Go East, EC

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Today was a combination of exploring, testing and traveling. This morning we briefed the group on what will take place the next few days that we spend working at the glacier Sólheimajökull. Then we packed up and checked out of the B&B Guesthouse after a lovely stay. A subset of us worked on the drones and elevation platforms, while others of us were took one last hike on the island. After boarding the ferry, we drove east on route 1 to Vik, our destination for the next few days.

I was able to hike a very fun steep path up to a cliff top where we got a fantastic view of the island. We had to use a rope to climb a steep slope of scree, but the views were worth it!

A great view of the lava flow from Eldfell in the 1970s eruption.


Intrepid scree hikers – Faith, Emi and Neil


Here you can see the ferry coming into the island. The white “cloud” is actually the icecap Mýrdalsjökull on the mainland.


After hiking, we all got on the ferry to head back to Iceland.

Ferry back to the mainland


Goodbye Vestmannaeyjar (Vestmann Islands)!


We drove past Sólheimajökull on our way to Vik. This is the first major science stop. In the next few days, we will be hiking on the glacier itself to measure its elevation and calculate the volume of its snout. We will also be collecting soil samples from a variety of locations surrounding the glacier. DNA will be extracted from the soil and we will sequence it to determine what types of bacteria are living in each sample. This will tell us how Icelandic soils recover from glacial coverage over the years. I’m excited to begin!

Walkin on some big rocks

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 Hello from Heimaey! Yesterday was a big day as it was our first one whippin out the elevation platforms. We split into two groups and collected elevation data on two volcanoes (!!!) (Eldfell and Helgafell) and then on this craaaazy mountain we climbed and saw a bunch of kittiwake nests in the cliff on the other side. Mindblowing. It was like the mountain was just cradling us and the kittiwakes were all just zooming by. Shoutout to Anisha, who faced her fear of birds bigtime.


Also this sculpture was really cool.

Gonna add more later. Gotta go hiking.



So Long Reykjavik, Hello Heimaey!

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Today, we said goodbye to Igdlo, the hostel in Reykjavik, and boarded our vans to head for our next stop, the island of Heimaey! Our day began at 08.00 with breakfast, and we loaded our bags and ourselves into the vans for the drive at 09.30. After about an hour and a half, we arrived at the ferry port from which we departed for the island. Once at the port, we played some enjoyable card games while waiting for the 12:45 ride. The ferry had two levels and a deck above, allowing us to appreciate the open air of the water, and see the amazing islands as we went past.

After arriving on Heimaey, we walked up into the town and arrived at B&B, the place we are staying on the island. We split up into rooms and prepared for an afternoon at the Eldheimar museum. At the museum, which is within walking distance of B&B, we learned about the 1973 eruption on the island, seeing some of the buried buildings on the island, and video footage of the lava spewing from Eldfell. We left in waves, with some people going off to test various things such as our drone, and others playing soccer.


Afterwards we came back to the hostel, and had a delicious burrito dinner prepared for us by Eli, Ahsan, and Lilly.

This was the end of our structured program for the day, after which we all went to a local establishment to watch the friendly match between Iceland and Norway. We were joined there by a wide variety of locals, and got to experience a large part of their culture.

Tomorrow we’ll explore the volcanoes on the island, using our built-in-house elevation platforms to get measurements for the two most recent volcanoes, helgafell and eldfell.

The Golden Circle

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First of June, first truly full day in Iceland, and a busy one at that. We started with a somewhat hectic breakfast at the hostel but eventually herded everyone together and hit the road as tourists following the Golden Circle. We started off visiting the Hellisheiði Power Plant. Iceland is positioned over the Mid-Atlantic ridge, hence the many volcanoes in Iceland, and geothermal power plants such as the one we visited harness the energy from the hot water to provide electricity and hot water to Reykjavik and other parts of Iceland. After a cloudy start to the day, the winds blew them away and revealed the sun as we visited the Kerið crater. Kerið was a volcano which erupted then collapsed after it’s magma chamber emptied.

We trekked a path that encircles the crater, tried not to be blown over by the wind, and then walked down to the lake at the bottom. A parking lot lunch was enjoyed by all, as we munched on sandwiches and GORP.

Then we drove on to visit the huge waterfall Gullfoss. With the sun shining we were able to see a double rainbow in the mist!

We planned to visit Geysir (from the Icelandic verb geysa, “to gush”, the verb from Old Norse) but we’d spent so much time at other sites and still needed to get to Þinvellir. But through the van windows  we were still able to observe (mostly) steam coming from the ground as we drove past. At Þinvellir we tested out the drones and got them flying before exploring the rift valley which was the original site for the Althing, the Icelandic parliament. Here we were able to see the results of continental drift in person: faults (cracks) from the separation of the North American and Eurasian plates. It was a lot of fun walking around and great weather for gazing at the glaciers in the distance (thanks to great weather)!

Travel to Iceland

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Hello blog following friends! Welcome to the first blog post about the Icelandic Field Studies (IFS) program 2018. My name is Madeline and I am a sophomore environmental sustainability major at Earlham. In our IFS program this year, we have 17 people including students from all classes and many majors, and four faculty leaders who have a plethora of different skills to offer. We have all been working hard on developing and refining our research projects for the past few weeks and I am excited to summarize them here as well as give you a look at our first day in country.

There a few major interests in our group this year: Biology, computer science, geology/glaciology, and sustainability. Within these groups, there are subgroups who are working on various projects within the above disciplines. I am most acquainted with the biology side of things, so I’ll start there. There are three different projects happening under the bio umbrella. The first is on DNA sampling in soil samples. This project is hoping to gather data on the changing bacterial communities in the soil over time as glaciers have melted and the soil has become exposed to the air. This can help us create a timeline of areas based on the bacterial communities present there and help us examine how glacial recession affects bacterial communities. The next project is going to trap insects in fake flowers and monitor the pollinator populations in the area of study. The last project in biology on the effect of Lupine on the reproductive success or gametic investment (depending on if we find hatchlings or eggs) of Arctic Tern nests at our area of study. Lupine is an invasive, nitrogen-fixing plant that was introduced to Iceland to improve the soil. We will collect data on nests in areas with Lupine and areas without Lupine. This project will also be helpful in monitoring the Tern populations at our area of study.

The sustainability folks are building an efficient as possible mock greenhouse to see if a larger one would be plausible in the future. There will be more about this project in a later blog post.

The computer science team are interwoven in every other discipline while also programming drones that will capture images of many of the places we are going. These will be helpful in making GIS maps later and monitoring how the areas change. There will also be more description of these projects in later blog posts.

Those have been our research focuses for the past three weeks, but today we finally arrived in country and will be able to begin working on them. We spent all of May 30thpacking and finishing up last minute things in preparation for the trip. Then, at 8 p.m. we loaded two 12 passenger vans with ourselves and our large amount of luggage and made our way to the Cincinnati airport. After checking our luggage and moving through security, we got on our 12:30 a.m. flight to Reykjavik. We had a six-hour flight and arrived in Reykjavik at about 11:30 a.m. Iceland time which is 7:30 a.m in Indiana. We then made our way to the hostel we will be staying at for the next few nights and split into shopping groups to gather more things we needed. We ended the day with a delicious stir-fry dinner and are looking forward to hitting the hay after many hours of traveling. Tune in tomorrow for another exciting installment!

Welcome, and we’re almost gone…

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Welcome to Earlham’s 2018 Icelandic Field Studies Epic program blog. Seventeen of us are packing-up to leave campus tonight, three more join us in Iceland. Over the next couple of days we’ll post news of our travels to Iceland, a bit about the people in our group, the science we do, and our daily escapades (complete with pictures!). Stay tuned.




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