Örveruvistfræði Norðurslóða

An article regarding this year’s Microbial Ecology summer course.

Rannsóknastöðin Rif — Rif research

Dagana 22. til 24. júní s.l. heimsótti okkur stór hópur í tengslum við námskeiðið Örveruvistfræði Norðurslóða sem haldið er af Háskólanum á Akureyri í samstarfi við Háskólann í Reading, Bretlandi.  Í ár komu jafnframt nemendur frá Háskólanum í Massachusetts, Dartmouth og Háskólanum í Medellín í Kólumbíu. Nemendahópurinn taldi í heildina 29 manns og var honum stýrt af 16 manna teymi kennara og starfsmanna.  Það var því ansi mikið um að vera á Raufarhöfn þessa daga en hópurinn hafði bækistöð annars vegar í Hreiðrinu og hins vegar í Grunnskólanum.

Námskeiðið samanstóð af vettvangsferð, rannsóknarstofuvinnu, fyrirlestrum og verkefnavinnu tengdri náttúrulegri örverubíótu Norðurslóða. Í ár voru sérstaklega teknar fyrir örveruvistgerðir á Melrakkasléttu, í Öxarfirði og Jökulsárgljúfri ásamt fleiri stöðum.  Meðal örveruvistkerfa sem könnuð voru beint eða óbeint má nefna ýmis jaðarvistkerfi á borð við jökulís, hafís, súra hveri og basíska. Einnig var hugað að örverulífríki í jarðvegi móa og mela og í árvatni.

Markmið námskeiðsins eru þau helst…

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Hunting the Holuhraun Eruption in Norther Iceland

The Icelandic Metrological Office predicted an evening relatively free of cloud cover for the evening of September 12th so my wife and I jumped into the car and drive east hoping to find a clear vantage point to catch a glimpse of the lava field at Holuhraun. Additionally, a double CME had hit so at the very least there was a pretty good geomagnetic storm brewing overhead. With a good shot at catching a glimpse of the fissure eruption at Holuhraun and a near perfect shot at catching a good show of the Northern Lights, what was there to lose?

We drove around on a back road to Mývatn just off of Route 483 and found some truly stellar displays of the Northern Lights which had been visible as twilight fell.

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Not finding any evidence of the eruption being visible, we turned around and went south. Driving down route 483 towards the ominously red sky, we eventually landed at a farm in Svartárkot where we were greeted with a road closed sign.

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Not wanting to piss off the cops and risk getting arrested, we turned around and took a few photos on the way back.

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An abundance of visitors

The research group has been blessed with a sudden burst of visiting Erasmus students and a visiting professor from Germany! All in all, we’ve got a total of six (6!) Erasmus students working on a variety of projects involving thermophiles. With any luck we’ll be able to clear the back log of environmental enrichments from last summer’s bioprospecting while kicking the ball down the road on a number of research projects.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Two undergrads from Finland working on the metabolism of Thermoanaerobacter strains (and a few Thermoanaerobacterium, Caloramator, and random other strains from class Clostridia)
  • One MSc student from Slovenia working on characterizing a handful of strains (that are likely new species) from our lab (including members of Paenibacillus, Thermoanaerobacter, and Thermoanaerobacterium) and bioethanol using lignocellulosic biomass with our crown king: Thermonaerobacter strain J1
  • Two BSc students from Montenegro working on characterizing some of our aerobic thermophiles from last summer and finalizing some enrichment cultures of thermophilic anaerobes
  • and one Lithuanian that will arrive in June (hopefully) that will likely end up working on something or other (TBD!)

Hopefully these guys and gals will have a blast while playing with these bugs.