Results From Prior NSF Support

Biodiversity of the Kuril Archipelago

DEB-9505031, $1,540,103, 15 August 1995—31 July 2001

Goals.—The primary goals of this seven-year project (now in its last year, following a one-year “proof of concept” award, DEB-9400821, and a one-year terminal supplement) are to (1) survey the major islands of the Kuril Archipelago, and the southern tip of Kamchatka, focusing on plants, insects, spiders, freshwater and terrestrial mollusks, freshwater fishes, amphibians, and reptiles; (2) sort, identify, and curate whole specimens and ethanol-fixed tissue collections for future study; (3) develop a database of specimens and taxa for use in later studies; (4) make the immediate results of the surveys—databases, written information, as well as preserved collections—widely available as quickly as possible to researchers around the world; (5) provide training, field experience, and research opportunities for students and professional biologists of all three participating institutions; and (6) publish descriptions of new species, record new distributional records, and prepare keys, guides, and annotated checklists of the flora and fauna of the Kuril Islands. In every way these goals have been met and in some cases we have surpassed our original hopes and intentions.

Results to date.—Each summer for the past seven, international teams of students and professional scientists (averaging 34 per team and totaling 77 individuals for all seven years combined) have met in Vladivostok, Russia, boarded a research vessel of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and spent an average of 25 days in the field. All 30 of the larger islands have been visited (the remaining 26 islands of the Archipelago are little more than bare rocks, some almost submerged at high tide). Collections have been made at approximately 6,580 sites in widely varying habitats from sea-level sandy-, rocky-beach, and grassland to high-mountain stream/conifer forest; from deep, slow-moving lowland rivers to fast-flowing gravelly streams; and from sphagnum bogs to high mountain lakes. Collecting has been confined primarily to lichens, mosses, and liverworts; plants; aquatic and terrestrial insects; spiders and harvesters; freshwater and terrestrial mollusks; freshwater and anadromous fishes; amphibians; and reptiles (smaller collections of marine algae, pseudoscorpions, mites, decapods, water fleas, centipedes, and millipedes have also been made).

Our efforts are now directed toward curation, final identification, cataloging specimens, entering taxonomic information into the computer database, responding to loan requests, and preparing papers for publication. To expedite particularly the latter task, most of the remaining budget will be used to offset travel costs for expedition participants to work with their respective counterparts: within the next six months, four Russians and two Japanese will visit the U.S., at least three U.S. participants will spend time in Japan and Russia, and one U.S. participant, a UW undergraduate student, will go to Ann Arbor to work with Jack Burch at the University of Michigan.

Research products.—To date, approximately 335,635 specimens have been successfully exported to the U.S.: about 6,379 lichens, mosses, and liverworts; 13,987 vascular plants; 48,546 aquatic and 157,296 terrestrial insects (juveniles and immature stages excluded); 30,857 spiders and harvesters (juveniles and immature stages excluded); 31,591 mollusks; 39,269 freshwater fishes; 7,472 marine fishes; and 238 amphibians and reptiles. The plants, insects, spiders and harvesters, fishes, amphibians, and reptiles, are presently being identified and cataloged here at the University of Washington. The mollusks are being processed by Timothy A. Pearce, Delaware Museum of Natural History, Wilmington. A large proportion of the material is currently out on loan to specialists around the world (see Loans and Gifts, p. 2).

Considerable time and effort has gone toward creating, maintaining, and updating a Kuril Island web-site, the heart of which is our search gateway to Kuril Island Databases: (1) Forms-based database search gateway, (2) Map-based locality record browser, and (3) Loans and Gifts of Kuril Island material. Over the years, we have worked hard to make all our data available electronically, but dealing with tens of thousands of specimens, it has been a major undertaking. All of our locality data, from 1994 through 2000, are on-line (6,731 sites on 30 islands) and we have entered 19,242 taxonomic records. To date, the following taxa have been identified, cataloged, and made available on the web-site: all vascular plants, lichens, mosses, liverworts, Odonata, Plecoptera, aquatic Coleoptera, silphid Coleoptera, cerambycid Coleoptera, and Trichoptera collected from 1994 through 1998; Araneae (spiders), Opiliones (harvesters), Acari (mites), Lithobiomorpha (stone centipedes), Ephemeroptera, heteropteran Hemiptera, carabid Coleoptera, phorid Diptera, and formicid Hymenoptera collected from 1994 through 1997; all Cladocera, Dermaptera, Neuroptera, fishes, amphibians, and reptiles collected from 1994 through 1999; all Psocoptera, sternorrhynchan Hemiptera, and mollusks collected in 1994 and 1995; all histerid and cholevid Coleoptera collected in 1995; all syrphid Diptera collected in 1997; and all braconid and bethylid Hymenoptera collected in 1996.

Human resource development.—Two or three UW undergraduates per year have played integral roles in the project as full participants on one or more expeditions (most but not all as REU awardees); all have received training in fieldwork, curatorial practices, and systematics within their areas of interest. Their experience continues here at home as collections are being sorted and identified, and publications prepared. Several have gone on to graduate school to specialize in organismal biology. UW graduate students and staff (at least two per year in each case) have also participated, adding greatly to the success of the project. Finally, in working cooperatively with universities and the national and local governments of the host country, the project has provided training for Russian faculty, students, and government biologists.

Loans and gifts.—We have worked hard to make our material available to the international scientific community through loans and gifts of specimens. To date, we have made 130 loans and gifts (whole specimens as well as tissues fixed in ethanol) to 96 specialists around the world, totaling 6,289 lots and 56,194 specimens. In addition, we have sent large replicate collections of Kuril Island plants to the New York Botanical Garden, and spiders to the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco. Similar gifts of replicates to other institutions are in preparation.

Seminars and media attention.—We have made a concerted effort to inform academic and public audiences about the project through oral presentation, and have received considerable attention from the media in return. To date, veterans of the project have presented 45 popular and scientific talks and have been the subject of some 52 articles in newspapers and magazines.

Publications.—Eighty-two papers have now been published. An additional five are in press, another three have been submitted, and about 25 are at various stages of preparation. Forty descriptions of new taxa have been published or are currently in press or submitted for publication: three new species of caddisflies (Trichoptera: Hydroptilidae, Leptoceridae), two new stoneflies (Plecoptera: Perlodidae), one new beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae), six new flies (Diptera: Phoridae, Scathophagidae, Syrphidae), one new bug (Hemiptera: Miridae), ten new parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera: Braconidae), one new genus and two new species of mites (Acari: Acaridae, Eviphidae), one new millipede (Diplopoda: Diplomaragnidae), six new freshwater bivalves (Bivalvia: Unionidae, Anodontidae), five new terrestrial and freshwater gastropods (Gastropoda: Planorbidae, Valvatidae), and three new fishes (Teleostei: Osmeridae, Cottidae, Gobiidae).

Among our larger publication efforts is Y. N. Zhuravlev and A. S. Kolyada's book on the biology of ginseng published in 1996: Araliaceae: Ginseng and Other Aralia of the Russian Far East, Dalnauka, Vladivostok, 280 pp., 41 black and white figures, 8 color plates, 11 tables, and 859 bibliographic references. Our second larger publication effort is an English translation of G. O. Kryvolutskaja's Entomofauna of the Kuril Islands, originally published in 1973 by the Institute of Biology and Soil Sciences, Far-Eastern Scientific Center, Russian Academy of Science, which has now been edited and made available electronically.

Relation of completed work to the proposed work.—Based on our success to date, we now propose to put our Kuril work into the broader context of a long-term, large-scale biotic survey and inventory of the remaining landmasses that surround and enclose the Okhotsk Sea: Sakhalin Island in the west (the focus of this proposal), the Okhotsk coast of southeastern Siberia in the north and Kamchatka in the northeast (future proposals).

For more detail, visit the Kuril Island web-site, now available via

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