FSC Fieldwork Courses

The Field Studies Council has created an exciting programme of fieldwork opportunities in Iceland which are suitable for both geographers and scientists and which link closely to the national curriculum.

All courses and materials have been designed and developed by the FSC and all courses are taught by an FSC tutor with strong experience in delivering engaging and enriching outdoor learning experiences in the FSC’s UK centres. All of the investigations can be followed up with resources available from Discover the World Education. This can be incorporated into evening activities during your time in Iceland or on return to the UK.

Both the FSC and Discover the World Education are holders of the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge meaning you can be sure that the courses, and the Iceland itineraries in general, offer high-quality learning outside the classroom experiences that have undergone effective risk management strategies.

Discover the World is also an assured member of the School Travel Forum and all elements of the course have been designed to fulfil the safety requirements stipulated in the STF’s Code of Conduct.

Geography Courses

Water & Carbon Cycles

The River Varma runs along the north-east of Hveragerdi within a small catchment draining the hills above the Horticultural University grounds, where there is a mixture of woodland, grassland and wasteland with shallow soils on young igneous bedrock. The university has a number of ongoing experiments in agricultural practices and ecosystems that make this an ideal location for investigating aspects of the hydrological and carbon cycles within Iceland.
Water cycle data collection will be based on catchment characteristics including infiltration and interception experiments within different land uses, precipitation types and their influences, gradient and aspect of slopes, and secondary information on antecedent conditions and a range of catchment data. The catchment offers opportunities to study a system with similarities and differences to UK examples.
Carbon cycle data collection will focus on carbon sequestration of woodlands, a finite resource in Iceland, using the University’s varied woodland stands to estimate carbon stocks and the impact of Iceland’s climate and northern location on sequestration rates.   
A-Level Curriculum Links: water cycle; carbon cycle, life on earth, energy security  

Volcanoes, Energy and Ecosystems

Evidence of geothermal activity is evident throughout the town of Hveragerdi, not least the sulphurous smell that hangs in the air! The activity is focused at the town’s Geothermal Park where there are boiling mud pools and hot streams. The recent earthquake in 2008 opened up new vents and created new mud pools and hot springs close to the Horticultural University just above the town.
This heat energy has provided a number of unique opportunities for fieldwork in Hveragerdi. The geothermal energy has been exploited in the form of super-heated water from boreholes for use in its agricultural practices and as a source of energy for the town. Local microclimate provides warmer conditions for ecosystems in an otherwise cold North Atlantic island.
There are a number of qualitative opportunities to investigate the impacts of tectonic hazards, notably the 2008 earthquake which has a local exhibition. The impacts of the geothermal activity can be seen in and across different habitats at the Geothermal Park and Horticultural University. Small woodlands and grasslands show evidence of biological stresses and succession in plant communities. Abundance and distribution of biotic factors and abiotic characteristics of microclimates, soils and water can all be measured here.   
A-Level Curriculum Links: tectonic processes; tectonic hazards; hazardous earth; ecosystems under stress

Spaces and Places of Hveragerdi   

Hveragerdi is a town with a population of 2,300 people in the south-west of Iceland, a little less than an hour away from Reykjavik. Known as Iceland’s ‘Green Town’, it is famous for its steam geysers, bubbling mud pools, forests and greenhouses and has opportunities for students to investigate what makes it the ‘place’ it is today through its physical influences from geothermal activity and cultural heritage.   
Students will have opportunities to visit attractions and map physical and human activity across the town. Using quantitative and qualitative fieldwork techniques students will develop a case study of Hveragerdi. The developing demographic, economic and cultural character of the town are in stark contrast to students‘ familiar understanding of place in the UK.
A-Level Curriculum Links: changing places; shaping places; place studies

Contemporary Urban Environments

The urban climate in Reykjavik gives a great opportunity to study patterns of temperature, humidity and wind direction in and across the city and the impacts urban development have on microclimate.
Reykjavik provides a contrasting urban environment that has some innovative examples of sustainable development, especially concerning infrastructure, but has challenges in how inhabitants live sustainably and implement innovative ideas for the future.  
The CBD has an underground network of water pipes with warm water from the geothermal power station keeping the area snow and frost free throughout the winter. There are other examples of sustainable development, such as fulfilling energy demands with renewable power, that can give structure and relevance to investigating Reykjavik as an urban environment.
A-Level Curriculum Links: contemporary urban environments; weather and climate  

Science Courses   

Investigating Geothermal Activity

Hveragerdi’s Geothermal Park has a number of redundant geothermal pools and some active steam vents with a small river of geothermal outwash running through the park. The outwash provides opportunities to study its physical and biological characteristics.   
Students will investigate the abiotic and biotic factors of the geothermal outwash from the 40°C pool at the bottom towards the 90°C source. Physical characteristics can include temperature, pH, nitrate, nitrite and phosphate using thermometers and testing kits.   
Biotic characteristics will focus on identification of thermophilic bacteria living in the outwash, observations and measurements of its colour and structure can be linked with the Abiotic factors identifying the conditions needed for this niche environment.
A-Level Curriculum Links: genetics; populations; evolution; ecosystems; variation; biodiversity; classification; human impact on environment; use of apparatus and sampling techniques in fieldwork
GSCE Curriculum Links: organisms and environment; evolution, adaptation and natural selection; ecosystems; biodiversity; photosynthesis; classification; development of scientific thinking; experimental skills and strategies; analysis and evaluation; scientific vocabulary

Impacts of Geothermal Activity

On the edge of Hveragerdi, the Horticultural University harnesses the energy from geothermal activity in a number of greenhouses. The site has a number of established plant communities and varieties of species brought on in the warm greenhouses and there are extensive grounds which have geothermal activity and springs that appeared after the 2008 earthquake.   
There are a number of fieldwork opportunities in and around the university. The established greenhouses can be used for plant identification and plant monitoring schemes and collating data to support ongoing research, whilst the grounds have warm freshwater streams where the university is interested in the distribution and abundance of invertebrates.   
The impacts of the geothermal activity can be seen in different habitats in small woodlands and grasslands which show evidence of biological stresses and succession in plant communities brought about by the environmental conditions. The investigations at this site have the great opportunity to develop over time in conjunction with the work at the university.
A-Level Curriculum Links: genetics; populations; evolution; ecosystems; variation; biodiversity; classification; human impact on environment; use of apparatus and sampling techniques in fieldwork
GSCE Curriculum Links: organisms and environment; evolution, adaptation and natural selection; ecosystems; biodiversity; photosynthesis; classification; development of scientific thinking; experimental skills and strategies; analysis and evaluation; scientific vocabulary

Rocky Shores of the Reykjanes Peninsula

The coastline on the west of the Reykjanes peninsula has a tidal range between 3-4 metres over extensive lava fields reaching out into the north Atlantic. With protection from large waves, the location is a recommended field site for studying Iceland’s intertidal ecology. This investigation would be complemented by visiting the Sudurnes Science Centre, a dedicated marine research centre 20 minutes north of the site with additional activities to complement the fieldwork.   
The rocky shore at Hafnir gives an opportunity to investigate zonation of macroalgae and marine organisms in the intertidal zone. Species are identified across a vertical transect using open quadrats and abundance scales. There are opportunities to investigate the distribution and abundance of individual species and energetics within the ecosystem.
The data collected on this day will be comparable to UK FSC centre data from its marine sites allowing students to compare and draw links between Iceland and the UK’s marine environments.
A-Level Curriculum Links:
genetics; populations; evolution; ecosystems; variation; biodiversity; classification; human impact on environment; use of apparatus and sampling techniques in fieldwork
GSCE Curriculum Links: organisms and environment; evolution, adaptation and natural selection; ecosystems; biodiversity; photosynthesis; classification; development of scientific thinking; experimental skills and strategies; analysis and evaluation; scientific vocabulary
 

We also offer some other fieldwork opportunities in Iceland. These are suitable for Geography and Science students but may appeal particularly to GSCE Geographers . Please click here for more information.

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