Girls and Technology

Today around 30 girls in 9th grade from elementary schools in the northern part of the Westfjords took part in workshops at the University Centre called „Girls and Technology“. The workshops are held by the Reykjavík University in connection with the international „Girls in ICT Day“ celebrated April 27th.

The 9th grade girls from the Westfjords at one of the
The 9th grade girls from the Westfjords at one of the "Girls and Technology" workshops at the University Centre this morning.

Survey on Sea Culture and Sense of Place

How do we talk about the sea? How do we look at the sea in times of increased tourism and aquaculture? Is the ocean included in school curricula? Are the answers to these questions different in different countries, or is there a similar trend found around the world?

Photo from Drangsnes on the Westfjords peninsula. Photo: Ágúst Atlason.
Photo from Drangsnes on the Westfjords peninsula. Photo: Ágúst Atlason.

Ice survey plane on public display at Ísafjörður airport

The American Twin-Otter aeroplane currently flying research trips out of Ísafjörður has already grabbed the attention of many people in town. On Monday 8th May, an Icelandic Coastguard plane will arrive as well, for its own annual ice research expedition. To celebrate the fact that both planes will be in Ísafjörður, the public are invited to pay them a visit at the airport on Monday from 18.00 (after the passenger flight to Reykjavík has left) and find out first-hand about the planes and what they are up to.

The Twin Otter plane that is used by the American research team based in Ísafjörður.
The Twin Otter plane that is used by the American research team based in Ísafjörður.
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Researching weather and ice from above

The University Centre of the Westfjords is awaiting the arrival during the next weeks of a team of US researchers and crew members conducting research on ice and climate. The team will carry out low-level flights over the shelf ice out on Greenland Sound (Denmark Strait) to collect weather-related data which will help to enhance flight safety, as well as give a deeper understanding of climate change.

A photo from a sea ice model that Björn Erlingsson has been developing at the Icelandic Met Office. The picture shows a part of the area that the research team will focus on.
A photo from a sea ice model that Björn Erlingsson has been developing at the Icelandic Met Office. The picture shows a part of the area that the research team will focus on.

Would you like to host an American student

The University Centre of the Westfjords is now seeking host families in the Ísafjörður area willing to invite American university students  to stay in their homes for roughly two weeks, beginning June 18.

Einar Geir who took this photo is used to having exchange students around his home.
Einar Geir who took this photo is used to having exchange students around his home.

SIT students in Greenland

A group of seventeen American college students is now completing a two week stay in Greenland as a part of their study abroad program „Iceland and Greenland: Climate Change and the Arctic.“ The program is a whole semester offered by the School for International Training (SIT) in collaboration with the University Centre of the Westfjords. Thirteen out of a total of fifteen weeks are spent in Iceland while two are spent in Greenland. This is the second semester this same program is offered in cooperation with the UW Centre.

By the edge of the icecap.
By the edge of the icecap.
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Innovation in Aquaculture course ends with project presentations

The University Centre of the Westfjords has recently concluded its weeklong course on innovation in aquaculture in the southern Westfjords, where participants were introduced to aquaculture through visits to companies, and also worked on innovation projects. The course made full use of its proximity to local companies and the group of students was warmly welcomed by all the businesses.

Company Visits

Visits were made to the ArcticSmolt fish hatchery, and to Arnarlax in Tálknafjörður, where staff took the students along on their regular monitoring trip to the sea cages on Wednesday. After returning to base in Bíldudalur, the group split in half and got to see Arnarlax’s fish processing and feeding solution, which is at the simultaneously very technical and trusts technology only in moderation, as teams work in two shifts to manage the sophisticated systems.

The students were given a good insight into the scale of the industry and to better understand the industry’s importance to coastal zone management; as most of the students are enrolled on that master’s program. Valgeir Ægir Ingólfsson, from the AtVest regional economic development agency, was invited to come and talk about aquaculture developments overall in the southern Westfjords and Indriði Indriðason, the mayor of Tálknafjarðarhreppur, was called into the classroom to describe the experience of small municipalities going through such development.

As the students worked on their own innovation projects in the evenings, they found the visit from brothers Freymar Gauti and Ragnar Þór Marínóson from Tungusilungur Trout, who are the third generation in their family fish farming business in Tálknafjörður, no less interesting and constructive; as the scale of their company was closer to the scale of projects that students worked on during the week. Most student projects centred on ideas that are easier to keep track of than the large-scale development currently taking place in the Westfjords.

The Innovation Porjects

Three students came up with a plan to establish an aquaculture consulting firm, which would serve the companies, as well as taking care of paperwork connected to licencing, maintenance and environmental certification monitoring.

Another group, which included participants from Baltic agricultural universities, worked on that which is a priority for them: the production of biodiesel or other fuel from waste, which would be achievable with the use of cultivated seaweed or other marine plants. This they believed would be realistic for island communities without mains electric, or those which depend on fossil fuels, like Grímsey.

The third group calculated the potential economic benefits of cultivating ocean quahog, which is called the Iceland clam in many languages. The name of the species alone should give some great opportunities for marketing and advertisement.

Two other groups took a tourism-based approach to the projects. One being whole or half-day food tours to aquaculture producers, whether fish, shellfish, or plants. The self-styled Seaside Village of Suðureyri seems to be the inspiration, and the students thought it not at all strange to market aquaculture to tourists. The other project that looked at tourists was for the production of seaweed to make seasoning, tea, supplements, and market these goods in small packs, mainly to tourists. On a similar course two years ago, representatives of Urta Islandica were participants, so this is partly already happening. What appears remarkable is that young students believe kelp and seaweed to be a fashionable food of the future.

The final group closely analysed whether combined aquaculture and agriculture, or aquaponics, could be profitable. To maximise yields and make the project sustainable, the students settled on the production of Russian sturgeon and black tomatoes. The biggest benefits of this approach probably lie on the reduced demand for fertiliser and the cleaner water left over from such production, which could prove difficult to put a price tag on.

Make a job, don’t take a job

The goal of the course was to stimulate interest in the innovation requirements and innovation possibilities in the industry. Previously, most participants have taken a two-week course on fish farming, and though Coastal and Marine Management students will not necessarily become aquaculture experts, they should understand the requirements of the industry, which is in many places around the North Atlantic becoming a key coastal stakeholder, as part of their master of resource management qualifications. It could certainly be said that the choice of projects, which were made right at the beginning of the course, reflect more academic ideas than the practical needs of large companies, but the visits to these companies have opened the students’ eyes to the demand for innovation within companies.

This course is one of few special courses offered in the individually-tailored master’s program in Marine Innovation, which is offered by the University Centre of the Westfjords. Methods used on this course reflect the program’s ideology: Make a job, don’t take a job.

Students visiting the ArcticSmolt fish hatchery
Students visiting the ArcticSmolt fish hatchery

Good turnout at a conferance on cruise ships

It is safe to say that the conference on cruise ships, which took place in Edinborgarhúsið in Ísafjörður earlier this week, was well received and the turnout of conference guests was bigger than anticipated by the organizers. A total of eighteen lectures were given during the two day conferance touching upon the issue of cruise ship tourism from various angles. The material from the conference should become useful in the upcoming work of Ísafjarðarbær municipality to form að strategic plan in the field of cruise ship tourism.

The conferance was held in collaboration between the University Centre of the Westfjords, the municipality of Ísafjarðarbær, The innovation Center of Iceland and more. The minister of tourism, Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir, addressed the conference early Monday morning followed by the Norwegian keynote speaker Frigg Jörgensen. Frigg is the managing director of AECO, Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators. It is an international association for expedition cruise operators operating in the Arctic. Frigg also has wide experience in the tourism industry in Svalbard, Norway. Other lecturers came from various parts of Iceland, ranging from academics to interest holders.

The purpose of the conferance was to create a venue for different opininons in this fast growing branch of the Icelandic tourism industry. The ultimate goal is to aid in the formation of a strategic plan within Icelandic municipalities with sustainability in the foreground.

Slides from the conference will soon be available on the UW website.

The turnout was good at the recent conference on cruise ship tourism held in Edinborgarhúsið in Ísafjörður.
The turnout was good at the recent conference on cruise ship tourism held in Edinborgarhúsið in Ísafjörður.

Cruise ship conference starts Monday

The conference „Cruise Ships - on the right course?“ will be held in Edinborgarhúsið in Ísafjörður Monday and Tuesday of next week, April 3rd and 4th. The University Centre of the Westfjords is coordinating the event in cooperation with the Innovation Center of Iceland, the municipality of Ísafjarðarbær and other partners.

A conference on cruise ships, arranged by the University Centre of the Westfjords, will take place in the Edinborgarhúsið in Ísafjörður April 3rd. and 4th.  Photo: Ágúst Atlason.
A conference on cruise ships, arranged by the University Centre of the Westfjords, will take place in the Edinborgarhúsið in Ísafjörður April 3rd. and 4th. Photo: Ágúst Atlason.

Field School in Reykhólar Immersed in Seaweeds

A field school organized by the University Centre of the Westfjords and SuWaCo (Sustainable Waters and Coastal Bodies network) visited Reykhólar last week. At Reykhólar students worked on innovation projects that were mostly focused on seaweed, kelp and algae which is understandable since Reykhólar is the capital of seaweeds in Iceland.

Students and instructor Maria Maack.
Students and instructor Maria Maack.
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