Dr Shawn O'Donnell
Current Research Projects
Dr Ryan Rabett, Senior Lecturer in Human Palaeoecology, SNBE, QUB; firstname.lastname@example.org
Details of any grant/funding connected with the research
- SUNDASIA Project funded jointly by an AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund grant AH/005902/1 and a grant from the Xuan Truong Enterprise.
- PALAEOKARST Y1 funded by Xuan Truong Enterprise; application to AHRC for further funding for Y2-3 pending.
Dr O’Donnell led the Palaeoenvironmental Reconstruction work package on the SUNDASIA Project, alongside Hanoi-based collaborator Dr Nguyen Thi Mai Huong. His SUNDASIA research explored the vegetation history of the Tràng An World Heritage Area in Ninh Binh province, northern Vietnam, and how that history relates to the archaeological, geological and ecological records being compiled across this and other SUNDASIA work packages. His primary tool in this research was pollen analysis from sedimentary sequences. Together with Mai Huong, they collected several sediment cores from marshy floors of dolines across the Tràng An limestone massif; extracted pollen from excavated archaeological contexts; performed vegetation surveys at a number of sites of project interest; collected and dried plant specimens for comparative reference collections and accessioned these into Vietnamese and UK herbaria; deployed a network of pollen traps to document modern pollen rain; analysed assemblages of pollen and associated microfossils from sedimentary sequences within cores and archaeological cave deposits; presented results at international conferences, and contributed to peer-reviewed publications and project reports.
As Visiting Scholar from April 2021 – March 2022, Dr O’Donnell is collaborating with Dr Ryan Rabett on ongoing research into the deep-time history of past human impacts upon tropical biodiversity in northern Vietnam, the modern legacies and trends of those impacts, and the opportunities they present for future sustainability and conservation. This research began as Dr Rabett’s multidisciplinary PALAEOKARST project, which has received funding for the now-completed first year, with further funding pending. His role in the broader project is to model past, present and future distributions of key tree genera of limestone and mangrove forests across the region, combining data from palaeoecology, archaeology, palaeoclimatology, botany, remote sensing and climate modelling to examine multi-millennial change in tropical vegetation. The portion of this work that he will conduct as Visiting Scholar is the palaeoecological analysis of an 11-metre-deep sediment core collected in December 2019 from the Tràng An World Heritage Area, a karst limestone massif on the southwestern margin of the Red River Delta. The intent is for these data to act as ground-truthing for hindcast habitat suitability maps produced through ecological niche modelling techniques. These models will then be used to forecast the response of tropical forests to predicted future climate change, and to calculate long-term ecosystem stability metrics valuable for conservation planning.
Impact of Research
Palaeoecologists and archaeologists have long noted the utility of deep time records for extending our understanding of multi-millennial patterns of ecological change, but until recently this has taken a qualitative form. A major aim of my PALAEOKARST research is to contribute to the development of modelling and survey tools that enable quantitative data from palaeoecology, palaeoclimatology and archaeology to mesh with and inform modern ecological understanding of long-term change. Such tools and approaches hold potential improve conservation and restoration planning, and bolster local livelihoods dependent upon ecotourism and adjacent for income.