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!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Leave No Trace

We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work in an area as fascinating and informative as Hengill, and we hope to continue doing so for many years to come. In light of this, we try our hardest to reduce our impact on this fragile landscape. Yesterday, I raised the proverbial small army and we dismantled and removed our experimental channels from Hengill (including the 600 feet of tubing!). We transported all of the pieces back to Reykjavik, where we can safely store them over the long winter until the next field season. Many thanks to our Icelandic colleagues at the University of Iceland and the Insitute for Freshwater Fisheries! 



Dissembling the heat exchangers. Strange hot pot chemistry appears to have stained our equipment orange.
     Photo by J. Goldschmidt 






The first of many trips.
 Photo by J. Goldschmidt 










Photo by J. Goldschmidt 









Loading the cars at the river. 
     Photo by J. Goldschmidt









The former site of Lake Allison (our inlet reservoir for the channels) with natural flow conditions restored. 









Our experimental channel site cleaned up for the approaching winter. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Keeping it real in California

I know the team thinks I was just relaxing on the beach during my recent trip to California. Think again!  I happened to catch a lecture by Dr. Geoffrey West, given for the 'Complexity Group' (http://www.stanford.edu/group/complexity/) at Stanford University. He gave a very interesting talk on metabolic scaling that was highly relevant to our research (despite the 167 slides!).  He had some fascinating new nuggets about aging and companies.

Friday, July 19, 2013

MacGyver-ing around the lab

When Tanner handed me a tea steeper and a piece of a plastic channel and said "connect this somehow..."  I quickly harnessed my MacGyver-chi and went searching around the lab for parts to complete this engineering task.  About 15 minutes of grumbling and mumbling, fumbling with rubber bands and zip-ties, I emerged from the lab with a Frankenstein-esque work of biomass-catching art.  Conveniently detachable for easy removal, I might add.  And the best part is, these puppies cost $0.00;  all of the materials can be dismantled and put right back in the lab. Cup-holder to come on edition 2.0.  We installed them the next day on Tanner's channels, and what do you know, they work! 
The idea was that there was a lot of biomass being schluffed off the channels and we wanted a way to capture it as to get an accurate representation of how much of what is actually being grown/moved around the tiles.  The result is this (quite colorful) hodge-podge of pencils and baskets and rubber bands.