SSNS Funding – Research Visit to Reykjavík

SSNS Funding – Research Visit to Reykjavík


A brief summary of a research trip to Iceland by Emily Topness, which was funded by SSNS through a Postgraduate/Early Career Research Grant.

Below is a brief report authored by Emily Topness (University of Edinburgh) about her week-long visit to Reykjavík, Iceland, to establish connections with Icelandic researchers. This was made possible with the support of SSNS through a Postgraduate/Early Career Research Grant.

My PhD research is all about bringing interdisciplinary datasets together to improve our understanding of the complex relationships between people and the environment. I aim to understand holistically the drivers of rangeland degradation in the Mývatn region of northern Iceland from both the human and environmental dimensions. This kind of research requires significant cross-disciplinary teamwork. The goal of my trip to Reykjavík was to connect with Icelandic researchers and learn how to link environmental information gained from written records with geomorphological data on past landscape change. This unique combination of data sources allows me to knit together what was happening in the landscape with how early Icelanders perceived and managed their environment.

I met with environmental historians, literary scholars, geomorphologists, ecologists, and archaeologists at the University of Iceland for guidance on my ideas of matching written records to environmental change over time. I gained useful advice on how to pull information on how people perceived their environment out of sagas, folklore, law codes, and farm records. I also visited Fornleifastofnun Íslands (Institute of Archaeology, Iceland) to meet with archaeologists working to uncover the human story that has unfolded across Iceland’s fragile landscape. The researchers I met with welcomed my ideas and were excited at the fuller understanding of rangeland degradation my research will bring.

In between meetings, I wandered Reykjavík and became familiar with the country that will become my ‘research home’ during my PhD. I enjoyed traditional Icelandic foods, and I deepened my knowledge of Icelandic history and how it relates to my research at the National Museum of Iceland. The grant I was awarded from the SSNS provided meaningful support for an enjoyable trip to make valuable connections with researchers in Iceland at a critical point in my PhD journey. This successful trip has set a strong foundation for my summer fieldwork, subsequent research, and future collaborations.

– Emily Topness, 8 March 2024

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