November 20, 2018, by lzzeb

Science by the sea

A blog by Professor Sarah Metcalfe

Sarah Metcalfe attended the 2018 meeting of the Mexican Geophysical Union in Puerto Vallarta (Picture 1, main image) on Mexico’s Pacific coast.  Luckily, hurricane Willa, which had made landfall the previous week, missed Puerto Vallarta, and had caused little damage when it reached the coast of Sinaloa, further to the north.

The conference was attended by around 1,000 scientists from a range of disciplines. Sarah was co-convenor of a session in honour of Roger Byrne, a palynologist originally from the UK, but long term employee at the University of California, Berkeley, who died earlier this year.  Roger made important contributions to understanding the relationships between climate, people and vegetation in Mesoamerica.  The session included papers by some of Roger’s former PhD students and collaborators (including Sarah herself). The conference coincided with the celebrations for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), with many traditional (Picture 2) and less traditional (Picture 3) altars and models.

Picture 2, celebrations for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)


Picture 3, another (less traditional) celebration for the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)


A major tropical downpour on the night of the 31st October did little to dampen down the celebrations, with lots of street food and music. After the meeting Sarah travelled with Harald Böhnel (UNAM, Mexico) and Marcos Chaparro (CIFICEN, Argentina) to revisit the Laguna de Juanacatlán.  Sarah (with the School’s Matt Jones) has been working on Juanacatlán for many years.  Although originally uninhabited, the basin has seen major changes over the last 15 years, with the opening of a resort complex in 2003 (Picture 4).  Originally only on one side of the lake, this has now been extended to both sides, with potentially major implications for the lake and its ecosystem.

Picture 4, an image of Laguna de Juanacatlán


Algal samples collected at the lake on this visit indicate ongoing nutrient enrichment of the lake system. The final stage of the trip was a visit to the Centro de Geociencias at Juriquilla (near Queretaro) (Picture 5) to discuss ongoing and possible future research collaborations.

Picture 5, Centro de Geociencias at Juriquilla

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