These are scholarly research papers and other articles on a variety of subjects related to the natural history of Alaska. They are not all easy reading, many having been written by researchers for other researchers. The science in some has been superseded, but are included here for their historical value. These papers (all in PDF format) are free to download from these links. Just click on the title.
This is a good example of a baseline study – a survey of the animals, birds, and plants of a specific location. This study of Coronation Island, conducted by Charles R. Land and E. L. Young, Jr between February 26 and August 1983, lists every species they found. Their main purpose was to gauge if hunting and trapping should be allowed to resume on the island, but their report also gives other researchers and conservationists and precise snapshot of what was on the island then, and a way to measure change over time. We imagine Land and Young had a lot of fun on the island doing this study.
This is a short article on the MEDEA program, a joint program between the intelligence and scientific communities in the United States which repurposed satellite imagery collected for military purposes used for environmental monitoring.
This is a collection of very high-resolution images of the Earth provided by the US Geological Survey and various US intelligence services (the MEDEA images). To download them, you have to create an account with a username and password, but an account is free. The image files are detailed and enormous, and they are astonishing. To visit the portal itself, click here.
Geology and Mineral Resources of Parts of the Alaska Peninsula - Atwood (1911)
Geology and Mineral Resources of Kenai Peninsula Alaska - Martin, Johnson, & Grant (1915)
This is the report on mineral resources the US Geological Survey wanted when it sent Grant and others into the field in the first years of the 20th century. This report is not so much about glaciers as it is about geology and mineralogy. Much of the science has been superseded, but it is an interesting book with excellent maps. 279 pages, 216 illustrations, 35 MB.
This is a cursory geological survey of two areas about 23 miles apart: Reid Inlet in Glacier Bay and Lituya Bay on the gulf side. The interesting parts today are the descriptions of the mining operations in Glacier Bay with names and dates. We used this paper to identify the ruins of a mining cabin in Reid Inlet.
This is a detailed account of the 1958 landslide and tidal wave that flushed through Lituya Bay in 1958, as well as evidence of earlier waves. It includes eyewitness accounts and descriptions of early European exploration and native settlements in the region.
This is another old geology paper that tells a lot more about the region than the rocks and minerals. When it was written, Katalla was a town with a post office, Chilkat, near the
mouth of Bering River, was a mixed settlement of whites and natives (and a stop-over on the river on the way to the coal fields), and the town of Kayak on Wingham Island was not quite abandoned. Today, no one lives anywhere in the region. The first oil boom in Alaska was about to start.
There was a forest of large trees (probably sequoias) on Unga Island, the largest island o the Shumagin group, on the south side of the Alaskan Peninsula. That forest was buried in ash from a nearby volcano and the wood mineralized over time. Today, there is a four-mile stretch of beach where the logs occasionally emerge from the sand. This paper argues for the site's protection.
This report tells the story of the first oil boom in Alaska -- new news at the time -- which had two epicenters, Katalla on Controller Bay and on the north shore of Cook Inlet between Chinitna and Iniskin bays. The Cook Inlet fields were never developed, but Katalla was, then abandoned. A few years ago a Korean company showed interest in reopening them.
There is gold in the sand of the western gulf of Alaska, but not a lot. This report describes the results of a large sampling project, by helicopter. As a goldfield, these beaches never developed, but a few independent miners still work these remote sands and scratch out a living.
Retreating glaciers are not always bad news for salmon. In some places, the new rivers and lakes formed as the ice leaves create new habitats for salmon; in some cases, the warming water and increased silt spell death. It's complicated. While the main topic here is salmon, the paper gives a crisp picture of what's going on with glaciers throughout Alaska.
Compiled by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, this booklet shows when the salmon and halibut are in Southeast Alaska in crazy-good detail. There are 24 maps and more than 500 locations.
Cold As Ice, An Introduction to Glaciers and Glacier Processes - Molnia (2017)
This deck by Bruce Molnia describes the world’s ice fields and glaciers in general, but most of the deck is a pictorial dictionary of terms relating to glaciers. It drives home the realization that glaciers are so much more than just rivers of ice. This is an excellent place to start understanding and appreciating glaciers. 128 slides, 51 MB.
Satellite Image Atlas of Glaciers of the World, Alaska - Molnia (2008)
This is the definitive study of Alaska Glaciers, edited by Bruce Molnia with contributions by many others. This is a masterpiece of science and history. This isn’t the first book or deck one should read on glaciers (“Cold as Ice” is a good place to start), but everyone with an interest in Alaska glaciers should download this work. It is very large. 554 pages, 92 MB.
Coastal Glaciers of Prince William Sound and Kenai Peninsula - Grant & Higgins (1913)
This is the seminal study of Alaskan glaciers using photographs and detailed maps. Cook in 1778 and Vancouver in 1794 were the first to describe some of these glaciers in English, but their descriptions didn’t go much beyond calling them “walls of ice, from which blocks fell into the sea.” Dall examined the glaciers in a part of Cook Inlet (1880-1885), and Mendenhall and Schrader examined others in 1898. In 1899 the Harriman Expedition blasted through the region, mapping and taking photographs of 25 glaciers in Glacier Bay and up the coast but spending very little time in any one spot (they covered 9,000 miles in 60 days, or 150 miles a day). It was Grant and his associates who first took the time to study, map, and photograph these glaciers in the fieldwork from 1905, 1908, and 1909, distilled here in this USGS publication. Grant didn’t know about global warming, but he realized the value of baseline data: “In any study of the positions of glacier fronts, dated photographs are of prime importance, for they furnish detailed observation. If the photographs are taken from easily recognized stations which can be occupied in later years, the value is still greater.” 75 pages. 66 photos and maps, 16 MB.
This is an exceptionally clear and easy-to-digest overview of the literature on wolves in Southeast Alaska.
This is a full scholarly account of the wolf experiment on Coronation Island. From the paper: Wolves were introduced to Coronation Island in the Alexander Archipelago of southeastern Alaska in 1960. The island was previously without wolves or other large mammalian predators and supported a high density of Sitka black-tailed deer. The introduced wolves (two pair) increased to a peak population of 13 animals in four years and caused a pronounced decline in deer density. The wolves then declined to a single animal in 1968, and deer persisted only in a few areas of rough terrain and dense habitat. Wolf scats consisted primarily of deer during the first five years following their introduction, with harbor seal of secondary importance. Deer remains in the scats declined during 1966-1968 to low frequency, whereas marine invertebrates, small rodents, and birds increased markedly, and wolf remains also appeared in the scats. As deer density declined, wolves fed opportunistically on whatever was available, even resorting to cannibalism.
This is a deck LaVern Beirer used for a presentation at a recent wildlife convention. The subtitle is, "Bits & Pieces of Catching & Tracking Brown Bears for Research in the Temperate Rainforests of Southeast Alaska." No one, I am confident, knows more about the topic than LaVern. He was in the field for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game from 1973 to 2016, eventually tranquilizing bears and attaching radio and GPS collars (which fall off after a set period of time) and snaring samples of their hair for DNA analysis. This deck has 170 pages loaded with photographs. Every time we look through it we learn something new. We hope to record LaVern giving the presentation with the deck the next time we're in Juneau. 40 MB.
This article profiles LaVern Beier, the bear expert and author of the "BearFest" deck, above.
This very short (three-page) paper outlines the wolf experiment on Coronation Island. From the paper, "The purpose of this study is an attempt to accelerate normal population fluctuations between a predator and prey species on an area small enough to allow changes to be measured. Some of the unknowns we are attempting to answer include: Can deer survive in the presence of an abnormally high wolf population? What happens to wolves when normal food sources become
depleted? How fast and to what point will a wolf population increase? How long a time is required for deer range to recover after pressure is released? What is the carrying capacity of Alaskan deer ranges?"
From the summary, "At approximately 6:00 p.m. on March 8, 2010, the body of Candice Berner was discovered next to a snow-covered road approximately two miles from the community of Chignik Lake, Alaska. ... The DHSS State Medical Examiner asserted that Ms. Berner died from “multiple injuries due to animal mauling.” The investigators concluded that Ms. Berner was attacked and killed by wolves. A joint action to lethally collect wolves from the immediate area was undertaken ... to address public safety concerns and to investigate biological factors that may
have contributed to the attack. Genetic analysis of samples taken from the victim’s clothing and
from wolves killed in the lethal removal action positively identified one wolf and implicated
others in the attack."
The effects of clearcut logging are very long-lasting. This paper describes an effort to ameliorate the problem in one place for one species. From this paper, “Although moose populations at Thomas Bay responded favorably to the initial increase in available browse resulting from extensive clearcut logging between 1958 and 1975, dense, closed-canopy forests, caused by natural regeneration of second-growth stands, have reduced available understory browse vegetation. As a result, moose habitat quality at Thomas Bay has been declining each year. This annual report summarizes progress on improving habitat for moose at Thomas Bay from July 1, 1998, to June 30, 1999. Phase one of the habitat improvement project, the clearing and reopening of approximately 10 miles of preexisting logging roads at Thomas Bay, was completed in June 1998 at a cost of $10,500. Habitat enhancement efforts will be focused on precommercial thinning of select second-growth stands to improve browse plant production and habitat quality for moose on state lands at Thomas Bay.”
This paper gives more detail about the wolf/deer experiment on Coronation Island.
From the abstract: "Historically Northwest Coast Peoples including Tlingit have managed fishing and fish populations. Each Tlingit clan or house managed and controlled specific rivers or, in larger rivers, sections of rivers ... Traditional beliefs about the reincarnation of animal spirits and kinship with animals contributed to how Tlingit traditionally treated and handled salmon and animals. In recent decades, sockeye salmon have dramatically declined in the Dry Bay/Alsek area.
It is hoped that this study, by showing how the Tlingits historically understood and managed sockeye habitat, population, and harvest in the Dry Bay/Alsek area, will aid in developing a restoration plan."
This paper describes a study of Native sealing in Yakutat fjord. As the authors say, “Yakutat … presents an opportunity for the study of historical ecology … in a biodiverse subarctic fiord, with a focus on cultural construction of an integral role, or niche, in the ecosystem over a period of some 1,200 years.
Mid-Cenozoic Marine Mammals from Alaska – Jacobs (2009)
This paper by Jacobs, et al, published by the Museum of Northern Arizona in 2009, describes the marine mammals of Alaska roughly 23 million years ago. These mammals were separated from the Arctic Ocean by the Bering Land Bridge and developed independently, and then went extinct. Among them were the Desmostylians, which in the region had only been found in the Alaska Peninsula and on Kodiak Island.
This two-page flier covered the basic rules and laws governing the collection of fossils and artifacts in Alaska on State and Federal lands. It cites the laws and gives contact information for permits with the Bureau of Land Management and the State of Alaska.
This paper describes a desmo find from Unalaska (Dutch Harbor) and a jaw found in on Hokkaido Island (Japan) and discusses how the animals fed on marine grasses. If the fossil we found on the Alaska Endeavour Lost Coast expedition of 2021 is confirmed, this will the creatures lived along the entire rim of the North Pacific.
This teacher's guide covers the geologic time scale and describes the most common fossils in Southeast Alaska with excellent photos and maps.
This paper describes late Jurassic ammonites from 10 areas in Alaska and draws conclusions about how they fit into the distribution of other ammonites around the world.
This paper dates rocks around the Gulf of Alaska that contain fossil plants by using fossil mollusks. "The mollusks indicate that the oldest possible age for the lowest plant assemblage is middle Eocene (Domengine) and that the youngest possible age for the highest Paleogene plant assemblage is middle Oligocene (Lincoln)." One of the missions of the Alaska Endeavour 2021 Lost Coast expedition to was examine these conclusions.
Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve is on the Alaska Peninsula and is one of the most wild assets in the National Park system. This excellent study explains "how various peoples related to nature and how those relationships ultimately shaped Aniakchak's human history. The study puts the Alutiiq people, the Alaska Natives living on the central Alaska Peninsula, and Aniakchak's physical environment, at its center, as it discusses Russian and American expansion from 1741 through the 1980s, when Aniakchak became part of the NPS."
This pamphlet has good statistics on weather patterns in Southeast Alaska.