Alaska is noteworthy as a region of frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The region contains 52 historically active volcanoes, 14 of which have had at least one major eruptive event since 1990. Despite the high frequency of volcanic activity in Alaska, comprehensive studies of how ecosystems respond to volcanic eruptions are non-existent. On August 7, 2008, Kasatochi Volcano, in the central Aleutian Islands, erupted catastrophically, covering the island with ash and hot pyroclastic flow material. Kasatochi Island was an annual monitoring site of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge (AMNWR); therefore, features of the terrestrial and nearshore ecosystems of the island were well known. In 2009, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), AMNWR, and University of Alaska Fairbanks began long-term studies to better understand the effects of the eruption and the role of volcanism in structuring ecosystems in the Aleutian Islands, a volcano-dominated region with high natural resource values.