2023 Icelandic Field Stations


Breaking down dualisms between nature and culture: integrating environmental sciences, arts & humanities studies.

Through lectures, discussions and excursions, this co-produced workshop will engage a range of questions concerning the human dimensions of environmental change and the effects of such change on environments and societies. The course foregrounds questions of long-term societal resilience and cultural responses in the face of natural hazards, climate change, competition and societal conflict over resources, effects of early globalization, and anthropogenic transformation of landscapes and ecosystems at multiple time scales.

Our aim is that the diverse lectures and activities included in this course will spotlight the complex historical entanglement of society and environment, from the deep past into contemporary times. Our further goal is to inspire interdisciplinary scholarship and collaborations, whether focused on Iceland or elsewhere.


Climate change / Icelandic Literature / Energy / Agriculture / Glacial Recession / Water / Arctic / Cultural Heritage / Environmental Humanities / Iceland / Ecology / Landscape studies / Sea Ice / Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK)

The Region

The rural regions of Mývatn and Bárðardalur in Þingeyjarsveit, northern Iceland, are unique environments—sometimes perceived as remote—but they are also entangled in the wider social and environmental histories of Iceland and the North Atlantic. Bárðardalur is a farming community in a deep valley and the neighboring Mývatn area is an elevated, inland lakeside community with a rare biodiversity and a history of rebellious social movements. The region is at the center of a range of long-standing collaborative research undertaken by the interdisciplinary team of scholars leading this course, and their colleagues. After Northern Iceland, we head to the Höfn area, to undertake a guided tour of the Vatnajökull Glacier before terminating the course in Reykjavik.

DAY 1 (July 29)

9.00: Pickup Reikjyavik, location TBA. Drive to Kidagil in Bárðardalur Valley. Arrive 

Mid-afternoon Arrival at Kiðagil guesthouse. Snack.

19.00-20.00: Dinner Kiðagil guesthouse

20.00-20.10: Welcoming Remarks, Icelandic Field Stations (Viðar Hreinsson and Dylan Gauthier)

20.10-20.20: Brief Participant Introductions 

20.20-20.40: Viðar Hreinsson, Introductory presentation of the Svartárkot Project

20.40-21.30: Viðar Hreinsson, Setting the Tone: Humans in Nature

DAY 2 (July 30)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast Kiðagil guesthouse

9.00-11.00: A joint lecture by Icelandic research-team (Viðar Hreinsson, Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir, Astrid Ogilvie, Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Megan Hicks): “Perceptions of Nature and Natural Resources by Lake Mývatn.”

11.05-12.00: Astrid Ogilvie, Climate History of Iceland and the Lake Mývatn Area

12.00-12.45: Lunch Kiðagil guesthouse

13.00-13.45: Árni Daníel Júlíusson, Arctic Farming, A contradiction in terms?
The Closing of a Commodity Frontier. The Case of Sheep Export from Iceland in the 19th and 20th Centuries

14.00-17.45: Afternoon hike to Aldey (slow hike over rough terrain)
Guides: Guðrún Tryggvadóttir and Sigurlína Tryggvadóttir.

18.00-19.00: Dinner Kidagil Guesthouse

19.30: Group check in and reflection on the first 2 days of the trip.

Evening Watch – Icelandic Movie Hrútar (en: Rams), an award-winning film about two brothers who haven’t spoken in 40 years, coming together in order to save what’s dearest to them – their sheep. Hrútar is filmed in the Bárðardalur valley.

DAY 3 (July 31)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast Kiðagil Guesthouse

9.00-9.55: Viðar Hreinsson, Heath Settlements, the Local Historian Helgi Jónsson, and emigration to North America. Glimpses of Environmental and Literary History.

10.00-10.55: Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir, Ecology and Local Documents. How to integrate Natural Sciences with Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Cultural Artifacts.

11.00-11.15: Coffee Break

11.15-12.10: Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir: Drivers of change: Sustainability and Environmental Change in the Lake Mývatn District of Iceland AD 1700 – present.

12.30-12.50: Pre-recorded lecture.

13.00-13.45: Lunch Kiðagil Guesthouse

14.00-17.30: Hike up to the heath for a view over the heath settlement (might be wet).

18.00-19.00: Dinner at Kiðagil Guesthouse

19.30-21.30: Frank Miller: History of the Wright-Ingraham Institute Field Stations Program.

DAY 4 (August 1)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast at Kiðagil Guesthouse

9.00-19.00: All Day Excursion to Highlands from Svartárkot to Mývatn. Guided by Guðrún Tryggvadóttir, Sigurlína Tryggvadóttir, Viðar Hreinsson and Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir.

Emphasis on archaeology, climatological, geological and ecological change at the frontier of human habitation in Iceland, both present day and historically. Short lectures along the way focus on rangeland management, deserted farms from the medieval period, shielings from the early modern era and on myths about the present landscape.

Packed lunch

Dinner and discussions at Þórólfshvoll (Mývatn)

DAY 5 (August 2)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast at Kiðagil Guesthouse

9.15-11.30: Excursion to Húsavík to examine manuscripts at the Archives, guided by Viðar Hreinsson – who will lecture on the bus about environmental contents of the manuscripts.

11.30-14.00: Visits to turf house museum at Grenjaðarstaður and Hydropower station at Laxá river. Half an hour packed lunch at either place.

14.30-15.00: Stop at Godafoss on return journey.

18.00: Dinner at Kiðagil

19.30-21.30: Dylan Gauthier and Frida Føberg, Regional-specific boat-building practices in the North Atlantic fisheries. Hands on activity.

DAY 6 (August 3)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast Kiðagil Guesthouse

9.00-10.45: Sigríður Sigurðardóttir and Guðný Zoéga – People in Turf Buildings

10.45-11.00: Coffee break

11.00-11.45: Sigurður Torfi Sigurðsson – Traditional Ecological Knowledge; Opportunities and Applications for Modern Agriculture and Rural Social Development

11.45-12.30: Megan Hicks – Zooarchaeology and Historical Economy (Virtual or in-person)

12.30-13.15: Lunch Kiðagil Guesthouse

13.30-14.15: Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir, Enlarged environmental perspective

14.30-17.30: Hike to Sexhólagil and the rock “Karlinn.” Led by Viðar Hreinsson, with stories of outlaws and legendary landscapes.

18.00-19.00: Dinner Kiðagil Guesthouse

19.30.00-21.00: Evening Watch: The Icelandic Documentary film Hvellur, which tells the story of more than a hundred farmers from Lake Mývatn and adjacent communities protesting a hydro project in the outflowing river Laxá by blowing up a dam by the Lake, resulting in the lake and the river being listed as a nature conservation area and subsequently listed on the Ramsar list of wetlands of international importance.

DAY 7 (August 4)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast at Kiðagil

9.00: All Day Excursion: Tour around Lake Mývatn, visiting sites of ecological, geological, historic and cultural interest, guided by Ragnhildur (Raga) Sigurðardóttir.

11.00: Mývatn Research Station, lecture on the biology of Lake Mývatn.

12.00: Megan Hicks, Archaeology tour/lecture at Hofstaðir or Skútustaðir

Packed lunch at Hofstaðir.

14.00: Drive across the Fljótsheiði heath (with a short stop at the farm ruins of Stórás)

15.00-17.00: Svartárkot farmstead

17.00-18.30: Aldeyjarfoss/Hrafnabjargafossar waterfalls guided by Guðrún Tryggvadóttir and Sigurlína Tryggvadóttir. Short lecture on the bus about abandoned plans of a hydropower plant and a reservoir affecting these waterfalls.

19.00: Dinner at Kiðagil Guesthouse

20.00: Evening Watch: Ingaló, about a tough girl on a fishing boat.

DAY 8 (August 5)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast at Kiðagil Guesthouse

9.00: All day Excursion to Lake Mývatn guided by Ragnhildur Sigurðardóttir.
Lectures by Skúli Skúlason: Lake Mývatn´s Biodiversity and Biodice, and Ásta Kristín Benediktsdóttir (natural humanities by Lake Mývatn), taking a closer look at the natural resource management of Mývatn, focusing on the biodiversity and productivity of the lake itself and the extensive Framengjar wetlands in the past and present. Visit to the Innovation Center Gígur where the lectures will take place.

12.00: Lunch at Myvatn.

Excursion continues to Myvatn and Laxa Nature Reserve, Hverarond/Hverir geysers, Stóragjá Lava Cave. Visit the geothermal power station at Krafla.

19.00: Dinner at Þórólfshvoll.

DAY 9 (August 6)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast at Kiðagil Guesthouse

9.00-09.55: Catherine Ingraham, Exploring Nature and Culture Interfaces

10.00-10.55: Gisli Pálsson, Anthropology Beyond the Human. (Virtual or in-person)

11.00-11.15: Coffee Break

11.15-12.10: Snæbjörn Guðmundsson, Icelandic Geology, Wilderness and Energy Policies.

12.15-13.15: Lunch at Kiðagil Guesthouse

13.30-16.15: Participant presentations and research checkpoint
(10 minutes per person, mandatory for accreditation, voluntary for others)

16.15-16.30 Coffee Break

16.30-18.30: Participant presentations, continued.

18.45: Last Supper at Kiðagil Guesthouse

DAY 10 (August 7)

8.00-9.00: Breakfast at Kiðagil Guesthouse, group check in activity

9.00-9.30: Closing remarks
End of graduate accreditation component of course.

10.00: Check out of Kiðagil

10.15-18.15: Drive to Höfn with lunch, stop at Kárahnjúkar dam.

18.30: Check into Guesthouse Hvammur (hotel) in Höfn

DAY 11 (August 8)

7.30 – 8.30: Breakfast at Guesthouse Hvammur, Höfn

Morning Excursion: Kayak on Glacial Lagoon (Heinabergsjökull Lagoon)
accompanied by Þorvarður Arnason and Kieran Baxter

Lunch in downtown Höfn

Afternoon lectures:

Kieran Baxter, Ice Watch

Þorvarður (Thorri) Arnason, Virtual Field Station documenting plant ecology on two patches of emerging vegetation near the receding glacier.

Museum visit.

Dinner and a movie: After Ice, followed by discussion with filmmakers.

Hot tubs.

DAY 12 (August 9)

7.30 – 8.30: Breakfast at Guesthouse Hvammur

Day Excursion: Scientific Glacier walk and climb, focusing on glacial recession and the impacts of climate change, led by Þorvarður (Thorri) Arnason.

BBQ at the Barn.

Second research checkpoint / presentations by participants at the Barn.


Watch: The impact of climate change on glaciers in the area, VICE

Kieran Baxter and Alice Watterson, Designing Digital Engagements – Approaches to creative mapping and visualization practices in relation to glacial retreat.

DAY 13 (August 10)

7.00-8.00: Hotel breakfast and check out (en route to Reykjavik)

9.15-10.00: Stop at Diamond Beach / Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Possible stop to view Dyrholaey Arch (depending on time)

14.15-16.00: Lunch and greenhouse tour at Friðheimar, Reykholt.
Closing remarks / Official end of Icelandic Field Stations

17.45: Arrive Reykjavik. The Icelandic Field Stations is now officially over, and we will be dropping off at the city center (hotel TBC) and discharging our bus.

Participants are now free to make their own arrangements for their journey home.