Washington: Last year when Alaska`s Kasatochi volcano erupted, it sterilized and covered the small Aleutian island with a layer of ash. The eruption also provided a rare research opportunity: the chance to see how an ecosystem develops from the very first species to colonize the island.
Next week, a team of researchers organised by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will visit Kasatochi to look for signs of life on the island, almost exactly one year after the catastrophic eruption.
The interdisciplinary research team will spend four days surveying the island, using the USFWS research vessel Tiglax as an operational base for the on-site research.
"Since volcanism plays such a big role in shaping the Aleutians, we hope to end up with a better understanding of how disturbances such as volcanic eruptions shape the ecology of these islands," said Tony DeGange, USGS biologist and research team coordinator.
"There hasn`t been a study quite like this done in Alaska where scientists are taking such a comprehensive ecological view of the impact of an eruption and its resulting response and recovery," DeGange said.
Researchers expect that insects and birds will be the first animal species that re-colonise the island. Biologists have set up monitoring and sampling equipment on Kasatochi earlier this summer, including insect traps for Derek Sikes, curator of insects at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.
Sikes visited Kasatochi in June 2008 for a one-day survey of the insect fauna on the island before the eruption. He will be part of the research team that visits the island next week.