Project Management Plan

Sampling protocol.—Because we are limited by weather to an extremely short annual field season (eight weeks maximum), all collecting efforts must be highly efficient and well planned in advance. At each major collecting site, scientists will lay out and collect at intervals along a set of transects that coincide with streams and/or rivers. While operating on the assumption that the greatest diversity will occur within and adjacent to aquatic habitats, we recognize that confining our efforts to wet transects will not result in complete biotic coverage. It would be good to collect along dry transects as well, but because of the severe time constraints mandated by the weather, we are forced to choose a subset of possibilities rather than attempt to “do it all.” Much collecting, particularly in lakes and by those assigned to terrestrial taxa (lichens, mosses, liverworts, fungi, plants, spiders, reptiles), will occur outside of the transects but, in all cases, strict protocols for data acquisition (developed and refined during our seven years of work in the Kuril Islands) will be followed (see Data Acquisition and Dissemination of Information, p. 13).

The transects will extend from lowlands to the greatest possible elevations, starting where sandy or rocky intertidal ends and vegetation begins, and terminating, in some cases, where extreme elevation precludes our presence. Collecting centers will be established at 200-m intervals along each transect. From each collecting center, equal effort will be made to collect within a 2-hectare area, i.e., within a rectangle that extends 100 m above, 100 m below, and 50 m to each side of the collecting center. Sites with elevations of less than 200 m will be collected along stream or river transects that pass through each region at its greatest possible length not to exceed 1,000 m. Survey methods will remain as consistent as possible under varying field conditions so that within and between site-localities can be compared directly.

Using the mountainous mid-eastern margin of the island (the most geologically complex region to be surveyed) as an example, there are 18 major peaks ranging from 1,024 to 1,609 m, of which at least 10 will be selected for survey. A stream or river transect laid out along each will have centers of collection at first vegetation, and at elevations of 200 m, 400 m, 600 m, 800 m, 1,000 m, etc., depending on height and available habitat. Similarly, and focusing this time on the lower elevations of the southwestern part of the island, there are 19 major peaks ranging from 563 to 1,021 m, of which at least 10 will be surveyed in like fashion. The relatively flat northern quarter of the island (maximum elevation 538 m, with a vast proportion lying below 100 m), will be collected along a series of wet transects of greatest possible length not to exceed 1,000 m. We will limit ourselves to no more than six days per transect (many can be collected adequately in as few as two days), thus—with time set aside for the inevitable bad weather, and for travel to, from, and between sites—allowing approximately 10 full transects to be covered within a single field season of 45 days, and a total of at least 50 transects within the five-year life of the project. In addition to collecting along transects, those assigned to aquatic insects, freshwater mollusks, and fishes will collect in as many lakes as possible, with equal sampling effort at varying elevations. The fieldwork will be divided about equally over the five years (see Project Schedule, p. 14).

Complete data will be recorded for each lot on “Field Data Sheets” designed for compatibility with our data management system (see Data Acquisition and Dissemination of Information, p. 13). Specimens will be preserved and packaged on site, and, as required, sent to shore for transport to a research vessel (see Available Facilities, p. 13). Digital photographs will be taken of living or freshly killed examples of as many species as possible.

Vascular plants bearing reproductive structures, and appropriate sterile plant material (e.g., Gramineae, Bambusoideae), will be collected by hand, digging tool, secateur, and/or pole clipper. Representative individuals or branches will be collected in sufficient quantity, where appropriate, to allow distribution of replicates (e.g., a large replicate collection of Kuril Island plants has been sent to the New York Botanical Garden, and similar gifts to various other institutions are in preparation). Plant material will be gathered using field presses and/or polyethylene bags, then pressed and dried aboard ship. Leaves of some taxa will be preserved in silica gel for future DNA extraction. Lichens, mosses, and liverworts will be collected by hand, knife, or secateur (for epiphytic taxa) and, as with vascular plants, representative individuals will be collected in sufficient quantity to allow distribution of replicates. Fungi (basidiomycetes and ascomycetes forming macroscopic sporocarps or spore bearing structures) will be collected within selected sites using random transects (this method provides the best baseline data for species richness and diversity). Fresh collections will be described and photographed digitally, and then dried for preservation and later study of microscopic characteristics (following methods currently used by fungus taxonomists; see Ammirati, 1979).

Aquatic insects will be collected by hand, with small grabs and cores, push nets, emergence traps, and black-lights; terrestrial insects by sweep nets and by light, malaise, and pitfall traps; lake-dwelling mollusks by small grabs and cores; stream-dwelling mollusks by hand and with push nets; terrestrial mollusks by time-constrained searches on trunks and branches of trees, in leaf litter, and in other appropriate cover; spiders by pitfall traps and by time-constrained searches; freshwater fishes by seine, gill and dip nets, electroshockers, and biodegradable ichthyocides; amphibians and reptiles with pitfall traps and by time-constrained searches in appropriate cover by day and night (fossorial species by digging and trenching). All incidentally captured animals (i.e., those outside selected taxa) will be preserved and brought back for archival storage in appropriate museum collections. In all cases, quick and reasonably painless means of euthanasia will be used.

Tissue samples for future molecular work will be taken from as many taxa as possible. Procedures for tissue collection and storage will follow those outlined by Dessauer et al. (1996). All tissues will be packaged and shipped from Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk to Seattle for long-term storage in a fully alarmed ultra-cold freezer at the Burke Museum. The frozen tissue archive maintained by the Burke was established in 1986 and currently contains samples of more than 14,000 specimens (about 20,000 cryotubes, mostly birds and mammals). It is currently the fourth largest bird tissue collection in the nation and is distinguished by the breadth of its international holdings, with particular strengths in northern Asia (Siberia and Mongolia), the Neotropics, and the South Pacific, including Australia.

Specimen curation and disposition.—All collected material will be sorted, identified to the extent possible, and otherwise curated, packaged, and stored aboard ship for later transport to Vladivostok, Hakodate, and Seattle. It is agreed by authorities of the host country (see Collecting Permit) that whole-specimen collections, including primary type material, will be divided more-or-less equally among the three participating institutions. All tissue samples will be shipped to Seattle where they will be stored at the Frozen Tissue Archive of the Burke Museum. Storage facilities at the three institutions are excellent, and appropriate long-term care of all material is assured.

Data acquisition and dissemination of information.—Precise collecting localities will be determined with Garmin, eTrex, 12-channel, hand-held Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. Data will be recorded in the field on standardized “Field Data Sheets,” which will be linked to specimens by field numbers. While in the field, data will be entered on high-powered Windows NT-based machines. Two such machines, maintained aboard the research vessel during the field season, will accommodate the volume of data entry anticipated. “Paradox,” a relational database-management software application, employing customized data entry screens designed to match the layout of the “Field Data Sheets,” will be used for initial data entry and editing.

Once back in Seattle, the collection database will be transferred to our Internet server “ARTEDI,” housed at the University of Washington Fish Collection. These data will be accessible worldwide via a full-text search engine on a dedicated “Okhotsk Regional Biotic Survey” web-site (an expansion of our present “International Kuril Island Project” web-site: see Researchers will be able to search both the taxonomic and locality databases, which will be maintained separately and linked by field numbers. In addition, custom reports generated locally with “Paradox” and distributed by e-mail will be made available on request. To provide a wider distribution and increased functionality of project data, we will soon make it possible to search the Okhotskia database (using an appropriate standard protocol such as Z39.50) with web-based biodiversity search engines that are capable of integrating multiple datasets from different databases into a standard form that is both downloadable and easily manipulated (see Kaiser, 1999; Bisby, 2000; Edwards et al., 2000; Pennnisi, 2000).

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