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.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Not Rotten Here… Anymore!

Jill (left) showing Annette (middle) and Me (right) primary producers!
Time is passing quickly here in Iceland and each day seems to run into the next or skip it entirely! This may partly be attributed to the midnight sun, but also to how busy and productive our days in the lab and the Hengill stream sites have been so far. Each day we are faced with new questions to answer, problems that need solving, and moments of chaos that somehow turn into cooperative learning experiences. Annette and I have been put on the task of building a mechanism to maintain constant circulation of water in chambers that will be used for measuring metabolism rates of algae and other organisms. We have overcome many engineering problems along the way and with creativity we have successfully built a mechanism that completes this task. We have attached magnets to computer fans that will sit on top of the test chambers. When the fans are turned on, the magnets on the fan will spin and in turn, spin a magnetic stir rod inside of the chambers to maintain constant circulation. The tests will begin shortly and we are confident that things will run smoothly!

A day off exploring Viðey island
I almost forgot to introduce myself… My name is Liesa Erickson. I am a senior, biology major at St. Catherine University, and I am more than excited to be in Iceland this summer as part of the 2016 Fixation on Ice research team! After the first couple of days here, I was beginning to miss Minnesota’s delicious tap water. Because geothermal activity heats the water in Iceland and often gives off a sulfuric scent, I was convinced that I would smell like a rotten egg for the next three months.  I decided that taking a shower would not be too much of a problem as the sulfur smell can be easily masked by a sweet smelling shampoo, but the smell of my breath was awful. And it just continued to get worse after brushing my teeth! If only you knew my relief once I discovered running the cold water for a little while allows for the purest, egg free smelling, glacier water to pour right out of the faucet!! No more stink for me. I’m sure the team appreciates it.

Jill and I collecting algal samples
Iceland has been very good to us! This summer has had some of the best weather that the team has had in the past years of being here. We can’t complain! One thing we noticed upon arrival was the lack of trees compared to the large forests back home in Minnesota. As Annette and I were arriving to Reykjavik for the first time, we realized the trees were missing and a few miles of driving had passed before we had our first tree sighting. Even so, the landscape here is beautiful and millions of purple lupines have begun to blossom across the country. Spending time in Iceland and the Hengill Valley has reminded me of how important our work is in preserving and understanding the nature around us. With that said, Jill and I have been working together to collect and identify algae in the streams. She has been teaching me the different primary producer and algal species and how to differentiate them from each other. It amazes me how diverse each stream is from one another, and I am eager to see how they change throughout our time here.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely post! Glad you aren't smelling like sulfur. (love, Anika)