See you next time Iceland

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This is our last full day in Reykjavik and in Iceland. In the morning we visited the Hellisheiði Power Plant for the ON Geothermal Exhibition, which gives us a detailed introduction including the history of Iceland using geothermal energy and the significance of geothermal energy to Iceland.

To use geothermal energy, there must exist a geothermal area, which is created by groundwater flowing through hot layers of rock generated by volcanic activities. The geothermal areas are They are categorized based on the temperature of the water in the bedrock into high- or low-temperature areas. The locations of the high- and low-temperature areas is a result of the age and temperature of the bedrock, where production in high-temperature areas focuses on using steam to produce electricity. Eight power plants in total produce 30% of Iceland’s 100% renewable electricity. Whereas within low-temperature areas geothermal hot water can be used for space heating. Approximately 90% of people living in Iceland use geothermal energy for that purpose.

a simplified flow chart of the geothermal plant

 

The outdoor view of part of the plant (pipe, cooling tower, steam exhaust)

 

 

The graph for a high-pressure turbine

 

the turbine connecting condenser and electricity generator

 

How they deal with the geothermal gas remaining in water such as carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide is also impressive. After the method of pumping the water back into the basaltic bedrock to let the gas turned into minerals by chemical combination is introduced, the percentage gets even lower.

We had a free afternoon again after we came back from the geothermal plant. Some of us went to the public pool (heated up by geothermal of course) to release the tiredness accumulated for three weeks. I personally walked around the main street downtown looking for souvenirs.

 

After dinner together, we all reflected on the whole trip. It is a pleasure to hear what people learned about Iceland from all aspects, how we grow by doing science and living together with each other and to think about what I achieved, accomplished and can do better.

 

I hope everyone can get some kind of sleep and ready to catch up the 8.30 am flight tomorrow. 🙂

We’re Freeeeeee!!!

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Finally, freedom!

We were back in Reykjavik and each of us got the whole day free to do whatever the heck we wanted in the capital. I decided to stay in for lunch, made myself an omelette and some ramen, and then headed to the public pool called Laugardalslaug. Unfortunately, phones and cameras were prohibited in the pool area so capturing pictures was not possible. However, I ended up enjoying the place and the vibe quite a bit as I went around dipping in the hot tub and steambath, completing a couple of laps and then going down a slide (a definite spot of fun for the young ones). There was also a small hot tub in a corner that had geothermal seawater, extracted from a borehole near the coast and heated further. It also had a few interesting salts (6 different ones, cannot recall all of them) – you would be able to feel the difference in texture if you went for a dip in it.

Later, I decided to have dinner at this food court that was within a 10-minute walk from the hostel and I did not regret that decision at all since I got to enjoy some absolutely delicious salmon. It was also the summer solstice, so a lot of people were hanging out in downtown and around the city. I decided to go for a walk, hoping to catch a view of the midnight sun and I was served just right!

Spotted on a main street, looked very intriguing
View of Hallgrimskirkja, the largest Lutheran church (probably the tallest building in Reykjavik), under the midnight sun

Program finds itself one hour ahead of schedule, one leader feints from shock…

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Today was our last day at Skalanes, which is always a bit sad. After spending a wonderful week here doing science, hiking, cooking, and eating together with a group of students from Scotland we are packing-up to head back West for a couple of days in Reykjavik before the program ends on 23 June. Did I mention Fyrir the amazing dog? And Oli and Rannveig the wonderful hosts? We also work with Oli and Rannveig on a couple of science projects related to ecology and archaeology.

Early this morning was a scrum of packing, eating, making lunches, cleaning-up, and saying goodbye. Our travel plan was a trucks to take the gear to the first river, people hiking there, and then a bus to Seyðisfjörðurand and over the Fjarðarheiði mountain pass to the airport in Egilsstaðir. At approximately 10:00 GMT the group found itself completely packed and ready to go, at which point they realized they did not need to leave until 11:00. One of the leaders, who shall remain anonymous, had never been ready ahead of schedule before and feinted from the shock. Hilarity ensued and we Euchre and Carcassonne until it was time to leave.

The trip was uneventful other than the bus trip from RKV airport to the hostel, construction at the hospital has changed the bus route so rather than knowing where to disembark (12 people with baggage and 10 cases of science gear and samples) we were a bit lost. Fortunately a very helpful local explained where we could get off that would be close to our lodgings.

And here are a couple of pictures from Skalanes, which is a place that pictures can hardly do justice to.


Fyrir, local security.

 


View to the North from the house.

Last day in Skalanes

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Today was the last full day here at Skalanes, a bittersweet kind of day. It started out with a presentation from Òli, who is currently working on his dissertation on the subject of the sustainability of Skalanes. The work here at Skalanes has taken several years, Òli bought the property for tourism and conservation but it has transformed into a multidisciplinary project. They have planted trees in hopes to offer a habitat for further avian species and to offset carbon. They have included students in the efforts to converse, not just to take data but to use that data in order to pursue more sustainable living and offer a more holistic habitat for the wildlife. This place continues to pursue better ways of living sustainably, including pursuing measures now for future events (like global warming).

After the presentation, we split up. Drone people did some flying. Soil and bio people packed up our bio boxes, which was quick and painless. After removing some tubes and gloves that we are keeping here, it was surprising to see how much space there was in the boxes compared to the packing job coming here.

Then we all did our own things, it was a relaxing afternoon. Around 2-3 Sydney recruited me for another batch of banana bread. We had 19 bananas, resulting in two large regular pans, one gluten frene tinto pan, and another small pan (cuz   I accidentally made the intended GF bread with real flower first). In the end, the bread ended up being delicious as dessert. Joyce madre Curry, which was so very good.

After dinner we all gathered together for group photos, a couple with the Glasgow crew and a couple with the gorgeous “Takk Fyrir” sign that Sydney drew to thank Òli and Rannveig. This was followed by our nightly group meeting (rest of trip logistics), then a trip to see the puffins by several of us. We were able to get quite close, they adorable creatures.


All in all it was a good last day. Excited to go back to Reykjavik, but going to miss this little piece of heaven.

 

Relaxing Day for Everyone at Skalanes

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Hey everyone! My name is Jordan Christian and I am a rising senior with a major in Computer Science and a minor in Global Management. My work here in Iceland has been primarily concerned with networking and configuration for our virtual machine as well as drone flying.

Some science work was completed here at Skalanes yesterday but for the most, it was a pretty relaxing day for all of us here in Iceland. The biology peeps were able to successfully complete some NPK work in the morning and by afternoon were able to relax for the rest of the day. Rain once again deterred the drone group from getting as much flying done as they would have liked, however they were able to capture some VLI imagery over a few spots. Em, Charlie, and Faith went into town to do some independent work on the 16s project and once again could experience the convivial atmosphere any Icelandic town can offer.

Hopefully tomorrow brings us some better weather so we can continue our science work in what will be our last full day at Skalanes!

 

Peace!

How we celebrate Independence Day? Working!

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Today is a quite busy day for everyone. After the script designing and drone flying, I experienced working in a group of four with Sydney, Kaela and Kathryn to take soil samples at two different spots. One next to the coast close to the birds’ habitat, the other one on both sides of the waterfall close to our camping site. The group work was divided efficiently, Kathryn and Sydney took all the samples, Kaela put the data into the database and I am in charge of taking bird view pictures of the sample site with Kari.

We took all the samples under the area covered by a tree crown, the trees we met here are 50 cm tall in average, no more than 2 meters, even if they’ve been growing for a decade or more. For each sample taken under the tree, we took a control group sample on the ground away from the tree. I assume the analysis of the sample can show the difference of the soil affected by the tree or not.

 

In order to get to the other side of the waterfall, instead of going all the way down, we chose to cross the river directly. The river is wider than it looks from above, it is also harder to cross than I expected. Yet everyone got excited crossing the river as it reflected a great group work between us and marked our job in the afternoon is halfway done, and we made it!

selfie taken right in the middle of the river

The whole process took longer than we expected, but everyone feels perfect after the task been accomplished. I am glad to see that we can work so well in as a group to contribute to the project, I also feel more bonded with my beloved team members.

I wonder how’s the taste of the grass

 

On the other hand, the drone flying group is also having a hard day, lots of flight plans need to be finished which cover a large area. Especially Jordan is almost having a non-stop. Cheers to super hard-working Jordan!

It’s all worth it when we were rewarded by Charlie’s roast lamb at dinner 😉

Sunday Funday

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Hello faithful blog readers. Today was pretty foggy, so we were unable to fly any drones due to condensation on the electronics. However, folks got other projects to work on like analyzing the data we had already collected and working on monitoring the flow of one of the rivers, to assess its potential for hydropower. The fjord is beautiful in the fog, though, and many of us appreciated it by taking hikes, both long and small.

An exciting test pit was dug – over 1 meter of soil was removed from a square meter of land in a known previously habitated site at Skálanes. Óli and Rannveig worked hard to excavate the area, and then we took 13 samples – one for every 10 centimeters. We hope to measure the amount of sheep DNA in each layer – we assume that settlers brought sheep with them, and so sheep DNA should be present in habitated layers and not present in layers that are not habitated. We’re also working to identify the tephra layers (soil horizons which were layed down by volcanic eruptions). It’s not clear out here which layer is which.


Tomorrow is Icelandic Independence Day! We will continue to collect soil samples and drone imagery in the morning, since it is supposed to begin to rain in the afternoon.

Digging, flying, and a lot of ACTATGCACGTC…

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Another day in paradise, and a bunch more science. Our group has a number of on-going projects at Skalanes: aerial surveying (near infrared and visible light imagery) for archaeology and ecology, soil parameter analysis and DNA extraction in different types of habitats for ecology, and DNA extraction and tephra analysis for archaeology. Today the diggers went to the test pit and continued digging, measuring, and preparing to take horizontal soil cores in the pit tomorrow. The flyers continued to survey two large areas (~1 square km each) in both light modes. These flights generate hundreds of images each which are harvested to our laptops and then run through Open Drone Map to create composite images of the entire area. Lastly, Faith Jackobs (EC ’18 and IFS ’18) arrived from Texas to help Em and I with our 16S rRNA and ancient DNA analysis workflows. She and I are working through our ancient DNA analysis of the samples we took at Stod last year to confirm that the analysis was done correctly. This includes measuring the amount and nature of the damage to the fragments as part of establishing their age. Stay tuned for the results.

Insert obligatory picture of the amazing natural world at Skalanes here…

The First Few Days at Skálanes

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Hello! My name is Sydney, and I am a rising senior majoring in chemistry and minoring in math and physics. While in Iceland, I have been doing work with soil analysis and archaeology.
If you are interested, our research in Stöð was recently featured on the Icelandic news starting at 5:23.
The last few days we have been at Skálanes, where we will be for the next week doing scientific research. Skálanes is owned by Óli and Rannveig and is located at the mouth of the Seyðisfjörður fjord. On the property one can find many creatures such as seals, whales, reindeer along with several species of birds including arctic terns, eider ducks, and puffins. Skálanes also has several registered archaeological sites, which is what our program is really interested in studying. The house has a lab for scientists that come stay on the property, and several rooms with beds amongst the home. The property makes money by letting scientists stay on the property, performing tours of the house, and selling eider duck down.

A view from the porch of Skálanes

To get to Skálanes we left Seyðisfjörður, where we spent a night, then we drove out of town and crossed three rivers before arriving at the house. The car dropped us off at the first large river and then we hiked 4km to the house with our day pack. Our larger bags were brought to us by a car that crossed the rivers.

The first river we crossed (there was a bridge)

 

Part of getting to the house meant walking past arctic tern nesting grounds. They dove at our heads so we held sticks or lupin up to make them dive higher

 
Our first day we unpacked, met Freyr (a cute chocolate lab that lives on the property), and a group of six student from Glasgow university in Scotland. The computer science group did work on ODM (Optical Drone Map) and prepared the drones for the trip tomorrow. They hope to make some images of the area that will give the soil group a promising area to collect data.
I built shelves for the wet lab in the house for Óli with Kathryn and Kaela.

Building shelves

There was a lot of down time our first day, and we got to enjoy the peaceful atmosphere and learn from the other students living here. There is a possibility to camp if we want, so I hope to be able to do that.
Our second day, it was unfortunately was too foggy and wet for the drones to fly, but it gave the computer scientists more of a down day than they’ve been having and they were able to focus on coding more of the programs we have been using. The soil group did research on how to distinguish between the tephra layers in the soil. Tephra layers are formed volcanic ash, and we can link them to certain eruptions, and hense have a dating tool.
The soil group then joined Rannveig after lunch to start preparing the site where we will be excavating soil from one of the 96 (I think that’s the right number). Rannveig was really excited since it was the first time she had applied for permission to excavate a site of her own. Freyr hadn’t seen her in two weeks and followed us so he could be with her. To prepare the site, we used a GPS to mark the area we were excavating and Rannveig chose a square meter she thought looked promising. We pulled the grass off of the top and then started excavating by gently scraping at the soil layers with a trowel and putting the dirt created in a bucket to dump nearby. We had to be careful that we weren’t disturbing any potential artifacts. We found charcoal, so there was definitely human activity in the square chosen, and Rannveig thinks it could be a midden heap, so I’m excited to see what we keep finding.

Walking to the dig site
Kathryn, Rannveig, E, Joyce, Kaela, and Freyr
The view from our spot
Freyr watching Rannveig taking GPS coordinates

Rannveig surveying
Setting up the square meter for excavation

Kaela and Rannveig beginning the excavation

When we got back to the house, Kaela and I made banana bread with the bananas that are way past ripe. It was ready in time for dinner and turned out better than I was expecting considering we multiplied the recipe by 10.

Kaela and I working on the final step of mixing in the flour

Last Road Trip

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Today we left from the archaeological site at Stod and moved to Seydisfjordur.

We were sad to leave such a welcoming, wholesome town, but excited for the next place/adventure.

We are only here for the night, but it is another nice break from our scientific work, which has been pretty constant in the last few days. Seydisfjordur is small, but it is a cool place to explore with lots of hiking trails and places to walk to.

Hiking around Seydisfjordur

 

Tomorrow we will head out to the end of the peninsula to Skalanes, where we will be working for the last week of scientific projects. Skalanes is, to some degree, the focus of our work here, so it has been nice to rest up before working hard for the next 7 days to finish our data collection and process samples.

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