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CHNGES graduate students conduct research in Iceland

CHNGES graduate students conduct research in Iceland

Captions: Top left: James Graham, wearing the Tobii Pro 2 Mobile Eye-Tracking Glasses, completed his research at Thingvellir National Park and Solheim Glacier. Top right: Allison Quiroga filters a water sample of a glacier river. Bottom left: Icelandic Myrdalsjokull icecap seen in the distance beyond a field of lupins. Bottom right: Allison Quiroga and Rachel Kaiser run water chemistry tests atop Solheim Glacier.

Two graduate students from the WKU Department of Geography and Geology and Center for Human GeoEnvironmental Studies (CHNGES) recently completed data collection in Iceland for their master’s theses.

James Graham of Louisville, advised by Dr. Leslie North and in collaboration with Dr. Edward Huijbens of the University of Akureyri in Iceland, spent a week at ƥingvellir National Park and Sólheim Glacier to investigate the development of nature-based tourism destinations with the use of mobile eye-tracking technology. With support of the Iceland Tourism Board, and accompanied by CHNGES student Elizabeth Willenbrink of Louisville and Dr. North, Graham used a newly developed mobile eye-tracking technology, Tobii Pro Glasses, at the two Icelandic locations in order to study how the technology can be used to understand the driving factors behind the movement and behavior of tourist at nature-based tourism destinations. Further, by coupling eye-tracking data with GPS and GIS technology, James is working to uncover how signage and tourism infrastructure should be developed in geologically and ecologically fragile areas to reduce the potentially negative effects of tourism on the landscape while also maximizing the tourism experience. His work is being published in book about the innovative use of eye-tracking technology in the global tourism sector.

Allison Quiroga of Franklin, advised by Dr. Jason Polk, also spent a week in Iceland studying dissolved inorganic carbon flux in glacial rivers of the three most prominent icecaps in Southern Iceland. Quiroga, accompanied by fellow CHNGES graduate student Rachel Kaiser of Covington and Dr. Polk, took longitudinal samples of several glacial rivers flowing from major ice caps in the southern portion of Iceland to analyze how much carbon is being stored and transported within the glacial meltwater systems. Quiroga will use these data to assess how the rapid melting of Icelandic glaciers is impacting current and future carbon dioxide levels in the face of a rapidly changing Arctic climate.

Graham and Quiroga received funding from the WKU Graduate School to help support their research travel and expenses. Quiroga also received a Geological Society of America student research grant to support her work. Both students are on track to graduate with their master’s degrees in spring 2018.

Contact: Leslie North, (270) 745-5982

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 Last Modified 9/25/14