The amazing place you see in the header picture is Hengill, a geothermally active area about 40 km east of Reykjavík, in Iceland (photo courtesy of Adrianna Hawczak).
Here, very close to each other, numerous small streams flow at temperatures spanning from about 5 to more than 45°C. These streams are heated indirectly; therefore geothermal activity does not affect their chemical features. Furthermore, their close proximity ensures that the geographical and environmental characteristics, apart from temperature, are similar.
All this makes Hengill the perfect spot for studying the effect of temperature on a natural ecosystem. Because of its rare features, Hengill has recently become a model system for an international group of scientists studying the effects of temperature on invertebrate and fish biodiversity, trophic webs and ecosystem functioning.
Since last year I have had the opportunity to join Guy Woodward, Gisli Gislason, Jim Hood and their research groups to study Hengill’s microbial diversity. Until now I have been focusing on protist diversity, particularly ciliates, together with Rebecca Stewart. I hope to add bacterial diversity to the puzzle soon. Stay tuned!