Alaska EPSCoR’s Phase III biology researchers studied the patterns and processes that shift the home territories of Alaska flora and fauna, concentrating on subsistence species. The goal of the component was to gather scientific data regarding controls over biodiversity and species distributions at high latitudes to increase understanding of how Alaskan ecosystems respond to current and future environmental changes. Within this broad scope, the biology component was split into a Plant-Microbe Interactions group and a Landscape Genetics group.

Species migrations, especially caribou and salmon, were a regular focus of biology researchers. This research led to a greater understanding of how the genetic makeup of groups and species relate to their environment, enabling better predictions of future genetic alteration as a result of climate change. An additional focus was entomology, including a fortuitous insect survey of the volcanic Aleutian island of Kasatochi shortly before it erupted and seemingly decimated all life on the island. Researchers then conducted multiple groundbreaking studies of the island’s re-emerging population genetics and food web dynamics.

The landscape genetics focus was supported in 2009-10 by a one-time offering of competitive landscape genetics grants to researchers in the field, and Alaska EPSCOR also supported landscape genetics studies through salary support for a DNA technician and a plant symbiosis lab technician. In 2010-12 biology investigations were augmented through the advent of the interdisciplinary “Ecosystem Services and Livelihoods” theme, which focused on the benefits provided by ecosystems and their relationship to communities’ resilience and vulnerability.