Learning Icelandic Through Mapping

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Translating a website in another language is actually a very difficult task. Here are a few of the words I translated from the drop down menu for the land survey website. One I had these translated I chose staðfræðikort which translated into topography map however once here there are still a multitude of options, so I have been opening up each one to see where it is and the ones in Austerland (the Eastern Region, where Skalanes is located), are on the Lagarfljot river. I am now continuing to plow through the maps here and will switch keyword if need be.





aðalkort ferðautgafa













kort til serþarfa











Atlas map

primary card

mountain road map

primary card ferðautgafa

travel map


education card

satellite image

vegetation maps


A map


overall map


geological maps


card for special needs


Historical maps

right image map

magnetic card



zoning map

topography maps

Country Argelaga map

son maps

Maps & Other Stuff

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I have been working on finding the maps we need. I found a site, http://shopicelandic.com/collections/maps/topographic which has some maps that could be really useful for us. Charlie also found the Land Survey website, http://www.lmi.is/, which would also be great to get them from, however it is in Icelandic and needs to be translated (google only translates part of the site). I started to gather a list of longitude, latitude coordinates for the places we want to make it easier to put it into this website. The next step with this is to get a more finite list of the places we will be going.

I read an article that supports Oli’s information on arctic foxes as well. Basically, yes red foxes are pushed arctic foxes further north limiting their range and competing for resources. In the long term global warming could bring more resources, but the red fox is pushing out of its habitat because of the warming temperatures. I still do not think we can do much about tracking this for next summer, but it is good to know that populations of arctic foxes are decreases and documenting that could be important information. This article is in the google drive folder for more information.

Finally, as for the bird survey, we really just need to decide if we want to try thermal imaging using a drone/balloon. And how we would do that. If not, we need to just look into other ways of surveying, which are available.

A Search for Topographic Maps and Wilderness Meetings

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I am currently in the process of ordering topographic maps of Iceland. Charlie helped me figure out the scale we need for the maps and now I am looking for a company that sell that scale for the places that we need. We also determined which places we need maps for, which includes Skalanes, Heimay, Grimsey and many other places. 
On Wednesday at lunch I had a meeting with previous August Wilderness instructors and Zoe Wolfe (who is in charge of outdoor education right now). They had some great insights into the difficulties of creating a success program like this that is so interdisciplinary. I also asked them for the essentials of what makes an outdoor education trip/program/class what it is (see AW Meeting minutes in the Field Science-Wilderness folder of the drive). That afternoon the Wilderness/Field Science group met again to discuss more about the program (see minutes on that meeting). Right now we are just waiting to see if we get the grant that Charlie submitted a proposal for last week. We did more brainstorming on what we should include in the program and determined that measuring a glacier every year would be a crucial part of the program. Our next meeting is the Wednesday after Thanksgiving break.

The Arctic Fox & Other Projects

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This week did some bits and pieces of several different things. Firstly, I wrote up a paragraph with some questions for Oli. This is mostly geared toward the eider in Skalanes, and what he would like to focus on with this species. I decided also to look further into the natural history of this birds and found that Steller’s Eider is a vagrant to Iceland that is declining at an unknown rate, however populations are decreasing and the species is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.

I looked at some other species on the IUCN list, including the arctic fox, because Oli wanted us to look into home range/den surveying for them. IUCN lists them as a stable population of least concern which I find interesting. I am not quite sure how they are measuring some of these species, but I am looking into that. This does not mean that they are not an important species, worth looking at. Their habitats are limited and their diets are fairly specific which can be concerning in species decline and extinction. They live in very cold conditions in the northern steppe. With global warming they are bound to get pushed further and further north to the edges of Europe and North America. Oli mentioned surveying scat with a drone but I do not see this as a very effective solution because, first of all, detecting the scat would be extremely difficult and the wind might cause issues with a small-scale drone.

On another note, we still need to do some more brainstorming into what the most effective way to survey the birds at Skalanes will be. Thermal imagining is a great idea but it may either require the rewiring of the comera we have in order to hook it up to an arduino or we would need to look at other thermal technology, which could be expensive.

Prospect for bouncing the internet signal off of the side of the fjord looks very reasonable, we just need to ask Oli about putting up a billboard sized target on a neighbors land.Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.49.47 PM    Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 3.50.25 PM

Finally, Gail, Kristin, Charlie, Nic, Deeksha and I had a great meeting last week about the potential for a wilderness program associated with the field science work. Notes on this meeting are in the drive. Charlie submitted the grant request to the GLI committee and we are meeting again this week to further discuss the potential for this. Our next step will really be a budget and looking into what needs to happen in the next nine months, in order to plan a successful program.

Squirrels and the Internet

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This week Nic and I spent time brainstorming and testing the thermal camera. We were able to see squirrels from approximately 15 meters away. Squirrels have a body temperature of about 36-38 degrees C and the arctic terns have a body temperature of just over 40 degrees C. The terns are a little bit smaller but being able to detect the squirrels is a great indication of what our success with the camera could look like. We are still trying to figure out the best way to test aerially. We could use water bottles with water, heated to the correct temperature. Right now however, we need to figure out if this is going to be the best technology to use, because the set-up might prove to be a little difficult. First we would need to mount the camera with Sugru (not very difficult).  However figuring out how to make the camera take the photo or live feed a stream might be difficult. It looks like right now our options are either to try and open the camera and wire something into it that could stream the feed (not sure if this is possible), or we can start looking at other technology. One option that Ben and I discussed early on in the year is Flir One Thermal Vision. However the website for the technology is very poor so finding information has proved difficult, however it is basically an attachment to a smartphone that displays thermal image.

Latitude and longitude for the the yellow point on the map below for the internet:



Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 3.29.12 PM

Imaging from the Top of Campus

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We did lots more testing with the Fluke Thermal imaging camera. We tested various objects and different distances in the building, including down the Stanley hall which proved even more difficult (most likely because the lighting makes the hall warmer and we were just detecting our cell phones). From the roof of Dennis we played around with manual settings and tried detecting different things (mostly other people). It works well! The battery also lasted the whole time we were up there. Next we can look at something that is the same size and temperature as the birds we will be looking at. One idea is to microwave water in bottle to the temperature we want because that can be consistently replicated and we can know what the temperature should be. Another idea is to use the camera to look at some squirrels on campus which might be good for testing small, moving objects.

Oli emailed Charlie back with answers to our questions from earlier. The two species that we will be surveying are the Arctic Terns and the Eiders (waterfowl). I sent Bernard an email asking him if we should also put energy into surveying the Limosa limosa which is vulnerable to loss of breeding sites. In the email I sent I also asked if he thought there were any other species that might be worth surveying. The Eider is a larger duck-like bird that is fairly common in Iceland and used for down. Apparently they are all around Skalanes. I have read some papers on them, but I need some more information about where exactly in Skalanes. Are they near domesticated? Because if they are using human shelters or are in some other way larger affected by human activity, then a survey will be hard if we are trying to get an accurate survey on their natural breeding grounds.

A Higher Elevation

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In dealing with tScreen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.52.53 AMhe issue of improving internet at Skalanes I did some research into the topography between the Skalanes lodge and the ferry station where the internet antenna is. I used google earth to draw a line from the ferry station to the lodge. It turns out that the are some mountains over 2,000ft in between which could be a large Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.08.31 PMobstacle in the implementation of a balloon. Although the signal ‘curves’ it still seems like it would be hard to make the internet here more reliable this way. The screenshot on the left shows the topographic 3D map from the ferry station, looking down the fiord towards Skalanes.

Next I looked for the telephone wire running to Skalanes which, I believe, is in the google earth image on the right.
A few more things about arctic terns:

average mass is 100g

105.63 F mean body temperature according to Body Temperatures of Antarctic Birds Carl R. Eklund (1942)

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 3.13.12 PM
Birds: Winged and Feathered Animals by Suzanne Slade and Kristin West

Thermal Camera and the Internet Issue

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We finally have our hands on the Fluke thermal imaging camera! It is very exciting because we can start to test out our theories and protocols to figure out something that will work.  I have read the manual which was semi helpful because I found that it measures infrared energy radiated based on two factors: the surface temperature of the object and the emissivity of the surface. This camera is not used normally for living things but it should work based on how it detects energy however focusing in on the small birds might be difficult in getting an exact temperature reading. After charging it up we turned it on and are definitely able to detect humans so the next step is to look at some squirrels and then bird of similar size and temperature to the birds we will be looking at.


The other issue I have started to work on is the internet problem at Skalanes. Basically I need to find the point at which a balloon would need to be elevated in order to be in direct line of sight of the ferry station. In order to do this I am going to first find the elevation of Skalanes, The antena at the ferry station and the mountains in between using the information we have, google earth and ArcGIS.

Skalanes Nesting Birds

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After receiving Bernard Lundie’s information, I was able to make headway in nesting birds. He sent me a complete document that lists the birds he know that have nested around Skalanes including waterfowl, grouse, waders and passerines. Eider (waterfowl) and Arctic Terns seemed to be most common in terms of nesting. There is an extensive list, so know narrowing down a specific research question involving the survey of nesting birds will be key, because there are so many species. Do we look just more extensively at nesting arctic terns or do we just survey nest totals in the area, disregarding species. I also spoke with Earlham’s ornithologist, Wendy Tori and she sent me several papers on arctic terns. We talked a little bit about methods but she has never done anything quite like this. The final challenge this week has been getting the thermo camera. Still an issue that might take some more time.

Testing and nesting?

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This week I started to look into what we have and what we need in more detail, as well as doing some more research. I tried out the Nikon range finder that the department has in different scenarios and from different distances. I also emailed the necessary person to check out the thermo camera that we have. I read some more papers as well on thermography in the natural sciences, especially in birds. Finally, I looked into different websites on Icelandic birds especially in Skalanes. The issue with this is that there is a lot of information on birds you can see in the area at different times of year, but not a whole lot of information on nesting birds, including which birds nest there and when they nest. The information must be somewhere but it will take a little more research. I looked into the Arctic Tern as well, which turns out to be a medium sized tern but hopefully that will not be an issue.


Information about arctic terns: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Arctic_Tern/lifehistory

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