Citizen Scientists Wanted to Monitor Land

GróLind, a project to monitor Iceland’s soil and vegetation resources through remote sensing data, is turning to the public for help.

Jóhann Helgi Stefánsson, environmental scientist and project manager at GróLind, has stated that the project “is an opportunity for people to monitor the land in an organized way, see the results of reforestation, see the development of vegetation and have a direct impact on the knowledge we are creating every day.”

GróLind’s land monitoring began in 2019. Among other research goals, the project investigates sheep grazing patterns, and how vegetation develops on grazed and protected lands.

Now, the project is looking for citizen volunteers to help gather further data. Volunteers will use an app, and along with some basic training, monitor small areas of land throughout the country. By using a pole provided by Landgræðslan, Iceland’s foundation for land reclamation, volunteers will mark the center of a 50m area in diameter and report the findings back to GróLind.

In combination with other systems like satellite imagery, the data will hopefully contribute to a fuller picture of land use in Iceland.

Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to watch the instructional videos provided on the Landgræðslan YouTube channel, or else to visit the GróLind website.

 

 

Rauðasandur Annual Beach Cleanup Complete

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On Saturday, July 2, volunteers cleaned up the Rauðisandur beach for the seventh time, reports Iceland’s Environmental Agency.

The annual cleanup takes place through the cooperation of the Environmental Agency, landowners, and the local municipalities. This year, 22 volunteers were on hand to help clear the beaches.

Small debris is cleared off of the beach with bags, but larger items must be placed in piles to be taken away to containers for sorting. Notably, this year saw significantly less trash than previous years, perhaps due to the lull in tourism brought on by COVID.

Part of the beach cleaning is carried out in accordance with OSPAR, an international agreement for environmental protection in the North-East Atlantic. This entails demarcating a 100m stretch of beach and then measuring and reporting all debris. This is done to better understand the ways in which pollution, such as plastic, accumulates in the ocean.

Unlike other beaches in Iceland with black, volcanic sand, Rauðasandur, located in the West Fjords, is noteworthy for its red sands. This distinctive feature comes from scallops, which grow in particularly high density in Breiðafjörður.

Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Bunnies

Sixty rabbits that were caught in the Elliðaárdalur valley on the east side of Reykjavík need furever homes, Vísir reports, but the process has been slow as there doesn’t seem to be much demand around the city for pet bunnies. Rabbit rescue organizer Gréta Sóley Sigurðardóttir says the project’s primary focus is catching and rehoming domesticated rabbits that are not suited for survival in the wild. Four of the 60 rabbits currently being kept in a temporary shelter are former pet rabbits that were released in the valley by owners who no longer wanted them.

“As it stands, we’re not taking in [as many rabbits] as we were in the beginning,” explained Gréta Sóley. “We’re mainly focused on pet rabbits that are tossed out because they don’t survive long after they’ve been released and then we also watch out for those that are wounded or injured because it’s urgent in those cases to bring them in.”

Since the fall, Villikanínur, a rescue that focuses solely on catching and rehoming these so-called “wild” rabbits, has been working with the Dýrahjálp Íslands animal shelter and the city’s Dýrahald animal services organization to catch many of the 150 – 200 rabbits currently living in Elliðaárdalur. Though rabbit owners might think they are setting their former pets free in a hospitable environment, Villikanínur notes that unfortunately, most of these domesticated rabbits “aren’t as free and living their best life as many people think,” as “they are not made for Icelandic winter.”

Most of the rescued rabbits are being housed in a shelter that was made available to the project organizers on a temporary basis. But until some of them are found homes or short-term fosters, few of their bunny buddies still living in the wild can be taken in.

If you’re interested in adopting or fostering a rescued rabbit, check the Dýrahjálp website or follow Villikanínur on Instagram. You can also donate to the rescue, which is entirely volunteer-run, uses all donations for veterinary expenses, and hopes to one day open a “bunny rescue center where people can bring their bunny instead of letting them go ‘free’” as well as a permanent shelter in Elliðaárdalur where the rabbits can “come inside and stay warm and have enough hay, pallets, and water.”

Nursing Home Pedicab Program a Wheely Great Success

Residents of the Dalbær nursing home in the North Iceland village of Dalvík are on the move these days, thanks to the ‘Cycling at Any Age’ program that provides pedicab services and outings for residents. RÚV reports that Dalbær is among the nursing homes currently participating in the program, which is sponsored by the organization Hjólfærni, or ‘Cyclecraft,’ a local offshoot of the movement of the same name started by John Franklin in the UK.

Arnar Símonarson is one of the Bike Buddies who regularly provides pedicab services for elderly residents. “I come up here to Dalbær now and then, when I have the time and opportunity, when I’m at loose ends, and I ride this hot rod here, which has been dubbed the Cool Cab.”

Arnar says that the number of rides provided each time varies, as do the destinations. “People want to go to the bank and the store, we go to Olís [a petrol station] and get ice cream, sometimes we go to the coffee house and the residents have a beer or something else. And then sometimes, we go up to the cemetery.”

Arnar believes that a pedicab such as the one he pilots in Dalvík should be at every nursing home in the country. “It’s wonderful to go out with the residents and see them smiling and getting a little color in their cheeks.” He says that he’s seen a real change amongst the residents since the pedicab became a regular feature of their day-to-day lives. “We can see the happiness and vitality and people return a bit refreshed,” says Arnar.

The Dalbær residents agree. Kristján Loftur Jónsson is one of Arnar’s regular passengers and says that he enjoys getting out for some fresh air and that his favorite places to go are the coffee house or the corner store where he gets an ice cream when the weather’s nice.

Arnar concluded by saying that there’s no reason to fear getting old if you can remain engaged the world. “Growing old doesn’t mean having to disappear from life. Life is out there,” he remarked. “We just have to go out and grab it.”