Abstract Detail

Regional Botany Special Lecture - Carolyn Parker

Parker, Carolyn L. [1].

The Western Exploration of Alaska's Flora: almost 300 years of adventures, great botanizing, and a few mishaps.

On the morning of July 20th 1741, Georg Steller, a young, eager German naturalist on the 2d Kamchatkan Russian Expedition, disembarked from Capt. Bering’s ship, the St. Peter, at Kayak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Allowed only 10 hours on land, he gathered plants, ethnographic material, and took copious notes and drawings from everything he observed with respect to geology, natural and cultural history. Most consider Steller’s visit as the first in Alaska by a western-trained naturalist. Russia continued to sponsor naturalists on several voyages as they explored for valuable natural resources and new lands to claim. Collections were sent to St. Petersburg (LE) and other European herbaria for review, and latinized names such as langsdorffii, chamissonis, and kotzebuei appeared onto their lists as the earliest botanists named new taxa from Russian-Alaska. In 1867 the U.S. purchased Alaska for $7,000,000. Most Russians returned home and new explorers and scientists, many from federal agencies and academic institutes, soon arrived to explore this new Territory. Notable on this second wave were Arthur and Aurel Krause of Berlin who spent a year (1882) in the upper Lynn Canal, naturalists on the 1899 Harriman Expedition sailing northward to southeastern Alaska, the Seward Peninsula and Chukotka, and Robert Griggs, botanist from George Washington University, who collected in the Katmai and Kodiak area from 1913-1919. Many additional collections came from federal surveyors who were finally reaching into interior and northern Alaska. Many of these early collections are held at the U.S. National Herbarium. Alaska finally gained its own ‘resident botanist’ when Jacob P. Anderson moved to Sitka to head the Experimental Station in 1914. He began documenting the Alaska flora by creating his own herbarium, published Alaska’s earliest Floras, and formed the actively foraying Juneau Botanical Club. Swedish botanist Eric Hultén spent 3 years in southern Kamchatka (1920-1923), followed by summers in the Aleutian Islands, the Kodiak Island glacial refugium, and eventually reaching other regions of Alaska. Hulten is best known for his 1968 ‘Flora of Alaska and Neighboring Territories’ and recognizing the significance of ‘Beringia’ for Alaska’s floristic origins. We are still exploring our flora. David Murray came onboard as UA Museum Herbarium (ALA) curator in 1969. David and his bryologist wife Barbara Murray grew our collections through both fieldwork and specimen exchanges with others interested in the northern circumpolar flora. During the last 30+ years, federal agencies (NPS, USFS, USFWS, BLM) have sponsored biological surveys throughout Alaska that have significantly added both breadth and depth to our collections. Curator Steffi Ickert-Bond brought digitization technology to our herbarium and over 270,000 specimens are now publicly available online (arctosdb.org) with high resolution specimen images. Hultén’s Flora of Alaska is now over 50 years old. In 2018 a multi-stakeholder project was initated to produce a new Flora of Alaska (floraofalaska.org) and a checklist, reflecting recent taxonomic changes and new findings, is due to be released at this meeting.

1 - Universtiy of Alaska Museum of the North, Herbarium, 1962 Yukon Drive, P.O. Box 756960, Fairbanks, AK, 99775, USA

none specified

Presentation Type: Special Presentations
Number: S02001
Abstract ID:136
Candidate for Awards:None

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