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, July 22, 2016

Happy in Hengill

Liesa (right) and I (left) filling balloons with
acetylene gas to put in the chambers
Hello! I’m Annette, a St. Kate’s undergraduate student working with the Iceland team this summer. I’m a senior majoring in biology and I am especially interested in ecology. I’ve been learning so much from working with this incredible team. Each day brings new surprises and problems to solve, so we are always brainstorming and adjusting our plans. My favorite part is going out to the Hengill Valley to get samples from the streams. I love working outside, especially with all the nice sunny weather we’ve been getting! I am very grateful to be working in such a unique place with steaming hot pots, moss covered volcanic rock and geothermally- heated streams. I enjoy learning about the organisms living in these streams and the role they play in the food web. There are so many interesting aspects to be explored in these streams that it’s hard to pick just one to focus on. So far, I’ve been exploring the relationship between biodiversity and temperature.

Out in the field to measure nitrogen fixation

Everyone on the team has so much knowledge to offer and I’m taking every opportunity to learn from them. I’ve been helping Kate, a PhD student from the Montana team, with estimates of percent cover for each of the primary producers found in the streams we are sampling. This is done by recording what is growing at multiple random locations in each stream and used to determine the area of the stream bed covered by each species.  With this information, we can then calculate the rate of nitrogen fixation and metabolism for the whole stream, based on our measurements for each individual species. Liesa and I spent a lot of time problem solving in preparation for gathering nitrogen fixation measurements. All is going well, as we’ve been gathering those samples for a few weeks now and putting all our planning into action. I feel very lucky to be working with such wonderful people!

Watching the football game in downtown Reykjavik!
In our free time, Liesa and I have been hanging out with the other team members and exploring Reykjavik. On one of our days downtown we joined a crowd of 20,000 people to watch Iceland’s football team win and move on to the quarter-finals in the Eurocup! It was really fun to watch the game on a big screen in the heart of the city and join the crowd in cheering “Áfram Ísland!”

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