Geobotany and Entomology on the Juneau Icefield

by Polly Bass, University of Alaska, Anchorage, Matanuska Susitna College

Today I am at camp 18 above the Vaughan Llewis Icefall and Gilkey Trench.  Some of the objectives of the geobotanical and biological sciences research group this summer include: Continued monitoring of permanent vegetation quadrats; Evaluation, retrieval and redeployment of temperature data loggers at some of the permanent plots; Investigation of possible invasive species at C18; evaluation of Saxifraga sp. found on the Mount Moore nunatak in 2013, re-evaluation of an observed Taraxacum sp., and investigation of a Draba sp. not before seen on the icefield nunataks. Work at camp eight on Mt. Moore revealed a second species of Saxifrage present. The two Saxifraga members are the only vascular species observed and recorded on Mt. Moore during the relatively long history of JIRP.  The vascular plants on Mt. Moore were found to inhabit a specific geological dike of fissile aphinitic intrusive igneous mafic composition.

 Polly Bass leads the JIRPers on a geobotanical field lecture at Camp 10.

Polly Bass leads the JIRPers on a geobotanical field lecture at Camp 10.

Grasses are being collected for a collaborative project with Saewan Koh at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. Saewan is exploring the relationship between the Neotyphodium ungus in grasses, and grazing by herbivores. In the Ruby Range of the Yukon Territory, the presence of the fungus has been identified as a deterrent to grazing. Poaceae family members and, in particular, Festuca genus members were collected at several sites to determine if the observed influence of the fungus on the forb impacts grazing across a latitudinal gradient.

Sean Schofield from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, has joined us to continue the investigation of Nebria lituyae and N. nivalis, two species of Arctic/alpine beetles. Dave Kavanaugh began an investigation of Nebria sp. in the Paradise Valley region of the icefield in 2012. In 2013, student, Ben Slavin collected Nebria at several nunatak sites for Sean Schofields research. This year, Sean is expanding on Bens work to include more sites. He is interested in understanding the distribution of the species across the icefield nunataks, and how the species migrated to the sites. He will also explore the adjacent environs. Additional collections and observations were made adjacent to the icefield in the Mt. Roberts and Mt. Gastineau areas. Future work will benefit from further collaborative field efforts between the geobotanical and entomological research groups. These joint efforts will strive to correlate habitat, substrate, and microclimate variables influencing the presence and absence of icefield flora and microfauna.

 Phyllodoce glanduliflora on the icefield.  photo by Alex Micheler

Phyllodoce glanduliflora on the icefield.  photo by Alex Micheler

 JIRPers gather around during the geobotanical lecture.

JIRPers gather around during the geobotanical lecture.