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.