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Sparkles the research assistant. Lynne Quick, a palaeoecologist at Nelson Mandela University in Gqeberha, South Africa, snapped this image of four colleagues during fieldwork at Verlorenvlei on the west coast of the country in September 2022. Among them is Stella Mosher (back), a PhD student analysing the region’s fire history. They are joined by Sparkles the inflatable unicorn, who provided “an excellent and hilarious stable floating platform to operate the freeze-corer from”, Quick says.

Mosher’s research involves taking sediment samples from the lake bed, freezing them in situ to preserve their layers, and taking smaller razor-blade samples from the frozen tube to link charcoal occurrences with historical fire events in the region. Sparkles is yet to begin negotiations on her authorship rights.

Last Updated: 1/12/23