The Columns

Summer Internship: Dan Claroni Icelandic Meteorological Office, Reykjavík, Iceland

— by on October 18th, 2016

daniel-claroniDan Claroni

What attracted you to this internship?

This internship has a unique combination of drones and geology. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now being used to monitor gas in Iceland, and I am measuring emissions at some never-before measured places. This was really exciting to me, and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

How did you learn about it?

Through Dr. David Harbor, professor of geology, at Washington and Lee.

What gave you an edge in landing this internship?

My previous experience flying drones and using drones to do geologic research. It also helped that I am a computer science minor and that I reached out to the IMO as soon as I learned of the opportunity.

Describe your daily duties.

Every day I test that the drone’s flight is stable and that all of its sensors are functioning. I need to make sure everything is working perfectly before we can take the drone into the field to measure gas concentrations. I make repairs, keep track of spare and broken parts, understand the sensors, install the sensors and sometimes even build new parts. I am also responsible for testing sensors that the IMO might be interested in attaching to the drone.

Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?

Professor Chris Connors and our research together last summer, as well as his geophysics course, has taught me a lot about drones. This work really sparked my interest and allowed me to get hands-on experience using drones for geologic research.

What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?

I’m learning how to install a variety of different sensors on the drone, and I hope to learn a lot of geochemistry involving volcanic gases.

What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?

Getting the chance to live and work in Iceland is really incredible. Iceland is a beautiful place, and flying drones in Iceland is a truly amazing experiences. The geology is fascinating, and everyone at the IMO is excited and passionate about what they do. All of the work done at the IMO aids in the prediction of natural hazards, such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and floods.

What did you learn from living in the city where the internship was located?

Living in Reykjavik has taught me a lot about Icelandic culture and a little of the language. Everyone that I have met in Iceland speaks near-perfect English, which, along with the difficulty of the language, makes it really challenging to learn Icelandic. However, I have had the chance to pick up some in the few weeks I’ve been here so far and can get by with those few words and head nods most of the time. I also learned my way around the city since I have been biking everywhere, and after some experimentation, I now know what Icelandic foods you should and shouldn’t order.

What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?

I will definitely know how to install and use different sensors on drones. I think the use of UAVs in geology is limitless, and we are currently just scratching the surface. I can easily imagine Washington and Lee creating high-resolution digital-elevation models and taking strike and dip measurements off a 3-D digital model using a camera-equipped drone. There are many independent research projects that could use gas sensors, thermal cameras and a myriad of different accessories mounted on drones.

What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?

Don’t be shy. Reach out to the professors in the geology department and the researchers at the IMO. The professors in the W&L geology department are amazing and by far the most helpful professors I have ever had. They will push for you to give you a better chance of getting the position, and if you don’t get that position, they will help you find the next best thing.

Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?

It’s motivated me to work more with drones and natural hazards. I really like the idea of being able to predict natural hazards to save lives. I also think it is really helpful that drones allow you to do geologic research in places that may be too dangerous to reach on foot. We can access places that might be polluted with hazardous gases or might be prone to landslides.

Describe your experience in a single word.

Captivating.