Three UW students receive a grant for thesis research

Three UW students have received a grant from “Hafsjór af Hugmyndum” for their thesis work. Hafsjór af Hugmyndum is an innovation grant for university students organised by Sjávarútvegklasi Vestfjarðar in collaboration with Vestfjarðastofa. The grant is intended for undergraduate or graduate students at an Icelandic university for a final project whose goal is to create increased value from marine products or to promote business life in the Westfjords.

Orla Mallon and Ricarda Neehuis are both second-year students at the University Centre of the Westfjords who received ISK 700,000 to set up a small indoor fish farm and greenhouse in Ísafjörður with the goal to promote sustainable aquaculture through community education. Ricarda says that the idea came to them during a field trip to Heydalur in Mjóafjörður with the course "Coastal Food Systems" which is a master's course at UW. During that trip, the students got to observe an aquaponics system, which is a method where fish farming and vegetable cultivation meet. Ricarda believes that this method is not well known unless people are studying or working in that field. Since the method addresses many problems that arise in traditional fish farming, more people should be familiar with it. Orla and Ricarda believe that a project like theirs, that promotes social participation is a step in the right direction. In the system they want to set up in Ísafjörður, the fish tank will provide plants with nutrients, and the plants will take the nutrients out of the water so the water can return to the fish tank, thereby creating an effective recirculating system. In addition, everything is housed indoors, and there is no risk of fish escaping. With the project, Orla and Ricarda want to achieve three things. Firstly, to educate students and members of the local community about aquaponics, including how it works and how it differs from aquaculture, and inform them about its advantages and disadvantages. Secondly, to implement a microscale aquaponics system that is accessible, either under supervision or alone, to schools and other educational institutions or programs. Thirdly, to figure out, by observing the aquaponics system, what works or does not work given the external circumstances in Ísafjörður, for example, which plants grow successfully and which do not.

Ricarda and Orla are in their respective master's programmes at the University Centre of the Westfjords. Orla has a background in marine science and is studying Coastal and Marine Management at UW. She is interested in methods that reduce the pressure on environmental resources. She also works with primary school children alongside her studies and would like to collaborate with the surrounding schools once the project is up and running. Ricarda has a background in European culture and societies and is studying Coastal Communities and Regional Development at UW. She is interested in supporting marine communities by improving their resilience.

The third student is Alexis Bradley, who is a first-year student at UW in Coastal and Marine Management. She received a grant of ISK 700,000 to study the distribution and trends of the Atlantic Rock Crab in the Northern Westfjords. The rock crab was originally found in Hvalfjörður in 2006 and has since spread across the country. It most likely came to the country with ballast water and is fished commercially in its native region in the West Atlantic Ocean. The Icelandic population of rock crabs is still in its growth phase, so the effects of its colonisation are largely unknown. There is currently a small fishery in Faxafloi and Breiðafjörður, and the rock crab is included in the general crab fishing regulations in Iceland, meaning that it is considered a fishery stock to be protected (i.e., females and undersized males must be thrown back). Given the opportunities for fisheries development, this project will explore the seasonal trends of the rock crab to better understand its life cycle and determine if it exists in fishable numbers.