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Published: May 30, 2024

Exploring Sustainability in Iceland

As part of the 10-day, faculty-led course to Iceland, students studied sustainable fishing, geothermal power and toured the natural wonders of Iceland. They also had the opportunity to snowmobile Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe.

Exploring Sustainability in IcelandAs part of the faculty-led course to Iceland, students had the opportunity to snowmobile Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Europe. Photo courtesy of Connor Ko ‘24

“It was definitely a highlight,” said Connor Ko ’24, a finance major.

“It was a cool way to wrap up my time at UT and learn about something I’ve never learned about before.”

The group of 14 students were a part of a course titled “Global Sustainability,” led by environmental studies chair Daniel Huber and joined by assistant professor of environmental studies Edna Fernández.

Ko didn’t need many credits in his last semester in order to graduate, so he decided to do something he’d never done before. He’d never been to Iceland, though he’d heard “really cool things about it.” And he’d never explored anything related to sustainability.

“It’s a cool bonus to get to learn about something brand new for me,” he said. 

They went to the Iceland Ocean Cluster in Reykjavik, visiting the offices of companies collaborating to make the fishing industry more sustainable. (One way is ensuring the entirety of the fish is being used for a variety of products, including pharmaceuticals, food, consumer goods and fashion.)

While still in Reykjavik, they went to the Geothermal Research Cluster, where they listened to a scientist’s presentation about geothermal power in Iceland.

At the Hellisheiði Power Station, the eighth-largest geothermal power station in the world and the largest in the country, they put on their hard hats for a tour of the station. Here they learned about Carbfix, a carbon sequestration company that is onsite. 

“After going (to Iceland), I think more people should add it to their bucket lists,” said Caroline Petty-Kane ’25, an environmental studies major with a concentration in public policy.

Before the trip, Canada was the farthest Petty-Kane had ever been out of the country. However, she knew people going on the Iceland trip, and she enjoys sustainability, so she signed up.

A standout moment of the trip for her was the rocks at the black sand beach, as she is a rock climber.

Another highlight, she said, was the waterfalls.

“You got to stand super close to it,” Petty-Kane said. “It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen in Florida.”

The students took a ferry to Heimaey Island, the largest of the Westman Islands, where they hiked to the top of an inactive volcano. They also hiked to the top of a grassy cliff where they had scenic views of other islands, puffins and the Atlantic Ocean.

Before they went to Iceland, the group explored sustainability in Tampa by going on a field trip each week of the spring semester. 

They went to a power plant, an organic farm and out on a boat to talk about sustainable fisheries.

“Don’t be dismayed if you’re not an ENS major,” Petty-Kane said. “There’s so much to learn in the environmental sector.” 

Ko, too, would 100% recommend this trip and this class to other students, stating it was well run, and he learned so much about food, water, energy consumption and economics.

“Everything we learned in class came back,” he said, “The itinerary allowed us to see a lot of things and really maximized our time in Iceland.”

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