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!