Sunday, November 18, 2012

October sampling trip (and PI training!)

Jim Hood and Jon Benstead enjoyed a great trip out to the site in late October/early November. The weather was cold and dry, if a trifle windy on a couple of days (what was left of Hurricane Sandy followed us to Iceland). Here's a shot of one of the pleasant picnic lunches (Jim H. is consuming the 651st smoked lamb and cheese sandwich of the project).

We did all the regular sampling in streams 7 and OH2, as well as a lot of SF6 releases. As you can see, Jon was excited to be in the second year of warming in stream 7.

Here's what the updated temperature plot looks like. Our mean increase is about 3.5 C at the moment.

At the risk of sounding like we've become total groupies, on our last night we were lucky enough to catch Sigur Rós, who were headlining the Icelandic Airwaves festival. The official project band put in another fantastic performance, including an encore preview of the "hard left turn" they've been promising (check it out here). Strong stuff.

It wasn't all fun though. Check out what Jon managed to do to the rental car after dropping Jim off at OH2. Hmmm.

This tends to put a real kink in one's fieldwork plans. Luckily Jón O. came to the rescue. Thanks Jón!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Happy Birthday! The heat exchanger is one year old!

Yesterday marked a year since we installed the heat exchanger (see post). And it's still cranking away. Jim Hood is in Iceland right now and reports that we are getting a perfect 4 degree C increase in Stream 7. Now we have to pull off a second year of warming. Let's hope that this winter's weather isn't as bad as last year's...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

ESA and Sigur Rós in Portland

We're just back from the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America. The meeting was a great success. By happy coincidence, Iceland's finest band played at Edgefield during the week, so Wyatt, Zab and Jon jumped on the chance to see them live for the first time. Jon remembers listening to Sigur Rós non-stop while working on the proposal that funded our work at Hengill, so it's perhaps fitting that we were able to see them play as we hit the halfway point of the project. I couldn't upload my video, so here's someone else's footage of the climactic end of Popplagið (or Untitled #8), which the band played for their encore. If you're a fan (and we are), it doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Great Research and Experiences in Iceland

Hello, I am Ryan McClure and one of the REU students in Iceland for the summer.  This spring Dr. Cross, from Montana State, presented me with the opportunity to join the Hengill team for the summer and I could not pass down such a wonderful opportunity.  During my time here I am measuring the growth rate of snails (Radix peregra) across temperature gradients while accounting for body stoichiometry and food quality.  What I have done thus far is gather thousands of snails from size classes ranging from 1mm to 9 mm, tagged them, and have placed them in streams ranging from 5 Centigrade to 35 Centigrade.  Preliminary data looks promising.  I am also conducting an experiment where we are feeding snails food obtained from cold and warm streams, then observing if the food type has an effect on snails growth rate with respect to temperature and body size.  This experiment will be in the field and begins on the first of August.  Here are some pictures that show what has been going on so far.

Here is one of our tagged snails.  We can measure it, then track its growth for up to three weeks.  

These two images really show how much difference there is in our size classes we are measuring for growth rate.  Because these ones are so small, we cannot tag them like the snail above so we measure every one and track the average growth rate of the group for up to three weeks.

Not all of my time here has been devoted to snails.  Because I am in a new country and learning so much, another aspect is to explore and see what views and wonderful attractions Iceland has to offer.  I will say it has lived up to its expectations.  Jim, Dan, Amanda and myself all took a hike to Glymur, one of the tallest waterfalls in all of Iceland this last weekend and it was one of the coolest experiences of my life!  The gorge leading to the waterfall was beautiful and standing at the top overlooking the fjord was an eye opening experience.
Here are some pictures!

Here is Jim and Dan we get to hike through a cave on the way up!

The river crossings here are also pretty sweet!  Here comes Dan, Amanda in the back is contemplating how to go across.

Here is a picture of the group with the fjord in the background, we are not even able to see the waterfall yet. In the Image from left to right, Amanda, Dan, Jim, and myself.

Starting to get a view of the waterfall.

Sitting on the edge of the gorge.  It is along way down!

Jim and Dan standing in the gorge across from Glymur.  That is only about the top third of the waterfall  that is visible in the picture.  

This is my favorite shot!  Puts an individual in perspective with how small they are in the grand scheme of things.  One of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life!  Thanks Iceland!

Thus far, the Iceland project has been an awesome adventure!  The work here is great, the crew is all in good spirits and everyone is psyched about the research that is happening in Hengill.  Though the time here is flying by, a lot of research is getting done and we are excited to see the outcomes of all the hard work!  Again I want to thank Dr. Cross and the National Science Foundation for the REU opportunity, this experience will live with me forever.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Last surber sample and golden times

A year and around 1000 samples later, the final sample has been taken for secondary production estimates across the landscape temperature gradient streams. For me, this brings into sharp focus the quickly approaching end to my 15 months here. Bitter-sweet feelings. I can't wait to get some scope time and data, but there is still much work to do and Iceland to enjoy this summer.

Delor, Amanda, Ryan, and Dan in
front of Strokkur
Even with all the field and lab work we have been doing, we have been trying our best to get out and enjoy Iceland beyond Hengill (though even after a year, Hengill still never gets old). Many of us recently took a trip, along with our friends from the Welter Lab (their blog here), Delor and Bayley, around the "Golden Circle."

Below from left to right Ryan, Amanda, Delor, me (Jim J.), Dan, and Bayley in front of Gullfoss. The day also included Geysir (pictured on the right) and Þingvellir.  Always a great trip for us veterans, and a tip of the iceberg to some of the natural wonders Iceland has to offer.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Respiration Nation

One of our goals for this summer is to measure the respiration rates of a variety of stream invertebrates in the Hengill area.  These respiration estimates will contribute to the calculation of threshold elemental ratios (TERs) which are the elemental ratios of food resources at which consumer growth limitation switches from one element to another.  TERs provide a more quantitative index of the chemical imbalance between a consumer and its food than arithmetic differences between consumer body and resource elemental composition.

For the past couple of weeks, Amanda and I (Team Respiration) have been been practically running the respirometer non-stop.  In doing so, we've generated some 'breathtaking data' (I'm sorry, it had to be said).   The figure to the left shows the respiration rate of the freshwater snail, Radix peregra, at four different temperatures.  Clearly, respiration rate increases with body size.  Temperature also has an effect on respiration rate, with increased rates at higher temperatures for a given body size.  I guess this is not surprising.  However, we are excited that the respirometer is actually working and producing great results!

Until next time,


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Intrepid new team members in action!

We're really fortunate to be working with Ryan McClure & Amanda Keasberry this summer.  Ryan is an undergraduate in ecology at Montana State University. He'll be investigating how snail growth rates and stoichiometry are affected by temperature and food quality. Amanda comes from the Aquatic Biology program at University of Alabama. She'll be quantifying invertebrate respiration rates across the natural temperature gradient.  Good times, good people.  

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Things are getting strangely green around here!!

Well, its been about a month since our first post of the mysterious new patches of green algae in the experimental warming reach. Now, in early July, the thick green growth continues to take over stream 7 (compare this shot to the one a few posts back).  We're all really excited about this - it now appears to be a clear effect of the temperature manipulation because the algal growth stops directly above the warm water inflow.  Science!!!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

The mad N-fixing scientist has arrived!

At long last, Dr. Jill Welter has arrived from St. Catherine University to conduct some nitrogen fixation work.  She wasted no time in getting to know the N-fixing beasts in streams at Hengill.  This photo of Jill holding a large clump of Nostoc pretty much says it all.  Should be fun!  Welcome Jill!   You can link to the Welter Lab's Iceland blog here:

We're also very excited to have four new undergraduate researchers with us this summer - Amanda (University of Alabama), Ryan (Montana State University), Delor and Bayley (St Catherine U).  Stay tuned for more posts that introduce these folks!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Higher "prim. prod." in our warmed stream?

One of the predictions from metabolic theory is that net primary production should increase with higher temperatures. We've been warming Stream 7 since October last year, so this is the first spring since we started the manipulation. A thick growth of an as-yet unidentified green alga is now appearing in thick patches in several areas along the warmed reach. We've never seen this before, so it could well be a response to warming. Check out Dan Nelson's photo taken last week. Click on the photo for a better look.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Breaking news!  Brooke Weigel (one of our wonderful REU students) from St. Olaf College just completed a successful poster presentation at the annual Society of Freshwater Science meeting. This research - "Influence of temperature on benthic metabolism and nutrient uptake across a gradient of geothermally heated streams" was part of a collaboration with Adam Toomey (another wonderful REU student from Washington-Jefferson College) and other team members (Hood, Cross, Benstead, and Huryn, Junker, Nelson).  Way to go!

Brooke was also highlighted on the front page of the St. Olaf College's website!  See below.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Warming experiment update

The heat exchanger continues to do a great job. Below is a plot of the latest data, showing mean daily temperatures in the upstream reference reach and experimentally warmed reach. The arrow indicates the start of the manipulation on 22 October 2011. A couple of things to note. One can see the effect of the heat exchanger freezing up for ten days in December 2011 when temperatures returned to baseline levels. Second, temperatures were very variable in both reaches during the first winter, presumably because of rainfall and snowmelt. During this last winter, a thick snowpack buffered temperatures upstream of the warm water diffuser, resulting in much less variability. Our mean warming is 2.25 C as of the end of April 2012. That should be creeping up slowly now that snowmelt is over and discharge in the stream decreases.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

1000th surber milestone!

The populace of Iceland recently celebrated "Sumardagurinn fyrsti" or the first day of summer, in April, a week after snow showers in Reykjavik. Seemed a bit premature to me, but who am I to question the ways of the old Norse, they were vikings. As we in Iceland revel in the beautiful weather of the first weeks of 'summer', we have an occasion worth noting-one that will likely define Dan and my lives for a significant portion of the future. On April 20th we collected the 1000th surber sample of the project! That should be enough to keep Dan and I busy for a while.

Litli Jim

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Welcome Lili

We have recently welcomed a new member to the team.

Lili arrived from the University of Vigo in Spain, where she recently completed her Ph. D. in stream ecology with Dr. Isabel Pardo. A university outreach grant, which provides funding to support students to work abroad for up to 3 months, has brought her to Iceland to do some stream ecology alongside us and explore this beautiful country.

Lili brings with her a broad range of international work experience in both academic and governmental arenas. Her doctoral research focused on detrital energy pathways in stream ecosystems, and the effects of temperature and food quality on detritivore life history. Jointly, she worked in a broad range of aquatic habitats with the European Water Framework Directive a program to develop and integrate water policy and management across the European Union.

We are glad to have Lili aboard and looking forward to working with her over the next months.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Streams from a different wavelength

Wyatt and Lili working to finish up a nutrient
slug with Jim doing some community outreach.
Photo Credit: Christa Feucht and Martin Gasser  
During our winter sampling a few weeks back Wyatt, Lili, and myself were working on one of our warm streams near the town of Hveragerði. This stream is in sight of a popular hiking trail, and more times than not we find ourselves explaining who we are and what we are doing to at least one curious passerby, be it a local resident out for an afternoon walk or a tourist from  afar exploring the geothermal features in the area. On this day, our obligatory inquiring minds were, themselves, scientists with Iceland Geosurvey, Ísor. They happened to be sporting a fancy infrared camera and kindly offered to snap a few photos of us sampling and the surrounding area.  The photos are pretty psychedelic and display the variability in geothermal heating across the landscape.
Looking down over the stream
and surrounding landscape.
Photo Credit: Christa Feucht and Martin Gasser

Thanks Christa and Martin.  We are looking forward to coffee next time we are in the area.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Icelandic weather...

We enjoyed some predictably appalling weather during the February "Landscape" sampling. Temperatures either side of zero C, everything from rain through sleet and snow to hail, and some really interesting wind and fog. Definitely the worst weather in which I have ever worked - it made the North Slope in winter look like cake. Here are a few shots - the ones taken when I dared to get the camera out...

The Diamesa didn't seem to care though...

At least the cabin was cosy (most of the time). Even when it wasn't, it was a lot better than being outside. Here are a few shots of cabin life.

The snorers' room - otherwise known as the kitchen:

Our intrepid postdoc brushes up on his R... wait a minute!

Cave streams in Iceland?

The massive snowpack up at Hengill has left many of our streams buried in 8-10 feet of the miserable white stuff. There was only one thing to do on our trip this month: DIG! Here are some shots of various folks down the resulting holes:

The warmer streams in particular have carved tunnels through the snow with up to 2 or 3 feet of crawl-space, making at least Alex and I feel like we were back in an Alabama cave stream. A weird convergence. Here's a shot of Stream 9 flowing through its "cave." There is some light filtering through the snow - we'll find out if any primary production is occurring.

The little heat exchanger that could

Things are looking a little precarious for the heat exchanger. Iceland's heaviest snowpack in almost thirty years has left 10-12 feet of snow towering all around the pool in Stream 8 where the exchanger sits. We're hoping it all melts in a laid-back fashion, but we're prepared in case it doesn't. Here's a shot of Alex Huryn standing at the edge of the pool. You can see the pipes and manifolds of the heat exchanger at the bottom of the photo.

Despite all the snow, the heat exchanger has been working like a champ. Here's a plot of the differences in temperature upstream and downstream of the heat exchanger outlet in Stream 7. The pre-manipulation anomaly has been normalized to zero. Based on winter differences between upstream and downstream, we have a warming of 2.7 degrees C. If it hadn't been for the hiccup last December (see earlier posts), we would have been close to a 3 degree increase.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A welcome back and winter sampling

It has been a busy month of February up at Hengill. I arrived back in Reykjavik after an unplanned 3+ month hiatus to a warm welcome from friends at the
Translation: Little Jim
Veiðimálostofnun, my very own Veiði coffee mug! Now I am officially part of the family.

Properly caffeinated, I was quickly brought up to speed on winter sampling in Iceland after digging multiple snow pits in an unsuccessful search of pressure loggers from the
2+ meters of snow covering some of our streams.
Jim breaking in the new snow shovels

Luckily for us Jims we shortly would have a crew from the US to aid us in our search. After lots of sweat and PI "encouragement" from Alex, Jon, and Wyatt we liberated all the logger data, completed a good chunk of the winter quarterly sampling, and spent good times around a wood fire in the scout cabin we rented for the week.

The crew loaded up for a hard day's work at the crack of dawn, 9:30

Check out a few photo highlights in the album to the right, and keep posted for more highlights and pictures.