We are a group of freshwater ecologists from the Biology Department at St. Catherine University in Saint Paul, Minnesota studying the effect of temperature and nutrient availability on metabolism and nitrogen fixation in geothermally active streams in the Hengill region of Iceland. This is a collaborative research effort with our partners from Montana State University, the University of Alabama, the University of Iceland, and the Institute of Freshwater Fisheries in Iceland. See links to our collaborators labs below.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Iceland Summer 2015 in 5 minutes

The Fixation on Ice crew has been back in the United States for almost two months now! Time sure flies! Sample analysis in the laboratory is in full swing, and we have been working on some video production to help visually accentuate our experience! Below is a synopsis of our summer in Iceland in just over five minutes. Take a journey to Iceland with us as we collect samples, explore the country, and have the best time of our lives! Stay tuned for further videos that will include audio from team members. 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Birthday Bonanza

Taking in the views of the glacial lagoon on our 20th and 21st birthdays!

The undergraduates participating in Fixation on Ice 2015, Bree and Abbi, share the same birthday - July 24th! We were born 365 days apart and to celebrate, we chose to take a trip to Jökulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in southern Iceland. The drive was filled with many “oohs and ahhs,” but watching the floating ice in the glacial lagoon was the highlight of the trip.  In addition to the glacial lagoon, we saw puffins for the first time, walked along a black sand beach on the Southernmost tip of Iceland, and made a few extra stops to admire the amazing waterfalls.  It was truly a breathtaking experience - one we will never forget! It was by far the BEST birthday EVER!

Skógafoss waterfall

July has certainly lived up to our every expectation as the best month ever. Filled with lots of memories and stories to share, we couldnt have asked for a better birthday month! 

Nature’s Fireworks

This glorious photo of the sunset was taken the night of July 4th, near the harbor and downtown Reykjavik. The photo barely captures the beauty we observed with our own eyes. While we are rarely up to see midnight sun set here in Iceland during the summer, we were excited to see that nature provided us with fireworks more extravagant than anything we have ever seen before! It was quite a sight for us to see, especially since our families back in the U.S. were celebrating Independence Day. Iceland - thank you for the spectacular show!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Beyond Google

Long gone are the days of the dictionary, encyclopedia, handheld map, and textbook. When curious minds inquire, they now instead proclaim, “I will Google it”. Google happens to be one of the most widely used search engines in the world. As a highly inquisitive individual myself, I often turn to my iPhone on a daily basis to enter something into Google. After all, knowing how and where to find information is becoming a more important skill than memorization and the internet has made information more accessible than ever before.  What has really struck me about our Iceland research is that the questions we are asking are in fact “beyond Google".

Bree and Abbi preparing chambers

Now, that might sound like common sense – of course you are doing research to gain new knowledge, generate information, and maybe even create paradigm shifts. But this reality hit me like a brick. What do you mean Google no longer contains the answers to my questions about nitrogen fixation, ecological stoichiometry, or metabolic theory?! Of course much is known about these topics and previous research has guided and shaped our questions and hypotheses, but many of the answers remain in the water.

So here I am in Iceland, going “beyond Google.” Our research is in full force as we strive to understand how important biogeochemical processes drive both the structure and function of stream ecosystems. I have learned that the work we have embarked on will provide novel information and that our findings will ultimately shape thinking, teaching, policy, and ultimately add to the wide world of Google. That is all for now! Stay tuned for some exciting results that will take you beyond Google!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

One small step for ARA, one giant leap for MIMS and N15

Not a bad day to measure nitrogen fixation on stream 9
We did it! Bree, Delor, Jill and I measured nitrogen fixation rates using acetylene reduction assays (ARA), membrane inlet mass spectrometry (MIMS), and N15 assimilation in 5 streams in the Hengill Valley in Iceland this past week.  Bree has a recent blog post that describes the ARA method, so be sure to check it out.  Now, we have added two additional methods to our research.  The days flew by and I learned a lot about each method and the various steps involved. I enjoyed seeing how the methods differ, but also how each one can help us to determine how much nitrogen fixation is really occurring in these streams!  I am excited to see what the results will tell us once we process our samples. Waiting for them will be the hardest part  - even worse than enduring the black flies in the field!

Stream 11 - finished!

Our task this coming week is to  sample the channel experiment using our three methods once again to measure nitrogen fixation. We will use the same techniques and determination that we had on the natural streams, but in the channel experiment our equipment will be "mini-sized" as we will be sampling from pretty tiny artificial streams - but 30 of them! We are all rested, hydrated, and ready for any weather as we gear up for this next major sampling effort.