Summer 2021 Fulbright – Settling into Iceland – My first 21 days

Hello world!

You can read about my adventures here, follow me on Twitter (@drsrbayer) AND some of my (picture) updates can be found on Instagram @skylarrb26 and our new Roger Williams University Shellfish Program Instagram account @RWU_Shellfish_Program.

Due to the pandemic, my three month Arctic-NSF Fulbright that was scheduled to take place in 2020 was pushed off until this year. So, fully vaccinated, I flew to Iceland the evening of May 9th, arriving May 10th – 4 hours ahead of East Coast time (GMT).

Landing in Iceland was so cool because I could see the smoke coming from the active volcano not far away from the airport. The volcano is located near Grindavík.

After arriving and being tested for COVID-19 at the airport and a 45 minute bus ride into Reykjavík, my collaborator, Jónas, picked me up from the bus stop and dropped me off at the apartment I’ll be staying in during my time here. My roommate was out at sea but would be back later this month.

May 10th was also the day the Iceland Fulbright Commission had an online zoom symposium of all the fellows that have been in Iceland in 2021! You can watch everyone’s presentations here.

It was so amazing getting to listen to all the really interesting projects that were being conducted in Iceland. I presented on the work I will be conducting this summer on Iceland scallop population data.

Screenshot of my cover slide from my talk on May 10th.

The next day Jónas picked me up and we headed to Hafnarfjörður where Hafrannsóknastofnun (the English name is Marine and Freshwater Research Institute) which most folks just call “Hafró”, where I met a few colleagues for the summer and got oriented. I even got to meet some of the fish in the lobby.

The lumpfish and arctic char are grown at an aquaculture facility in Grindavík that I hope to visit while I’m here in Iceland.

One thing that’s really cool about Iceland is that even its currency has sea life on it. A lot of the invertebrates are on coins that have since been retired, but there are quite a lot of finfish.

Living in Reykjavík, I had to figure out the bus systems so I could head to the Directorate of Immigration to submit my paperwork to receive my visa and my kennitala (somewhat like a social security number here in Iceland) so I could open a bank account. The bus isn’t so bad, but I’ve missed a connections here and there. Luckily to get to Hafró, I just take one bus and have a gorgeous walk along the harbor where I can see the institute from the bus stop.

As an aside, there’s a really great little coffee shop on the way to the institute, called Pallett. They grow lots of plants inside their front window (image below).

Dr. Priscilla Barnes, another Fulbright scholar here for the summer, and I decided we would go visit the active volcano! You can see the latest 3D model of the volcano here.

I took the bus out to the suburbs and picked up a rental car. After a nice lunch in Reykjavik we headed out to Grindavík and hiked about 3 miles to the volcano. We were at most 1/3 of a mile or so from the main crater, it was so amazing!

Meeting the other Fulbright students and scholars here in Iceland has been such a delight. They all do really interesting research and have been helpful these last few weeks getting a perspective on Iceland as an American. The Iceland Fulbright Commission has also been incredibly helpful in getting myself settled in a new country.

Iceland recently decided masks are no longer required in restaurants and other establishments.On one of the most blustery nights since I’ve been here, a few of us met up for dinner at the Laundromat Cafe (where you can actually do your laundry while you drink and/or eat). It was the first normal restaurant experience I’ve add in over a year (pre-pandemic).

Image of Farida, Priscilla, Sophia and Skylar at the Landromat Cafe with a map of Europe behind us.

Last week my roommate arrived from a fish survey. It was really cool seeing her ship come in as I was walking to work.

If you’re interested you can track both ships here.

Screenshot of tracking map that this institute has for the ships. Greenland, Iceland and part of northern Europe are included in this screenshot.

I’ll be going out on Bjarni (the smaller ship) next week for a Nephrops (Norway lobster) survey.

While I’ve been at Hafró I’ve met some really interesting people and started learning about their research programs including BIODICE which is a new biodiversity initiative and the research at the Grindavík aquaculture station.

A few other things I’ve gotten to experience these last three weeks:

The Eurovision Song Contest is very popular to watch here in Iceland (at the same level that the Super Bowl is popular in the United States)! It was really a treat to watch the 2021 competition after watching the movie. Here’s the music video version of the song the Iceland band, Daði Freyr & Gagnamagnið, played. I think they came in fourth place overall.

Daði Freyr (Daði & Gagnamagnið) — 10 years official video.

Starting Brazilian jiu jitsu classes at a gym called Mjölnir which is the name of Thor’s hammer. Intimidating to say the least, however they have women’s classes which is relatively rare in jiu jitsu gyms. I’m really excited about taking these classes as women’s only classes are still relatively rare in the jiu jitsu world. These classes are taught in both English and Icelandic so it’s been really interesting learning which Icelandic words are important during our training.

Photograph of the outside of the Mjölnir gym. Image from Mjölnir MMA.

The midnight sun — it has been very hard to transition to sleeping “normal” hours with 24-hour light. At 11 pm at night, there’s still quite a lot of light. People here use blackout curtains and eye masks to get some sleep. Here’s a picture from my friend’s apartment at about 11 pm at night just a week or two ago. It’s only gotten brighter and will continue to do so until after the Summer Solstice in a few weeks.

Now that grades are in and grant deadlines have passed, I’ll be diving into more data analysis and hopefully I’ll be heading on some more weekend adventures in nearby Iceland.

This last weekend, Dr. Sophia Wassermann and her partner took me on a tour of a few amazing sites on the south coast as well as some waterfalls that were just out of this world.

Topics I hope to cover in my next few posts: more marine science (especially scallops), a Nephrops survey, the aquaculture center, the Icelandic language and how much I adore Reykjavík and its abundance of cats and street artwork.

Image of the rainbow painted on Skólavörðustígur (school cairn street) with Hallgrimmskirkja (kirja means church) at the top of the hill. This rainbow is painted for the Pride celebration every year but became permanent in 2019. There is a lot of art painted in the streets here.

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