This year, we focus the course on northern tundra habitats, making the NW-Iceland county of Húnaþing vestra, with its relatively easily accessible rolling highlands with heathlands, peat bogs, and fjell fields, ideal for sampling. The first few days of the course, we will therefore be based in Hrútafjörður, taking day trips for sampling. The field trips in this area that we're considering include (note that the precise destinations may change!):
Does the microbiota of mosses and grasses change with altitude? From the village of Hvammstangi, we will hike up the mountain to a small lake, Kirkjuhvammsvatn, where we will sample nearby mosses and grasses and then follow a transect along the river canyon back to town, sampling along the way.
Endophytic microbes from seashore to heath. From the farm Heggstaðir, we will hike to the tip of Heggstaðanes where we will sample mosses, grasses, and crowberry plants from the seashore to the heathlands on top of the peninsula.
Effects of reforestry plantations on endophytic microbes in mosses, grasses and lichens. At the farm Brekkulækur, we will sample Peltigera lichens, woolly moss, and grasses at and near the forest plantation patch. We will then move to a little-used track across the ridge between the Hrútafjörður and Miðfjörður valleys where we will take control samples from the heathland.
Once we've taken all the samples and done initial labwork at the temporary field lab, we will move on to the University of Akureyri in central-northern Iceland, where we will carry out most of the labwork in the course and attend lectures for the remaining week-and-a-half. There will, however, be opportunities for exploring the surroundings, probably including a sight-seeing trip to the Mývatn area, one of the main tourist attractions in northern Iceland. Remember to bring your swim-suits!