Burke Museum Home

Research - San Juan 2008


San Juans Survey 2008

This year we returned to our regular schedule of two spring and one late summer surveys. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided funding for this year's work. The two main goals this season were to visit previously unsurveyed islands and to work in the northern part of the archipelago. Sucia and Matia islands are located off of the north shore of Orcas Islands, and they are distinctive for the belt of sandstone that runs through them. In late April, David and Peter were joined by Washington Natural Heritage Program Rare Plant Botanist Joe Arnett, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Botanist Pam Camp, Megan Jensen and Erica Nees from the UW Herbarium, and Phil Green of The Nature Conservancy. As in past years, Phil was both captain and plant collector.

Not surprisingly, we picked up several species that we had not collected in previous surveys, including Scouler's valerian (Valeriana scouleri) and blue toadflax (Linaria canadensis var. texana). Several of the islands also had populations of tiny mousetail (Myosurus minimus), which is a species that we have seen on only a small number of islands to date.

In late May, Dr. Janneke Hille-Ris Lambers from the UW Biology Department, Eliza Habegger from the San Juan County Land Bank, Carrie Marschner from The Nature Conservancy, and Biologist Thor Hanson joined David and Peter for return visits to the islands around Sucia, Turn Island off of Friday Harbor, and several islands along the south end of Lopez. One of the most exciting finds was a population of footsteps of spring (Sanicula arctopoides), a rare plant species in Washington that grows only as far north as southern Vancouver Island. The spring's unseasonably cold weather continued during the trip, enough so that wool hats were necessary while boating among islands.

The weather for the September trip was hardly better, with two of the three days being punctuated with enough rain for us to seek shelter for plant pressing in either the cabin on Yellow Island or the rustic log cabin of Spencer spit on Lopez Island. Botanists Steve Hahn, Amy Dearborn, Ann Wisniewski, and free-lance writer Jim Kling (all of whom were from Bellingham coincidentally) braved the poor weather and were a tremendous help. We again visited the Sucia Island group, as well as a number of islands throughout Wasp Passage. Our efforts resulted in three species that we had not collected to date: maiden spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes ssp. trichomanes), cliff fern (Woodsia scopulina), and Gairdner's yampah (Perideridia gairdneri). We continue to be amazed that, even after visiting nearly 80 islands so far, we continue to find species that we have not collected before.

We made approximately 900 collections during the 2008 trips, several of which were new localities for species on the state's rare plant list. Special thanks goes to Kevin Ryan for his time and effort in allowing us access to islands throughout the San Juan Islands National Wildlife Refuge and for his time and effort in providing us with the necessary permits.

April collecting group
April collecting group (l to r: Joe Arnett, Pam Camp, Megan Jensen, Erica Nees, Phil Green, Peter Dunwiddie [partially hidden in back]).
Photo: David Giblin
One of the smaller islands in the area around Sucia Island
One of the smaller islands in the area around Sucia Island
Photo: Joe Arnett.
Preparing to land on one of the islands
Preparing to land on one of the islands
Photo: Joe Arnett.
Erica Nees and Megan Jensen on Yellow Island during April collecting trip
Erica Nees and Megan Jensen on Yellow Island during April collecting trip
Photo: Joe Arnett.
Preparing to shove off from small island in Westsound
Preparing to shove off from small island in Westsound (clockwise from bottom: Peter Dunwiddie, Phil Green, Steve Hahn, Amy Dearborn, Veronica Wisniewski, Jim Kling)
Photo: David Giblin.
Seeking shelter to press plants on September trip
Seeking shelter to press plants on September trip
Photo: Steve Hahn.
Steve Hahn and Grindelia hirsutula (gumweed)
Steve Hahn and Grindelia hirsutula (gumweed)
Photo: David Giblin.
Pressing plants in September off Sucia Island
Pressing plants in September off Sucia Island
Photo: Steve Hahn.
Moving between islands at low tide in the Sucia Island group
Moving between islands at low tide in the Sucia Island group
Photo: David Giblin.
Steve Hahn and Phil Green pulling the boat ashore on Sucia Island
Steve Hahn and Phil Green pulling the boat ashore on Sucia Island