The INQUA Project is bringing researchers together – across disciplines, across Europe.


The research environment is changing rapidly, with an ever increasing focus on interdisciplinary collaborations. Often this means collaborators are in different countries, which further complicates the process of team work and communication. Today’s guest blog post is from Dr Erick Robinson (Ghent University, Belgium), who is part of the INQUA Project 1404. The primary aim of this project is to bring together young researchers experts within Europe to investigate the variable impacts of gradual versus abrupt palaeoenvironmental change on human cultural change. Dr Robinison’s post provides a summary of the project’s objective and requirements as well as it’s challenges and how they are overcoming those obstacles.

The long windows of time offered by data from the palaeosciences (archaeology, geology, physical geography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology) are essential to our understanding of the potential impacts of future climate and environmental changes on ecosystems and humans throughout the world. Over the last decade, interdisciplinary research in the palaeosciences has started to advance tremendously our knowledge of the shear complexities of past climate and environmental changes, and the diversity of ecosystem and human responses to these changes. These advances have included an awareness of a range of different climate and environmental changes with variable causes, durations, and magnitudes: gradual ecosystem changes in species composition, sea-level rise, abrupt climate changes caused by glacial meltwater outbursts, and extreme events such as tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. The short windows of time traditionally taken into account in modelling the potential impacts of future climate changes therefore risks a lack of knowledge regarding the relationships between environmental changes of different temporal durations and geographical scales of impact. It is imperative that future research considers these longer windows of time in order to understand the broader complexity and dynamics of environmental changes throughout human history.Robinson Riede Mendeley blog entry 1

Caption: An example of how cultural and environmental records can be studied in tandem. This figure shows a comparison of revised radiocarbon chronology for the Early and Middle Mesolithic in the Rhine-Meuse-Scheldt area of northwest Europe (G-I) (calculated with OxCal 3) with selected climate records of the Northern Hemisphere that indicate multiple Early Holocene cooling events (A-F). A: timing of Ice-rafted debris peaks (Bond et al., 1997) indicating the frequency of sea-ice; Greenland (NGRIP) ice core δ18O record (Rasmussen et al., 2006) with GICC05 timescale calibrated into years relative to AD 1950, a temperature proxy; c: Greenland ice core (GISP2) K+ record (Mayewski et al., 1997), a proxy for atmospheric circulation and wind; d: Oxygen-isotope ratios of precipitation (δ18Op) inferred from deep-lake ostracods from the Ammersee (southern Germany) (von Grafenstein et al., 1999); e: Dongge Cave (China) stalagmite D4 δ18O record (Dykoski et al., 2005) providing information on past temperature; f: Hawes Water (UK) core HWLC1 δ18Oc record based on samples of authigenic calcite indicating temperature. The dark line represents the centennial-scale trend calculated omitting the abrupt cooling events (Marshall et al., 2007). The periods of the 9.3 cal. BP and 8.2 cal. BP cooling events are shaded blue (adapted from Robinson et al., Journal of Archaeological Science, 2013)

Extending the temporal scope of research to consider the relationships between millennial scale, centennial scale, and very abrupt climate and environmental changes across the period of the Last Glacial-Early Holocene (14,000-8,000 years ago) requires ‘big data’ approaches enabling the integration of regional datasets at the continental scale. The International Union for Quaternary Research (INQUA) Commission for Humans and the Biosphere (HaBCom) has recently funded an international research project aiming to integrate archaeological and palaeoenvironmental data across Europe for this important period in Earth and human history. This project (INQUA project) “Cultural and palaeoenvironmental changes in Late Glacial to Middle Holocene Europe—gradual or sudden?” is comprised of a majority of Early Career Researchers across the continent interested in exploring new frontiers in international interdisciplinary research. The project requires published data from all regions of Europe for the time period of focus to be integrated into a database that can be utilized for implementing a range of different computational modelling approaches. Big data research of this nature is challenging for many reasons, possibly the most important of which is specialists in one particular discipline or region integrating, interpreting and utilizing data from another discipline/region. Communication is therefore paramount in data quality assessment and research quality control. The Ph.D., Early Career Researchers, and Senior Researchers in the project are faced with the challenge of maintaining regular communication over the data that is integrated into the database, its employment in different modelling approaches, and the assessment of modelling outputs.

We are very happy to be partnering with Mendeley in facing these challenges in this new generation of international interdisciplinary palaeoscience research. Mendeley Team package provides the perfect collaborative workspace for integrating publications with useful data for the database that we aim to build in this project. Our research network is only able to meet once a year for an annual workshop, therefore Mendeley provides the central nexus of communication during the critical periods of data integration and modelling. The progress of the project will be determined by what our research network collaborators can contribute to the project amidst their busy schedules at their home institutions. We are excited to start this challenging and potentially very fruitful research project with the support of Mendeley.

We are delighted to be working with the Project1404 team, and to be able to support their team collaboration.

You can follow this projects updates through the Twitter hashtag #project1404 and find out more about Team plans here.