We are a group of freshwater ecologists from the Biology Department at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, Minnesota studying the effect of temperature and nutrient availability on metabolism and nitrogen fixation in geothermally active streams in the Hengill region of Iceland. This is a collaborative research effort with our partners from Montana State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Iceland, and the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries in Iceland. See links to our collaborators labs below.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Transition, Translation, and Transformation

Transition:
            The academic regimen is composed of transitions: from major to major, class to class, topic to topic, and in my case, from lakes to streams. I was introduced to the Welter lab in the summer of 2014 on a Minnesota lake project. After a lovely summer in the field, we have analyzed exciting and novel results! I thoroughly enjoyed the research process from designing a project, working hard long days in the field, all the way to the analysis of results! 
            I am continuing this process as a new collaborator with the work in Iceland. This opportunity will allow me to engage on a professional level and experience the entirety of the scientific process. I have fallen in love with the highs and lows of the research experience and am eager to continue to collect data and answer globally important questions. I have transitioned into preparatory work for our summer 2015 research in Icelandic streams. The transition has been smooth, as both of my aquatic ecology research projects have some parallels in methodology and nutrient cycling dynamics, but strike contrast in flow velocity. This exciting new challenge adds a twist to my familiarity of the low flow associated with lakes. In my transition to streams, I have researched, proposed and developed a project, which includes looking at how metabolism and nitrogen fixation of both nitrogen fixing and non-nitrogen fixing organisms vary over a temperature gradient. I am excited to continue learning, and growing as a research scientist! 

Translation:

Icelandic proverb: Af gódu upphafi vonast góður endir.

English translation: A good beginning makes a good ending.

Drilling holes in incubation chambers
            Dr. Jill Welter and I are currently funded through St. Catherine University’s Assistantship Mentoring Program. With this funding I have had a jumpstart on writing my proposal, learning laboratory procedures, and constructing field supplies necessary for the Iceland stream project. I am so appreciative and grateful for the time and effort I have been able to put forth towards this research endeavor.
            Like the process of translation, the comprehension and understanding of such a rigorous and intense project takes time, hard work, and patience. This academic semester I have gained confidence in reading and analyzing scientific literature pertaining to stream ecology, familiarity to essential laboratory techniques, and project methodology and logistics. The research preparatory process has been vital in my comprehensive and quantitative reasoning skills that will be useful in the data collection and sample analysis days to come. It has been a good beginning, and I am excited to flow through this journey into the world of stream ecology.

Transformation:

Nine bins and counting...
Iceland provides a unique, natural, ecological laboratory useful to research the effects of increased stream temperature on biological processes and species composition. The Iceland stream project has been, and continues to be transformative in ecological science. With an increase in average global temperature at the forefront of ecological concern, this project will broaden our knowledge on how temperature change may affect biological processes in a variety of ecosystems. Not only is this work transforming the field of ecosystem ecology, but that of my undergraduate research experience. Already, I have been transformed. I have gained the assurance to take initiative and to formulate and question ideas central to the field of freshwater aquatic ecology. I am greatly looking forward to witnessing all that Iceland has to offer, and the adventures and transformations to come! Our bins are packed, our flights are booked, and we are ready for research - hopefully Iceland is ready for us!