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Iceland

Lake Myvatn

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Conservation and community benefit: Optical instruments for environmental education

Date Approved: 12.2000

Lake Myvatn and its outflow, the river Laxa, comprise an extraordinary and unique wetland system in the volcanically active zone of Iceland. The lake is a Ramsar site — an international designation for wetlands of importance. From the time of the original Icelandic settlements, local inhabitants have raised sheep, fished, and sustainably gathered waterfowl eggs.

Since the late 1960s, diatomite has been dredged from the lake and processed at a nearby factory. Despite overwhelming evidence that mining damages the lake’s ecosystem, the country’s environmental ministry recently announced that dredging will expand into the lake’s southern basin.

The Lake Myvatn Research Station has conducted studies and worked with the community to protect the lake for 25 years. Seacology has purchased optical equipment, microscopes, stereoscopes, and telescopes for the community school. Research station staff are working with schoolchildren to study the lake’s abundant lifeforms. This study will arm them with knowledge that will help them shape the future of the lake and the neighboring community.

Project Updates

January 2006

Dr. Paul Cox visited the project in summer 2005, and was pleased to report that the major polluting industry at the lake has now withdrawn, largely for economic reasons, but perhaps because they also found the research performed by the schoolchildren to be unnerving. Dr. Cox also visited with both the current and former presidents of Iceland, who were deeply impressed with Seacology’s efforts.

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November 2003

The equipment continues to be put to good use by students at the Lake Myvatn school.

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