Lia Howard (’15) shows off her research at AGU

Lia at the AGU conference

Lia Howard presenting her poster at the annual AGU meeting in San Francisco

In a packed poster session where Jon had to stay clear to make room for all the interested visitors, Lia Howard presented her on-going senior honors thesis work to the masses of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco, California.  Her poster entitled, “Analysis of hourly temperature ground data on the Trinity College Campus, Hartford, Connecticut USA” was part of the “Global Environmental Change” theme session that focused on quantifying temperature change distributions.  Lia showed how the temperature probes, which are located in a well between the soccer and football fields, measured an increase over a seven year span of approximately 0.25⁰C/year. Lia received some excellent feedback on her work and will be exploring some suggested statistical tools that could be used to the over 300,000 temperature recordings from the well.

 

2015 ENVS Field Trip is Taking Shape

Utah_hikeProfessors Morrison and Geiss met yesterday and hashed out a tentative itinerary for our upcoming trip to Utah. It will include two days in Arches National Park, hikes across slickrock landscapes, a two-day rafting adventure through Westwater Canyon and so much more that we don’t want to tell you yet. Yes, we will be camping in some awesome spots. Yes, we will have great food. Everything else – we’ll see.

To go on the trip send a brief e-mail to Christoph Geiss telling us why you want to go and why we should take you.

Chickadee Marathon

chickadee marathon 10_28_2014Today Prof. Morrison and her students, including ENVS majors Isabelle Moore and Adam Hammershoy successfully banded 6 Black-capped Chickadees.  The little black and white noise makers were captured at the Mary Hooker Environmental Magnet School in Hartford.  This activity was part of Prof. Morrison’s bi-annual bird banding program that includes 6th through 8th graders at several Hartford schools.

Summer Research Roundup – Part 2

Justin in the White Mountains

Justin in the White Mountains

White Mountain National Forest clear-cut soils project
Jon Gourley and his research students entered year two of monitoring soils in the White Mountains of New Hampshire after clear-cutting.  Two of the three sites have now been completely cut with hopefully the third cleared by this fall.   Justin Beslity and Daniel Hong (both thesis students of the class of ’15) travelled to the Hogsback site on the western slopes of Blueberry Mountain and found what was once a thick transitional forest of birch, beach, spruce and fir to be completely cleared (see photo).  Samples from the O and B horizons were taken and are currently being processed for nutrients as well as mercury.  The team’s site on the eastern side of the forest in Maine, which was the first to be cut last fall, has the first set of pre and post cut results.  They recorded  some slight decreases in calcium and aluminum, two critical soil nutrients for new forest growth.

Summer Research Roundup – Part 1

The weed lab crew in the field.

The weed lab crew in the field.

Four months ago the summer 2014 field season started for the Weed Lab crew, and despite what the picture shows (Tracy and Dr. D not pictured) we got a ton of work done at the Knox Preserve in Mystic. All told 850 soil samples were collected, an especially mean feat considering that half the site is densely forested. Most of the summer was spent analyzing moisture, salinity and carbon levels in the collected soils. But twice during the summer we re-visited sampling plots established last fall to monitor plant community responses to the removal of invasive plants by measuring plant species diversity, abundance, canopy cover and changes in the morphology of specific species. We worked hard, had some fun too, and now have a ton of data to start sifting through!

ENVS kicks off the semester with a pre-orientation program

At Riverside Park

At Riverside Park

For the first time the ENVS program offered a pre-orientation program centered around the water quality in Hartford’s public parks. However, students will not only explore Hartford’s rivers, they will also get an opportunity to sample some of Hartford’s restaurants. As it turns out, our program was the only one that did NOT treat their participants to delicious Mather food, but took them to Riverside Park for a nice little barbecue. Joan forgot the veggie burgers, but luckily she was the only vegetarian of the group, and we fed her plenty of watermelon and potato chips.

Members of the Class of 2018

Members of the Class of 2018

Some of the younger members of the Class of 2018

Some of the younger members of the Class of 2018

Tomorrow the students will explore several of Hartford’s parks, hike up to Heublein Tower for lunch, and take the first water quality measurements.

2014 Iceland Pictures

at Alftavatn

at Alftavatn

Just before he went off on his (very well deserved) vacation to Maine and New Hampshire, Christoph managed to get most of his pictures organized and put them on-line.

Go and check them out here.

If you would like to share your pictures – either send them to me (and I’ll turn them into a web gallery) or, even better in this cloud based day and age: add a comment to this post which includes a link to your images._30

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 4 – back to Höfn and on to Mosfellsbær

Waiting for our super jeep - Illikambur

Waiting for our super jeep – Illikambur

Lutz decides to hitch a ride with us back to Höfn this morning, so we hike back up the steep trail to Illikambur and wait for the super jeep. This time we’re picked up Gulli, who drives a Nissan Pathfinder with gigantic tires. Sissi, our driver on the way in, had a Landrover with pretty big tires, but this monster is actually hard to get into.

View south from Illikambur

View south from Illikambur

Into the river we go!

Into the river we go!

... and (hopefully) out the other side.

… and (hopefully) out the other side.

Big tires make for faster cars :-) and we cruise back to Höfn, where we set up camp in out old spot, in no time. Not much has been happening since we left. Höfn celebrated its annual Lobsterfest, so the campground had quite a few locals with their campers, the town was decked out in orange balloons, and a few drunk people were sobering up on the lawn next to our tent. That was pretty much it.

Not much change in the harbor of Höfn.

Not much change in the harbor of Höfn.

We have lunch at  Kaffihornið (free Wifi and excellent dinner options as well), visit the local pool, where we hang out mostly in the hot pots, and enjoy a lobster roll down by the harbor. Icelandic lobster is OK, but I have to say: Maine lobster is way, way better.

Hafnarbúðin - home of our lobster dinner.

Hafnarbúðin – home of our lobster dinner.

Vatnajökull late at night

Vatnajökull late at night

We have a second dinner with Lutz before heading out for one last stroll through town. The clouds cleared a bit and the light over the glacier was most impressive. The next day we take a taxi to the airport and descend back into the clouds of Reykjavik. With no specific plan we drove out to Hveragerði, but saw Egill, Alex and Sieglinde’s truck parked by the side of the road. They were sitting in a local dive enjoying meat soup, and since it was raining we wasted no time and joined them for a big bowl and unlimited coffee.

Egill parked in front of Littla Kaffistofan - home of excellent meat soup.

Egill parked in front of Littla Kaffistofan – home of excellent meat soup.

After a few hours we head out to Hveragerði, but bad weather and a lousy campground make us return to Reykjavik and on to Mosfellsbær. Here the campground is not much better, but we’ve already set up camp, so we decided to stay. Luckily, the nearby Hotel Laxness has a bar and we spend most of the day watching the World Cup.

Lupines started this bolg, so lupines shall end it... ... sunset in Mosfellsbær .

Lupines started this bolg, so lupines shall end it…
… sunset in Mosfellsbær .

The trip to Ljónsoræfi was a success despite the rain. Trails are steep at the south end, but if one starts in the north and ends near Höfn it should be more than doable. The hike leads through plenty of Arctic terrain and has great views of the glaciers. Our three days felt a lot like the Laugavegur 30 years ago, so we might have a change in venue when we return back to Iceland three years from now.

back to Víðibrekkusker

 

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 3 – Víðibrekkusker

For the first time in two weeks the weather is really nice. Not just a hint of blue somewhere near the horizon, but real sunshine for most of the day. We are celebrating by climbing Víðibrekkusker, the mountain on the other side of the river.

Waterfall on Kollumúli

Waterfall on Kollumúli

Icelandic killer sheep ambush.

Icelandic killer sheep ambush.

An impressive dike along the way.

An impressive dike along the way.

As expected, the path starts out pretty steep, but zig-zags around the mountain and we gain elevation pretty quickly without too much effort. The views are stunning, and we enjoy the nice weather. Lunch on top of the mountain turns out to be an almost unpleasant, warm affair. It’s a good day to work on our tan.

About halfway up Víðibrekkusker

About halfway up Víðibrekkusker

The peak consisted of rather sharp gravel.

The peak consisted of rather sharp gravel.

On the way down we ran into a herd of reindeer who eyed us suspiciously before disappearing over the next ridge.

Reindeer ambush.

Reindeer ambush.

Jon high above the Múlaskáli hut...

Jon high above the Múlaskáli hut. ..

... and crossing the Öxarfellsá on the wobble hanging bridge.

… and crossing the Öxarfellsá on the wobble hanging bridge.

The evening turned out sunny and warm. Múlaskáli gets its water through a long black pipe from high up in the valley, and the sunshine warmed up the cold water in the pipe. We all enjoyed a free warm shower. Nigel told us about the Egiilssel hut, which is very nice, while Lutz spent the day hiking up the Tröllakrókar. We all had dinner on the deck.

Sheep trails on Kollumúli

Sheep trails on Kollumúli

We enjoyed the sunshine while it lasted. Later that evening clouds came rolling in from the South, making for good photographs, but promising another gray day for tomorrow.

Evening clouds.

Evening clouds.

back to the Tröllakrókar
onwards to Höfn and Reykjavik

Gray is the New Black: Epilogue 2 – Tröllakrókar and Egilssel

on our way to the Tröllakrókar

on our way to the Tröllakrókar

Today’s weather is not bad – not bad at all. The clouds are high, it is not raining and there are a few shreds of blue sky. We head out for a day hike to the Tröllakrókar, a series of impressive hoodoos. While already there we also plan to check out the trail to the Egilssel hut, one of the huts along our planned  Ljónsoræfi. So far the hiking was pretty rough. Trails are faint, maps are bad, and the slopes are steep. We’re trying to figure out whether we can do this hike with our students in three years when we intend to return to Iceland.

the famous Tröllakrókar, gigantic hoodoos that formed in volcanic tuff

the famous Tröllakrókar, gigantic hoodoos that formed in volcanic tuff

Now, let's see, what's for lunch? Dried fish, bítafiskur, more dried fish, ahhh, here we go: chocolate!

Now, let’s see, what’s for lunch? Dried fish, bítafiskur, more dried fish, ahhh, here we go: chocolate!

The ascent is steep, we fist follow the river along a sheep trail before we ascent the scree slopes. With day packs it is not too bad, with students we’d go the other way, so even with big packs it should not be too much of a problem. Around noon we arrive at the Tröllakrókar. Christoph takes pictures, while Jon has lunch.

Nigel, who proved to be quite a character, decided to do an overnight hike to the Egilssel hut. We meet him at the Tröllakrókar and, since he is noot the best navigator in the world, we accompany him across the ridge until the hut is in sight. The mountain tops are still covered in snow and Christoph’s boots get soaked once again.

Nigel and Jon at the Tröllakrókar

Nigel and Jon at the Tröllakrókar

On our way to Egilssel

On our way to Egilssel

Frozen lakes and ...

Frozen lakes and …

... patterned ground on our way to Egilssel. We are definitely in the Arctic!

… patterned ground on our way to Egilssel. We are definitely in the Arctic!

Soon we cross a big snow field from where the path to the hut is obvious. We bif Nigel goodbye and return to our hut at Múlaskáli.

More frozen lakes (in June) and the hut at Egilssel.

More frozen lakes (in June) and the hut at Egilssel.

The evening brings a few new guests to the hut. First we watch a lonely hiker descend the trail from Illikambur. He is slow, and Jon predicts he is a German photographer – no idea where he comes up with that. Well, Lutz is German, but he’s just slow, after spending the last two days hiking in from the ring road.

The first batch of 200 sheep and 580 lambs.

The first batch of 200 sheep and 580 lambs.

The sheep are old hands and have no problem crossing the bridge.

The sheep are old hands and have no problem crossing the bridge.

Next come a bunch of sheep and their shepherds. The sheep get trucked and make their way down the steep trail from Illikambur. We get to talk to the shepherds, who encourage us to use the hut – for free, Iceland is expensive enough …
They also consider an empty flag pole a wasted flag pole, and since they didn’t bring an Icelandic flag …

No empty flag pole no more ...

No empty flag pole no more …

back to our first day at Múlaskáli
onward!