My experiences as a student with the ‘Wildscapes’ project

My involvement with the project started when I emailed Dr Bunting asking if she was accepting students for an internship. I was studying for a masters degree in Environmental Biology at Utrecht in the Netherlands and needed to find an interesting short term project as part of the degree. I was familiar with the pollen modelling work of Dr Bunting and was interested in learning her approach. I wrote Dr Bunting in March of 2018 to see if she was interested in supervising me for a short project in which I would learn the intricate details of the pollen modelling software. In all honesty, I expected that there would be no projects to work on, but to my surprise there were several. I chose to get involved with the ‘Wildscapes’ project because it seemed the most interesting and there was a lot of room for me to follow my own research interests within this project. I have definitely not regretted it one bit!

I had never been further north than London before (shame on me). I came to Hull in May of 2018 and it took me a while to adapt to the UK lifestyle, and academic environment (being from the Netherlands). Having had no previous experience in programming, the first few weeks proved the be rather challenging, but I kept telling myself that I would be able to understand the material one day. After a few weeks I finally knew what I was doing (sort of), and I began to enjoy my work tremendously. My task was to set up some initial reconstructions of the Humberhead Levels for the late Mesolithic (7000-4000 BCE) and the Anglo-Saxon period (410-1066 CE). In short, I had to make an assessment of all the previous pollen work that was done in the area and digitise the pollen diagrams from these publications. These pollen results would be used as targets in the reconstruction. Then I would produce simulated landscapes using the modelling software and compare the pollen records that these simulated landscapes produced to the targets. In doing so, I would be able to find some of the most likely vegetation reconstructions for the Humberhead Levels.

 

Besides my work on the reconstructions, I also had the opportunity to do fieldwork with Nika and Kim in the Thorne area. A team of volunteers from the area were also present, some of whom have also written blog posts about their experiences. I also joined the team for their first public outreach event in Barton upon Humber. This was a very interesting experience for me, trying to explain our work to non-experts. When I was talking to people, the first thing they would almost always ask me was: “where are you from?” I was under the impression that I managed to suppress my Dutch accent quite well, but apparently not.

Before I knew it, it was October already, and I was supposed to go home. I was able to stretch my stay until the middle of November, luckily, which tells something about how much I enjoyed my stay in Hull and my involvement with the project. I learned a lot during the months of my stay, and I hope I will be able to put my newly gained knowledge to work in the future. I have just been accepted onto a PhD programme at the University of St Andrews and i’m quite sure my involved in the Wildscapes project helped my case. 

As I am writing this, I am already looking forward to going back to Hull in the future and staying involved with Wildscapes project, be it remotely and in between all the new work I will be doing! 

 Wilmer Koster

 

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