I am a Senior Researcher of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) at the Institute of Earth Sciences Jaume Almera (ICTJA), where I founded and lead the Laboratory of Paleoecology. I am also Editor-in-Chief of the new journal Quaternary and Associate Editor of Frontiers in Earth Science, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution and Frontiers in Plant Science.
My basic specialty is palynology, a discipline in which I have been working since 1981, in a wide range of topics and applications such as laboratory and statistical methods, morphology, taxonomy, aerobiology, ecology, paleoecology, biostratigraphy and evolution, among others. My current research falls within the field of ecological paleoecology, in which past comprehensive ecological, rather than solely environmental, reconstruction is the main objective. I use a variety of palynological and paleoecological methods and proxies –radiometric dating, pollen and pteridophyte spores, non-pollen palynomorphs (NPP), macrofossils, phytoliths, charcoal, diatoms– from bogs, outcrops and lake sediments, to reconstruct past communities and their trends over time. My emphasis is on the Quaternary (the last 2.6 million years), during which most of the present-day communities were shaped, but I also cover the Neogene (Miocene to Pliocene, ~23.0 to 2.6 million years), when many extant species and biomes emerged. Collaboration with colleagues from other disciplines (lithology, sedimentology, geochemistry, biomarkers, etc.), results in multi-proxy paleoecological reconstructions at the ecosystem level. I also use the results of molecular DNA phylogenetic and phylogeographic studies obtained from publications and databases to test hypothesis about the origin of extant biodiversity.
Currently, I am particulatly interested in:
- Recording the type and characteristics of biotic responses to environmental change at different organization levels, from organisms to biomes
- Understanding the ecological role of either natural and anthropogenic factors, in order to disentangle them as drivers of ecological change
- Illustrating the need for paleoecological evidence in long-term ecological hypothesis testing and in the ecological study, in general
- Unraveling the role of tectonics, paleogeography and climate change on the evolutionary origin of biodiversity and its geographical patterns
My favorite study areas are the following:
- Northern tropical Andes (South America). High-altitude (up to 4200 m) lake sediments and peat bogs. Last Glacial-Holocene
- Orinoco Llanos and Delta (South America). Lowland (savannas), coastal wetlands/lagoons and mangrove sediments. Holocene
- Guayana Region (South America). Gran Sabana (midlands) and Tepuian (highlands) lakes and peat bogs. Lateglacial-Holocene
- Maracaibo Basin (South America). Subsurface Late Cretaceous to Pliocene sedimentary rocks
- Easter Island (Pacific Ocean). Lowland and upland lake/bog sediments. Last Glacial-Holocene
- Azores Islands (Atlantic Ocean). Lowland and upland lake/bog sediments. Late Holocene
- Pyrenees and pre-Pyrenees (Europe). Lower montane and highland lake sediments and peat bogs. Lateglacial-Holocene
I am also interested in epistemological issues such as the nature of scientific knowledge and its significance for human history and evolution. I have a special interest in the social meaning and impact of science and scientific research in terms of cultural development, rather than of immediate practical applications. I believe that freedom of scientific research is essential for the advancement of timeless and universal knowledge, which is the most valuable heritage of humankind. Using scientific research primarily to satisfy immediate social needs or ephemeral political and economic interests will pave the way to the next Dark Age.
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