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. . . . .

Sunday, November 9, 2014

We're back!

Well folks. . . . it's been a while. and we've got some big news to report!  We just received additional funding from the National Science Foundation to continue our research in Iceland. This will give us the opportunity to explore the interaction between climate warming (the primary focus of our last grant) and nutrient enrichment in river ecosystems.

The upper valley. . . 

Alex Huryn, Jim Hood, Wyatt Cross, and Jill Welter soaking it in.

The heat exchanger in stream 7 (our whole-ecosystem warming experiment) needed some repair, and we spent part of a day cleaning, retooling, and stabilizing.  Still working like a charm (knock on wood!).  
Alex working on the heat exchanger.  Jim and Wyatt holding strong on peanut gallery duties.
Day one. . just off the flight from Denver. . tired and full of ideas!

Looking down towards the future location of our 'next-generation' experimental channels
Both Jill and Jim gave seminars at the IFF, and we spent some quality time catching up with folks and planning for next summer.  Can't wait to get started in May. . .  . stay tuned for additional posts!. .  we'll try to keep this site a bit more active now!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Joint Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Portland

The team recently convened in Portland for some good ole-fashioned science fun.  Just look at that enthusiasm in the back seat!!

But, seriously, we had a great time interacting with friends and colleagues, and enjoying all the good stuff Portland has to offer. And the best part - Iceland talks were scattered throughout the entire meeting!  

One highlight of the trip was biking to and from the meeting. This helped wake us up after long evenings of collegial activities!

BUT, it didn't always work. . . shall we say Benstead was 'over-scienced' on the last day?

All in all, a great week!!  So fun to be energized by an amazing group of friends and colleagues. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A productive visit!

The Montana crew was recently graced by the presence of our friend and colleague, Dr. Jill Welter from St. Catherine University (see her team's blog: here). We're collaborating on an exciting paper about nitrogen fixation in the Hengill experimental streams.

The upshot: we found that nitrogen fixation 'amplifies' gross primary production in these streams. The idea is that nitrogen fixers (such as cyanobacteria - see This Post) bring in a 'new' source of nitrogen to the ecosystem by changing dissolved nitrogen gas (N2) into a form that can be used for growth. Because these streams are so nitrogen-limited, this new source of nitrogen fuels a much higher level of primary production that we would expect in the absence of nitrogen fixers. This general idea has been developed by others in terrestrial ecosystems (see: Interesting paper in PNAS), but our work is among the first to test this idea experimentally in a highly controlled fashion.

We're closing in on the final draft!

Group writing. . . .a new experience.

Go Bobcats. . .
Fluffy white goodness to clear the mind

This Post

Friday, October 25, 2013

The wonderful world of biofilms!

Just recently I had the great pleasure of visiting Drs. Jill Welter and Paula Furey at St. Catherine University in the beautiful city of St. Paul, MN (not to be confused with Minneapolis, MN). On this trip (funded by the Montana Institute on Ecosystems) I received training in algal and cyanobacteria identification. With the skills I gained at St. Kate's I can now examine how temperature alters the structure of benthic communities. Below are photos of a few species that colonized the tiles in my experimental channels this past summer.

Anabaena - a nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria

Ulothrix - a green algae  

Meridion - a diatom

Rhopalodia - a nitrogen fixing diatom

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Science. . . .. it's more than just field work.

Over the past few years, we've seen post after post of glorious field work and courageous science action. There's no doubt that most of us got into this business so that we could spend long, lovely periods of time outside, observing and collecting critters. The truth, however, is that ecological science involves a little time in the field and a LOT OF TIME in the lab. Fortunately for us, lab work is just as exhilarating!. .. . .as long as you're in the zone.  Here's a few shots of Montana folks in the zone.

Tanner has been busy analyzing nutrient chemistry samples from his experimental channels - and yes, his hair continues to grow! His goal is measure dissolved ammonium and phosphate in water samples to examine whether experimental warming affects rates and ratios of nitrogen and phosphorus uptake. Shouldn't be long before he can post some preliminary data!

Jim has been hard at work processing benthic samples from the landscape temperature gradient. He's finding large differences in the structure of macrophyte-algal-cyanobacteria communities, and his plan is to quantify how these differences affect pools and ratios of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus at the ecosystem-level. He may be missing a front tooth (sorry Jim), but this has not slowed progress. In the next few weeks, Jim will be packing up hundreds (thousands?) of samples for carbon and nitrogen analysis. Stay tuned for updates!

And then there's Dr. Jim Hood, our unflappable post-doc and resident R guru. Jim is deep in the midst of compiling, coding, and analyzing data from our whole-stream warming experiment. The paper resulting from these efforts is within reach, and we're getting excited about the emerging patterns. In other news, Jim just birthed a new beautiful baby girl (Lauren), who is now our lab mascot. We look forward to her help!

And last. . .there's me, Wyatt.  I've been steeped in classes (teaching 3 this semester!) and making good progress on analyzing chamber metabolism data (thanks to Hood). I think I'm getting bags under my eyes. . .  .oh well. .. it's worth it!