I began my journey to Iceland in Logan Airport in Boston, where I met up with the other American students some of whom I was meeting for the first time. We were all traveling as part of UMass Dartmouth to participate in a research program for arctic microbiology. The excitement and anticipation was radiating from all of us and we were super anxious to be on the plane and in the sky on our way to Iceland and to meet the other students and professors we would be working with.
Once we arrived at the University of Akureyri, our new home for the next two weeks, the work started. We spent three days exploring various parts of Northern Iceland in search of microbes belonging to extreme environments. The field sample and tourist stops we made included a hot spring at a greenhouse farm, Godafoss waterfall, the National Park, among other beautiful locations. Before arriving in Iceland I had no idea that most of the land was desert like. I quickly learned otherwise, belonging to the astrobiology group whose purpose was to search for microbes within the Mars analogues of Iceland in hopes to make comparisons between life that exists here on Earth and what similar life forms could be on Mars.
With the help of my partner, Maria, we were able to take samples from the soil of a Mars analog using a bulb planter tool, a shovel, and sterile bags to fill with the soil. We took two samples from the soil surface and two from about 15 cm deep in the soil. These samples were later used in the lab in order to figure out what microbes were present.
Once in the lab, all of the students realized we belonged to different scientific backgrounds. There were students from Reading University in England, EAFIT in Colombia, UnAk in Akureyri, as well as Germany. Learning about the other students experiences and the differences between classes and school in general was very interesting and eye-opening. Some students had more experience than others and a lot of us were performing some biological tests for the first time ever during this trip. It was easy to learn from each other and to really appreciate that I was given this opportunity for research, travel, and cultural learning. I knew going into this trip that I was going to learn a ton, but I didn’t realize the connections and friendships I would make with people from all over the world.
Check out a video we made here.