Sunday, May 10, 2015

Channel experiments infrastructure

Alex, Philip, Tanner, and I are in Iceland trying to get this summer's channel experiments started. This summer we plan on looking at how temperature and nitrogen, an important fertilizer of algal growth, influences biofilm development, composition, and ecosystem process. We've run into some expected, but frustrating problems we are trying to surmount. This winter, South Eastern Iceland received a lot more snow than normal. Both of the regular access routes (down the well road & up the river) are not accessible to normal trucks due to large snow drifts. Here's the drift blocking our access to the river:
It doesn't look like much, but you need a special super jeep with a high clearance and 38-inch wide tires to get through those drifts. Each day we have been walking 2.5 - 3 miles up the river.
When we arrived at our site for the channel experiments on Tuesday, we discovered that one of our hot pots that we used to create the temperature treatments was now cold. Water is piped down from a source stream to 2 heat exchangers in a warm pond (~ 25˚C), then water from one of those heat exchangers is directed to another heat exchanger in a hot pot (~ 60˚C). We mix the water coming out of these three heat exchangers and from the source stream to create our 5 temperature treatments.
Our 60˚C hot pot has gone cold; so, we can't have temperature treatments above ~20˚C. We've been working frantically to try and find a similarly hot pot or restore our old hot pot. We've tried enclosing some hot spots in the main pond with retaining walls, but that hasn't resulted in a lot of extra heat.
We've also tried diverting the snow melt. Not the most high tech solution, I know. Tomorrow, we'll know how well that worked.
Our other problems is that our source stream is completely covered in meters of snow. Its buried in that valley. I swear.
Tanner and I have been solving that problem the old fashion way: with shovels.
We hope to start hauling the channel components out to the site on Monday and Tuesday.

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