Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Murphy's Law

Here's an update covering the last 4 or 5 days.

Late last week the weather turned cold and rainy - more typical for Iceland this time of year. As a result of the rain, the hot pond has been pretty cold (16˚C). Hengladals√°, the main river, has also been high lately forcing us to walk overland. Here's Tanner by Hengladals√° on Friday.

Friday was Philip's last full day. It was cold and windy. We tried to spend the day making sure that we had the right configuration (HEX: series V. parallel; one or two inlet tubes; etc.) for the channel experiment. We had hoped that once we figured that out Tanner and I could finish the set up and get the channel experiments going. We quickly learned that we had a couple serious problems. The HEXs were leaking due to some plastic clamps that were a smidgen too small. Also, a number of our 2-inch couplers failed because the PVC glue we used doesn't set up in the cold and wet. Tanner, Philip, and I were down in the dumps after the end of the day (and cold and wet).

We ordered better fitting clamps for the HEX. I'm waiting for a sunny day when I can glue up all of the fittings. There should be a sunny day in the next couple weeks. Anyway, Friday was a pretty exhausting day. Here's Tanner and Philip taking a cat nap in the Veidi break room, right after a couple double expressos:

Saturday morning, Tanner and I dropped of Philip at the Flybus and then headed out to Hengill. The day was cold and wet again, so we focused on moving equiptment from the river to the channel experiment site. We moved the remaining seven rolls of 2-inch pipe across the field. Then, we moved all of the tiles over in 50 - 60 lb batches. Tanner also laid out the second 2-inch inlet pipe.

On Sunday, we were hoping that the weather would be nice enough to repair some of the couplings. But it rained, so we moved 4 of the 5 header tanks over as well as all of the channels. There's just one header tank lingering by the river now which I moved over on Monday. That feels pretty good!

Lately, I have been feeling more like a backwoods moving company than an ecologist. Here's an accounting of everything we have moved about a quarter of a mile across the meadow:

16 rolls of 2-inch tubes, about 50 lbs each = 800 lbs
5 header tanks = 50 lbs
~ 3600 2.5 x 2.5 cm tiles = 250 lbs
2 boxes of fittings = ~100 lbs
Channels = ~50 lbs
4 straight HEXs = 100 lbs
3 spiral HEXs = 75 lbs

Total = 1400 lbs

Philip calculated that we cleared 6000 ft2 from the feeder stream.

I'm glad that we finished the hauling stage of this project.

Luckily, the recent rain has begun melting the snow that has accumulated in the valley. Here's Tanner standing in the ice cave over stream 8 (~ 22˚C). This is the first time I've seen a cave over stream 8 since I began working here in 2010.

Here's me installing some loggers in the cave over stream 7, the stream we experimentally warmed.

And finally, Sunday was Tanner's last day in Iceland. Here's a little tribute to his field lunches: 5 jumbo snicker bars, 3 skyrs, a container of peanuts, a big bottle of fancy juice, and a cup of coffee. That's not a regular coffee. Its a double americano topped off with 2 shots of expresso - if you are counting that's 4 shots of expresso. That's a pretty standard lunch for Tanner, who can not eat gluten. The snicker bars really keep you going while ferrying equipment across the meadow in the cold rain.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

1st 2" pipe installed, HEXs in L. Huryn, & Alex leaves us

We had another successful day working on the channel infrastructure. Philip got the HEXs in the 20˚C pond, Hood's Hole insulated, and the nutrient drip system built. Hood's Hole was in the 50's ˚C when we left today. You can see his exploits in this time lapse video:


While Philip was working, Tanner and I finished clearing the feeder stream. It wasn't the the last spike in the Intercontinental Railroad, but we felt pretty good about it.

Tanner spent the rest of the day building the dam at the top of the feeder stream. He named the reservoir Lake Allison. Tanner is a dam builder extraordinaire.

Philip and I laid out the 2-inch pipe that feeds water to the heat exchanger. Ultimately, we'll have two of these. Aside from the weight and the rigidity of the tubing, the trick is to remove all of the air dams from the tubing. Philip is an expert!

Tomorrow is a rain day. The forecast is for rain, which isn't that big of a deal, and 14 m/s winds, which is a big deal.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Channel equipment arrives on site...mostly

Today, we hired Arni from Extreme Iceland to use his companies' super jeep to ferry our equipment up the river to the point closest to the site of the channel location, which is about a half-mile from the river. Arni was great! When we arrived, he had already loaded the first load of our gear into the super jeep. Here's some photos of Arni, his super jeep in action, and the channel installation team:

When we got to the snow drifts by the river, which previously blocked our passage, we discovered that the power company had plowed the drifts early in the morning or yesterday. We can now officially drive up the river!

After that first trip, I followed the super jeep up the river in the Veidi's grey truck. Moving all of the gear up the river took 3 trips in the super jeep and 2 in the grey truck. We have a lot of stuff, but it is a little closer to the site of the channel experiment.

Next, we started the arduous task of hauling all of the gear to the channel experiment site. We ferried over all of the equipment Philip needed to get started: some 2-inch tubing, the heat exchangers, a couple action packers, and some miscellaneous tubing.

After that, we divided and concerned. Philip worked on the heat exchangers:

Alex spent the rest of the afternoon ferrying 2-inch white tubing. Each roll is 50-lbs. Alex is unstoppable.

Tanner and I spent the rest of the day clearing snow from feeder stream. We have about 13 meters to go...

Here's us at the end of the day. It was a tough one, but we've surmounted most of the hurdles we encountered last week and have moved about half of the equipment to the channel experiment site.

p.s., In case you are wondering, it looks like we now have plenty of heat for our experiments. Jim's Hole (our metal reinforced heating tank) is 53.6˚C and the hot pot is 43.6˚C.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Channel experiment equipment in transport

Alex keeps remarking in wonder about how many different moves some of our equipment have made to ultimately become part of our channel experiment. Take our two inch tubing, it transports water from way up the header stream to the heat exchangers. We now have 1600 feet of this stuff, totaling about 800 lbs. Half of this stuff came from the manufacturer to Bozeman, MT and then was transported to Iceland as baggage in November 2014.

This tubing was transported into the Veidi, then moved outside the Veidi, then moved inside the Veidi, then moved outside...  Here's Alex and Philip inspecting all of our supplies.

The other 1/2 of the tubing was used in the original channel experiment. It was transported back from the field, stored at the Veidi for 2 years, and is now being transported back to the field. Here's Tanner hauling the tubing back to the Veidi in 2013.

Anyway, we have a super jeep booked for tomorrow and we have piled up everything we need to transport out to the site. Here it is in all its glory: 1600 feet of 2" tubing, 5 coolers, 4 heat exchangers, 3 spiril heat exchangers, Philip's nutrient drip system, > 200 lbs of tiles, and all sorts of other random stuff.

Hopefully, by tomorrow evening we'll have most of this stuff up at the site.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Channel experiments infrastructure

Alex, Philip, Tanner, and I are in Iceland trying to get this summer's channel experiments started. This summer we plan on looking at how temperature and nitrogen, an important fertilizer of algal growth, influences biofilm development, composition, and ecosystem process. We've run into some expected, but frustrating problems we are trying to surmount. This winter, South Eastern Iceland received a lot more snow than normal. Both of the regular access routes (down the well road & up the river) are not accessible to normal trucks due to large snow drifts. Here's the drift blocking our access to the river:
It doesn't look like much, but you need a special super jeep with a high clearance and 38-inch wide tires to get through those drifts. Each day we have been walking 2.5 - 3 miles up the river.
When we arrived at our site for the channel experiments on Tuesday, we discovered that one of our hot pots that we used to create the temperature treatments was now cold. Water is piped down from a source stream to 2 heat exchangers in a warm pond (~ 25˚C), then water from one of those heat exchangers is directed to another heat exchanger in a hot pot (~ 60˚C). We mix the water coming out of these three heat exchangers and from the source stream to create our 5 temperature treatments.
Our 60˚C hot pot has gone cold; so, we can't have temperature treatments above ~20˚C. We've been working frantically to try and find a similarly hot pot or restore our old hot pot. We've tried enclosing some hot spots in the main pond with retaining walls, but that hasn't resulted in a lot of extra heat.
We've also tried diverting the snow melt. Not the most high tech solution, I know. Tomorrow, we'll know how well that worked.
Our other problems is that our source stream is completely covered in meters of snow. Its buried in that valley. I swear.
Tanner and I have been solving that problem the old fashion way: with shovels.
We hope to start hauling the channel components out to the site on Monday and Tuesday.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Getting close to it. . . . . .

Lots of activity in the past few months, despite the lack of blog posts. Some of the team (Alex, Philip, Jim, and Tanner) is leaving for Iceland in 10 days to start building the experimental channels.  Here are a few shots of our new header tanks, experimental chambers, and nutrient dripping gear. Now, if only Icelandair would allow 20 bags per passenger. . . . .

New header tanks (a la Jim hood) catching lots of attention on MSU campus. . .

Alex's lovely new chambers . . .

A VERY studly dude. . . .

Nutrient dripping apparatus (a la Phillip). . ..

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Planning our 2015 field season

Now starts the daunting (and mostly exciting) task of planning our upcoming summer field season.  It's hard to stay focused on something so distant in the future, but May is going to creep up and pounce on us if we don't start the process.   The crux of the matter is scheduling our tasks so that (a) major events do not overlap, and (b) we have enough team members on the ground at any given point to pull off our research. There's no doubt that things will NOT go exactly as planned, but at least we'll be organized!

Hoodie's graphic to help us 'visualize' the timing of things.

Planning our new set of heat exchangers will occupy our thoughts this spring. We're lucky to have Philip Johnson with us (our engineering faculty member at U of Alabama), and he has already designed the new expanded HEX system. We will essentially be doubling our experimental channel system, and this requires twice the HEX capacity with some clever new stainless coils planned for the super-hot pot. We are all steeped in physics envy as Phillip shows us calculations that actually predict a real outcome. . . . .woh.  Check out this photo from one of our recent papers:  HERE

In 2015, we will not be adding nutrients to streams across the landscape, but we will need to enrich half of our experimental channels. This means more planning with respect to which multi-channel pumps to use, what nutrient concentration to target, and how to make everything run smoothly so we can just kick back and let the Science and Nature papers roll in. . .  :)  :)

More soon. . . . .