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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Ecologist in Training

Our last season of fieldwork is over but its benefits persist. I miss Iceland and its beauty, but with good memories, I am eagerly working with some of the data. Last summer in Iceland was an incredible experience and gave me the opportunity to grow as a student and a scientist. It gave me the chance to explore new ideas, meet great people and experience a different culture. The intense combination of lab and fieldwork was a good reminder of nature’s complexity and the effort it takes to understand it. It was rewarding to watch the samples and data accumulate over the summer. Every task requires full attention whether it be weighing filters, carefully pipetting or organizing field equipment. It helps to always keep the overall goals in mind because it fuels the motivation to do my best work.
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Measuring nitrogen fixation on a rainy day
I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the hard work that goes into scientific studies like this one. The work that we do requires a lot of patience and optimism. Shaking chambers of algae in the wind and rain may not sound ideal, but having a fun team that can always make you laugh makes all the difference. Everyone had good advice to offer and I did my best to absorb all the information I could. They encouraged me to be confident in my abilities and helped me to better understand my strengths and weaknesses. It could get overwhelming at times with so many long days and a never-ending to-do list, but with support and encouragement from the team, it didn’t seem too bad. I loved working with such great people!

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Working at the channels
I had fun learning the stream ecology methods used in the field and in the lab. My interest in ecological areas of study like biodiversity and nutrient cycling continues to grow and I find that the more I learn the more I want to know. I began last summer with a lot of uncertainty about where I saw myself in the future, but by the end I could picture myself working with confidence on a similar project. I feel like I’ve found my place within my biology degree and I’m very thankful for this amazing opportunity.

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