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Abstract Detail

Education and Outreach

Gabbitas, Robert [1], Ickert-Bond, Stefanie [2].

Buds and Branches: student specimen collection experience in a Systematic Botany course during the Alaskan winter.

The physical observation of flowers, leaves, and plant habit, whether in a lab or field setting, is at the core of plant systematics courses, and species identification is reliant on the presence of those features. This presents an issue for Alaska, where despite the diversity of plant species the short growing season falls outside the two semesters of the standard school year: leaf abscission begins in early September and snow remains on the ground from October through May. Summer field work dominates the lives of many students and restricts full-credit summer courses as a viable option, so courses are instead taught using a creative variety of alternatives to field work to ensure students are still able to observe fresh examples and receive experience keying specimens. In the Spring semester of 2019 we implemented a new project to overcome these issues by recruiting student involvement in a multi-year effort to produce a publically available interactive online key to winter identification of trees and shrubs of interior Alaska, as well as to develop an online course on winter bud identification. Of the 60 woody species of the Alaska interior (as recorded by Viereck and Little in their 1976 book of Alaska Trees and Shrubs) our 16 students collected 44 unique species, with information regarding habit and natural context as well as images of growth form and branch features. From these specimens we produced numerous high-resolution images of fine-scale characters to aid identification in our final product. Through this project the students gained the desired experience collecting and identifying plant species, as well as contributed citizen scientist data via iNaturalist observations which will inform maps of species distribution through the region. Although bud identification is a small subdiscipline of plant systematics, its applicability to the specific context of plant systematics courses in Alaska makes it a useful exploration of Alaska’s plant communities and an accessible introduction to field botany for our students. 

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Related Links:
Herbarium (ALA) webpage

1 - Herbarium (ALA), University of Alaska Museum of the North, and Dept. of Biology & Wildlife, 1962 Yukon Dr., Fairbanks, Alaska, 99775, USA
2 - University Of Alaska Fairbanks, Herbarium (ALA) And Dept. Of Biology And Wildlife, University Of Alaska Fairbanks, 1962 Yukon Dr., Fairbanks, AK, 99775, United States

Interactive key
Flora of Alaska
winter bud ID.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: EO2, Education and Outreach II
Location: Tucson D/Starr Pass
Date: Tuesday, July 30th, 2019
Time: 1:45 PM
Number: EO2002
Abstract ID:332
Candidate for Awards:None

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