Friday, March 29, 2013


It's been a relatively quiet winter for aurora borealis, with not much solar activity and plenty of cloud. But the other day we got a good burst of activity that coincided with a very clear night - and the aurora really went off (perfect timing, as Grandma Benstead was visiting). It was impressive even downtown. Here are a few shots taken from our balcony at around 9:30 pm.

March fieldwork

The regular sampling for March went relatively smoothly, aided in part by a very warm, wet spell in February that melted a lot of the snow up at Hengill. The regular road into the valley was still blocked, but Jim Hood and Jon Benstead were able to drive into the reference stream for the warming experiment (OH2) and along the river into the Hengill valley. This made a huge difference, especially as we were trying to do the full suite of sampling, including chamber measurements of metabolism. At this time of year, this always seems like a lot of work to measure very little activity. Good to get those low-temp data though.

Our luck was not to last. Although we got most of the sampling done in double-quick time, it snowed before we had a chance to get the whole-stream metabolism loggers out of the streams. So it was long walks in and another round of "Hunt-the-loggers." It's amazing what the wind can do in Iceland. Here's what had been a snow-free Stream 7 at the start of the week. Where's the logger? And why didn't I pack in a snow shovel?

Got it!

The days are getting longer now and the weather is improving. It really feels like we're the near the end of another long winter. There's still snow up at Hengill though...

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Experimental channels

As the winter slowly comes to a close back here in Bozeman, MT we are ramping up in preparation for the summer field season. This May (for the first time!) our streamside experimental channels will be up and running. We're going to divert water from a cold stream (~5-10C in the summertime) and warm it up with heat exchangers in geothermal hot pots across a range of temps from ~5-30C (reflective of the natural temperature gradient found at Hengill). We'll have 15 total channels at 5 temperature treatments. In each of these channels we'll grow epilithic communities on small basalt tiles. These tiles will be used to see how temperature alters the structure and function of epilithic communities.

Here are the tiles (all 2000 of them!) on the office floor awaiting packaging and transport to Iceland.

The future home of our experimental channels. The big pool on the right is a 40C geothermal hotpot. The much smaller pool in the left foreground is an 80C hotpot. The heat exchangers will go into these hot pots to warm up the water for our channels.

Stay posted and we will update you with photos once we get these channels installed!