Friday, April 8, 2011

From Ethiopia to Oslo with coffee, water samples and a sun burn

-->Photos on Flickr

I am sitting in an overcrowded Gardermoen and waiting for my flight to take me and my six kilos Ethiopian coffee back to Bergen, after some 15 days of roaming around. The second half of that was not very exotic but spent teaching in a metagenomics course in the University of Oslo. Good for inspiration and work though. Also had good cod at Lofotstua. I can recommend it.

Anyway, the first half was more exciting. I've been down in the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia (3,000 years old, they reckon) to take some samples from alkaline soda lakes in the Rift Valley. This is pretty interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, they are really alkalic and yet with a very high microbial biodiversity, as opposed to many other "extreme environments". Also, they don't taste so nice. I accidentally had some from one of them and now I feel sorry for the poor flamingos who live off their cyanobacteria.

Also, it's interesting because it is the first time I ever do any kind of field work, being in bioinformatics and usually not allowed into the secret world of real biologists that cannot be viewed through a computer screen. It was fun, but it's tough work filtering litres of salty brown lake water with a handpump in 30 degrees heat, surrounded by locals and kids and sometimes thousands of ants. They were really nice and helpful but sometimes in the way when they were sitting more or less on top of our equipment offering to help out or just curiously watching what kind of crazy stuff we were doing. And what we were doing would have looked crazy to most people, even those with television and a grasp about modern science. Probably also to other biologists. Anyway, enjoy the photos.