Alaska and adjacent parts of Canada and northeastern Russia represent the distinct biotic province of Beringia, a region with an important recent geological past. During the Pleistocene Ice Ages, Beringia was an ice-free glacial refugium connecting North America and Asia via the Bering Land Bridge and providing a significant link for biogeographic dispersal. Much of our understanding of Ice Age Beringia is based on botanical specimens, the largest collection of which is housed at the Herbarium at the University of Alaska (ALA).  The need for documenting present and past plant and animal distributions has direct relevance to Beringia’s subsistence, tourism, and recreation-based economies and communities. Several projects are integrating biogeographic and phylogenetic data to unravel the evolutionary relationships among Beringian plants as well as further document with specimens the rich flora of this region.

Tracing back the origin of the invasive monkeyflower

Yellow monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus) is a herbaceous plant native to western North America that in the last 200 years has become naturalised in the British Isles, continental Europe, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, and New Zealand. Historical records suggest that the first yellow monkeyflowers to reach Europe came from specimens collected by Grigori von Langsdorff, a Russian naturalist, while carrying out one of the first botanical expeditions to the Aleutian Islands in 1805. Funded by a National Geographic Explorers Grant, I will join a team of researcher led by Mario Vallejo-Marin (University of Sterling, UK) in July 2016 to conduct a botanical expedition to the Aleutian Islands to, for the first time, collect monkeyflowers for genetic analysis in the hypothesised centre of origin of invasive populations (the island of Unalaska in the Fox archipelago). This project builds upon previous work by the Vallejo-Marin lab on the genomics of invasion in Mimulus, and takes advantage of already collected samples from continental Europe, the Faroe Islands, and New Zealand. At a time when global change is shifting the distribution of species around the world, understanding how non-native species colonise and thrive in new environments has become of paramount importance. Check out Mario’s detailed trip preparation

Species Richness, Species Distribution and Community Assembly: Across Island Comparison in the Aleutian Chain

Adak_smallIdentifying and quantifying the dispersal barriers and/or ecological constraints that have acted on plant dispersal and establishment are important factors for understanding area plant assemblages. The Aleutian Islands are a long chain of mostly volcanic islands which run west of the Alaska Peninsula towards the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula, arcing between 51° and 56° N latitude. M.S. Thesis Monte Garroutte.


Diversification of the fern genus Cryptogramma across time and space

defense_v2_SIB.pptxCryptogramma is a small circumboreal genus of rock ferns in the large, diverse family Pteridaceae. The diversification, biogeographic history and polyploidy within the parsley ferns (Cryptogramma) were examined across multiple time scales.  Cr. sitchensis originated from a hybridization event between the Asian Cr. raddeana and the Beringian Cr. acrostichoides, and the plastid DNA phylogeny revealed that Cr. acrostichoides was the maternal parent. In contrast, the tetraploid Cr. crispa appears to have originated as an autopolyploid from an undiscovered or extinct ancestor. Further phylogenetic investigation of European Cryptogramma species using DNA sequence data from Europe and southwest Asia revealed that Pleistocene glacial cycles have created genetic partitioning of Cr. crispa into eastern and western clades and have also led to the formation of the Turkish auto-octoploid Cr. bithynica with Cr. crispa as the parental taxon. Divergence time estimates for key nodes reveal that crown group Cryptogramma began diversifying in the Oligocene, with most present-day species originating in the Pliocene and Pleistocene. The genus was inferred to have originated in east Asia, with four colonization events reconstructed by vicariance or dispersal to the New World. Dissertation Jordan Metzgar [Link]

Spring beauty (Claytonia, Montiaceae) in Beringia: species delineation based on morphometrics and phylogenetic analysis of sequence data

clytoniaThe genus Claytonia L. (Spring Beauty) is well known for its attractive flowers and can be found throughout the state of Alaska. Jeffers addresses species delineation in Claytonia from Beringia using hierarchal cluster analysis, principle components analysis, and conditional inference tree analysis to quantify variation in specimens. Digital morphological analysis helps to enhance our understanding of morphological diversity within Beringian Claytonia. Sectional divisions supported by phylogenetic analysis of molecular sequences correspond with morphological variation in Beringian Claytonia and find highly supported molecular evidence for a sister relationship between C. joanneana and C. sarmentosa. Speciation of Beringian Claytonia has occurred within the late Pleistocene and early Holocene may explain the lack of molecular divergence and incomplete lineage sorting within this group. M.S. Thesis Stephany Jeffers [Link]

Taxonomic revision of NAm species of Oxytropis section Arctobia

ArctobiaOxytropis is taxonomically complex in Beringia. North American species of Oxytropis section Arctobia are reviewed through herbarium vouchers, scanning electron microscopy of seed coats, and phylogenetic analysis of sequence data to test the validity o f the circumscription of section Arctobia as previously proposed. Morphologically, section Arctobia is characterized by few-flowered inflorescences, few leaflets per leaf, and a mainly cushion-like habit. Here eight species are recognized in section Arctobia for North America. M.S. Thesis Zachary Meyers [Link]


Metzgar, J.S., M. Stamey, and S.M. Ickert-Bond. 2016. Genetic partitioning and polyploid formation within the Cryptogramma crispa (Polypodiales: Pteridaceae) complex. Turkish Journal of Botany 40: 231-240. [Link]

Garroutte, M. and S.M. Ickert-Bond. 2013. The floristic composition in the western Aleutian Islands and the northern Bering Sea Islands reflect differing routes of Asian-North American species exchange & geologic history. Alaska Park Science 12: 70-79.  [Link]

Ickert-Bond, S.M., F. Huettmann, I. Loera-Carrizales, L. Strecker, N. Sekretareva and Y. Mikhaylova. 2013. New insights from maximum likelihood analysis of geo-referenced occurrence data and climate for ecoregions in Beringia (Chukotka and Alaska). Alaska Park Science 12:60-69.  [Link]

Meyers, Z.J, R. LaMesjerant, and S.M. Ickert-Bond. 2013. A survey of seed coat micromorphology in Oxytropis DC. sections Arctobia, Baicalia, Glaeocephala, Mesogaea, and Orobia (Fabaceae) from Alaska. Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas 7:391-404.  [Link]

Daniëls, F.J.A., L. Gillespie, M. Poulin, O.M. Afonina, I.G. Alsos, M. Aronsson, H. Bültmann, S.M. Ickert-Bond, N. Konstantinova, C. Lovejoy, H. Väre and K. Bakke Westergaard. Chapter 9: Plants In Meltofte, H. (Ed.). 2013. Arctic Biodiversity Assessment-Status and Trends in Arctic Biodiversity. Conservation of Arctic Flora and Fauna. Pp. 259-301. [Link]

Metzgar, J.S., E.R. Alverson, S. Chen, A.V. Vaganov and S.M. Ickert-Bond. Diversification and reticulation in the circumboreal fern genus Cryptogramma. 2013. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 67: 589–599. [Link] [Link to Wiley]

Parker, C., and S.M. Ickert-Bond. 2009. Recent Notable Floristic Records from Northwestern Alaska. Proceedings of the Arctic Alaska Park Science Symposium and Beringia International Conference. Alaska Park Science vol. 8 (2): 33-36.  [Link]

Ickert-Bond, S.M., Murray, D.F., and E. DeChaine. 2009. Contrasting patterns of plant distribution in Beringia. Proceedings of the Arctic Alaska Park Science Symposium and Beringia International Conference. Alaska Park Science vol. 8 (2): 26-32.  [Link]

Ohse, B., F. Huettmann, S.M. Ickert-Bond, and G. Juday. 2009. Modelling the distribution of White spruce (Picea glauca) for Alaska with high accuracy: An Open Access role-model for predicting tree species in last remaining wilderness areas. Polar Biology 32: 1717-1729.  [Link]