Scientists Identify the Mysterious Orange Goo Washed Ashore in Kivalina

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by Russ Slaten

The bizarre orange goo that washed ashore near the village of Kivalina, about 65 miles Northwest of Kotzebue, was identified as a spruce needle rust fungus.

The picture shown here is a highly magnified view of the rust fungus spores.

The source of the spores were likely infected white spruce along the rivers near Kivalina, according to the USDA Forest Services. Researchers say the rust fungus is non-toxic.It was reported to be an outbreak of the fungus, driven by the environmental factor of cool, wet weather in the spring.

A researcher from Natural Resources Canada identified the species.

"She was able to tentatively identify the spores based on distinctive physical features. Their shape, size and appendages identified the fungus as Chrysomyxa ledicola, which is the spruce needle rust," said USDA Forest Pathologist Robin Mulvey.

Researchers say the fungus is native to the ecosystem, which greatly minimizes the risk of any spruce trees in the area.