority of this work will form part of Tom Kelly’s PhD research; new peat cores and lake sediment samples were collected from Quistococha and will form the basis of Tom’s study of peat initiation and vegetation succession. Tom also measured the hydrological properties of the peat and the team collected samples of modern reference pollen material.

The trip culminated in a presentation at IIAP in Iquitos by Katy and Tom, which resulted in useful feedback on our preliminary pollen data from Quistococha.

The team received help and support from many colleagues in Peru, not least Jhón del Aguila Pasquel, Hugo Vásquez and Julio Iriaca, who gave invaluable assistance in the field; Dr Santiago Rivas Panduro and Victor Reategui, who took the time to show us some of the archaeological and zoological highlights at Quistococha; and Dr Luis Campos-Baca, Ricardo Farroñay and Dr Ángel Salazar Vega, who provided much support and hospitality at IIAP.

Graeme Swindles, Ed Turner and Chris Williams also undertook fieldwork at Aucayacu on the Rio Marañon in July as part of Graeme and Katy’s Royal Society-funded pilot study of the testate amoeba fauna.

Santiago with potteryKaty presenting at IIAPNorden in JH Herbarium

First fieldwork completed

A team led by Katy Roucoux took sets of cores from three sites:

  • Quistococha, near Iquitos: a Mauritia flexuosa palm swamp encircling a shallow lake (cores were taken from the swamp peats and from the lake)
  • Buena Vista: a tahuampa (seasonally-flooded forest)
  • San Jorge: a forested raised mire

Team photoAs well as taking cores, the team established a new permanent forest plot at each site, took surface samples for pollen analysis, and installed pollen traps to be recovered in future years. The team, which included Tim B, Tim J, Euridice, Ian, Julio, Hugo, and Ruby, spent time at IIAP and stayed at the Tahuayo Lodge for part of the trip.

Coring at San JorgeCoring QuistocochaSetting a pollen trap