I don’t think I’ll ever see anything quite like Iceland again in my lifetime. Volcanic rock is covered by never-ending glaciers. Waterfalls, big and small, poke their way through the tops of the mountainous hillsides. Crystal blue lagoons merge with the Atlantic Ocean, allowing icebergs to collide before rushing out to sea.
On one of the first days of our excursion, my classmates and I went on a long, hilly hike just outside the city of Vik. The rough cliffsides along a black sand beach were filled with hundreds of puffins, miniature penguin-like birds that can fly. That was far from the only wildlife we would see, though. Over the course of our 14-day trip, we also saw reindeer, arctic seals and even humpback whales. We were lucky enough to experience Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital, days before the World Cup and to watch Icelanders celebrate this historic event.
In accordance with my research project, I focused on plant diversity. I became pretty familiar with these hardy, photosynthetic creatures. The one I was most pleased to see was the Mountain Avens. We learned in class that the most recent ice age, the Younger Dryas, was named after the flower’s scientific name, Dryas octopetala. Making a connection between the history we learned in class and this flower is something I will appreciate years to come.
My classmates and I also received mini-lessons out in the field from our professors, Larry Tanner, Ph.D., and Hilary McManus, Ph.D., about the geologic formations, cultural history, and botanical life. Knowing both small and great details about the landscape we roamed made the trip even more worthwhile and unforgettable. If I’m lucky enough to have the chance, I will definitely take another trip to the land of fire and ice.
Rachael Miller ’19 is a dual major in environmental studies and environmental science systems from Baldwinsville, N.Y. Following her graduation, Miller plans to attend graduate school to further her education in environmental policy and to become an urban planner.
Her trip to Iceland was funded in part by The O’Leary International Travel Grants Program, which provides financial awards of up to $2,000 to help offset travel costs for students in Le Moyne’s College of Arts and Sciences participating in study abroad programs. This grant program is administered by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and funded by a gift from the estate of Dr. Harriet L. O’Leary, professor emerita of Foreign Languages and Literatures.