July 2007 Archives

Here's a photo of the measurers and datatakers at the Hegg Lake common Garden on July 26th.
(L to R) Kneeling: Amy, Amy, Jennifer. Standing: Gretel, Ian, Andy, Ruth, Julie, Josh, Rachel, Colin, Jameson. Photo by Stuart--he measured too.

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i started this flog entry last year and never finished it. I'm just going to publish it as it is...

To streamline the process and get everyone on the same page i'm compiling photographs of all the different categories that we are noting in association with Echinacea plants.

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At last, after car trouble aborted my trip last week, I made it back out to Douglas County to join in field work with Team Echinacea. What a difference from the 2 days in late May, when Stuart, Jennifer, Andrea, Amy Mueller, and I were there searching for seedlings in the remnants! On Wed, the team numbered 12, and we made great headway measuring plants in the common garden. We were undaunted by the heat and humidity, though we did welcome every breeze. Today, we had the benefit of clouds all morning, and 13 of us measured quite a few plants at the Hegg Lake experimental site before rain, which we'd been seeing in the distance all morning, chased us in for lunch. The weather canceled field work for the afternoon, but we received instruction from Rachel about the upcoming work to evaluate species composition at her research sites, and I conferred with Stuart on analysis of pollinator visitation data before I headed back to the Twin Cities. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the new members of the crew and working with them and look forward to the next time.

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Hi all,
So I arrived up at the field site about a week and half ago to finish up monitoring flowering and help out with measuring and demo. Except for the recent death of my computer's hard drive it has been an excellent start to my field season. As you may know flowering was about a week earlier this year with many more flowering heads than expected. I would have estimated around 800 (max) flowering heads but we had over 1,100 flowering in the common garden. Last year was also a huge flowering year (over 1,300 heads) because it was a burn year. I am excited to now have two years of flowering data on a large of plants in the common garden.

We have spent a large part of the last week I have been here measuring both in the common garden and at the hegg lake common garden. The hegg lake common garden was established back in May of 2006 to as part of my graduate research. It is about 6 miles from the main common garden on Minnesota DNR land. It has around 4,000 plants planted on a 1m X 1m grid. Today we had the entire field crew out at hegg lake measuring for a total of 13 people and measured nearly half of the entire plot just today...it was great!

Besides the field work I have been keeping myself busy in rural Minnesota by fishing (Ian has promised that I will actually know how to fish by the end of the summer), playing poker, and going to a dirt track race. In the near future I plan on flogging all non-Echinacea related activities that can be done in rural Minnesota....however now I'm tired so it will have to wait until the weekend.

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For my most recent blog entry I've made a video. It is what I believe to be a Bembix wasp digging a nest. I filmed it on the backside of the Andes hill in a really dry and sandy area. I edited it down a lot. Originally there were about 24 minutes of video, but I cut a lot of the digging out as well as time in which the bee was not visible. The link for the video is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wskx8EKbeo0 . Make sure to have speakers on for it, but if the music isn't your thing and you simply want to bask in the quiet glory of the wasp, watch it without sound.

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After a brief retreat, during which I completed the seventh installment of Harry Potter, I'm returning to the world of field work, flogging and fun. [The book, by the way, was excellent, and I'm excited and willing to discuss it with anyone who has also read it, or who wishes the ending to be spoiled. Also, I want to give props to my younger sister, who predicted the ending with remarkable accuracy.]

This week we've been battling some classic Minnesota summer weather. The whole week has been extremely hot, and exceptionally muggy. To the consternation of some and relief of others, we switched our working hours to be an hour earlier so as to avoid some of the afternoon heat. Driving into work one day, we heard the MPR weathercaster announce that there were going to be "sauna-like conditions" and recommended that people stay inside and avoid strenuous activity. The hardy members of Team Echinacea persevered undaunted however, and we made good progress in the monitoring of the Common Garden and at Jennifer's plots at Hegg Lake. We welcomed back team members Rachel and Amy Mueller, and also received a visit from Ruth Shaw, who was valuable addition during this hot week, and who also came to Kensington bearing delicious lemon poppy seed cake.

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Now that I've gotten a new toy, I've gotten several more pictures. Not all of them are with this fun lens though.


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On July 9th Team Echinacea temporarily became Team Platanthera. That is to say, we journeyed c. 170 miles northwest of our usual study area, around Kensington, to the Nature Conservancy's Pembina Trail Preserve near Fertile, MN. Here we searched for Platanthera praeclara, the elusive Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. The WPF orchid is a midwestern prairie wildflower that has been listed as federally threatened since 1989. For more information about the WPF, where it persists, and why it is threatened, check out this link .

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We have gotten the chance to look briefly at some of the bee data that we gathered this summer. The first numbers that we have to report are the average flight distances that bees are making between plants. Average flight distance between different plants of Echinacea is 3.73 M. When we added the data for the flights between different heads on the same plant (these intraplant flights were all considered to be 0 M long) the average flight distance was shortened to 3.27 M.

In the next couple of days, we will potentially do the following with our data:
-construct a histogram to visually represent the distance distribution of flights
-print out the homerange maps for each bee, and determine their size, overlap with other homeranges, etc
-compare the maps of flight tracks to the phenology data to see if we can find patterns in which inflorescences bees are visiting and which they are choosing to ignore
-try to determine the percentage of flights that are not successfully transmitting pollen between compatible plants

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We had a long afternoon of monitoring today. Andy and I worked together. On Andy's turn to measure we got row 35, which just happens to contain the monster plant. This plant has by far the most flowering heads in the garden. This year it has 15 fully developed heads and 2 pipsDSCF002600.JPG

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IMG_0032.jpg IMG_0033.jpg
The cameras were over-heating filming under the hot sun all day: so Andy bought hats for all of them to wear.


white fuzzies

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Here are my daily photos
this first one is actually from yesterday

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A protocol for Team Video is in the early stages, and there are many aspects to consider. While it started slow, we have found a relatively quick and efficient system for placing cameras, taking down and storing cameras, and uploading videos. Unfortunately, many additional challenges await.


Good news for science at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Foundation is giving $8 million to help build a new science building. The 35,000 square-foot building will house laboratories for the Garden's research team, classrooms, an expanded herbarium, a plant science library, and an enlarged seed banking facility. Read the detailed press release.

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Kite Aerial Photography is not going well. Friday the 13th was a particularly bad day.

MORNING: In the morning Josh, Julie & I drove to NNWLF. We set out ground markers and got the kite up. After we got the camera up we realized that the remote control wasn't going to gain us much with the canon S70 because it take about 10 seconds between shots in the RAW mode. The interval on the timer is about 15 seconds. Then the camera battery ran out ARG. So, we went back to lunch.

AFTERNOON: Armed with fresh batteries we went back to NWLF and set out the ground markers, got the camera up, and took a lot of shots. Or so we thought. When we returned I found that there were no photos on the card. We're not sure what happened. Perhaps the LED didn't trigger the sensor. The problem was we didn't check. ARG.

EVENING: Julie & Josh painted the kite line at 10 meter interval, so we could gauge the height of the camera. When the paint dried, I went out the roll up the string and found it was in four pieces. Some animal had chew through the line in several places. ARG.

Well, we are learning a lot. We have a long way to go before we are a well-oiled KAP machine.

Of course there was a fine finish to the day. I was working on the computer and got distracted for a few minutes. Then I heard thunder in the distance and the power went off for a few seconds. I lost the first version of this lament. I then pulled the plug on all computers and went to bed.

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it's been a whole week since we last had internet access at the Andes, and I have a lot of material to post. I have many many pictures to upload and many stories to tell, but I can't do it all now. Anyway my posts from now on will probably not be in the order that the events actually happened. Here are some pictures i took today


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Our initial protocol for painting bees called for painting bees as they were collecting pollen on the flower heads using a small paintbrush. Before starting painting, we had created "paint bandoliers" that consisted of microfuge tubes filled with different colors of paint and then taped in a line with duct tape to keep them together. We ordered the colors according to the rainbow to make it easier to keep track of the colors. Each color was given a three letter abbreviation. Painting the bees with paint brushes was fairly easy, but the shape and thickness of the dot had the possibility of being very variable. After researching bee painting, in particular queen honeybee marking, it appeared that the ideal dot that would last the longest amount of time is circular and uniformly thin. To obtain this ideal dot, it was suggested that a piece of wire whose diameter was the size of the desired dot be used.

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The frequency of bee sightings has slowed down in the past couple of days, but in the mean time we have been typing up our updated protocols, and begun looking at the data that we've collected. Read on for detailed protocols, the musings of this year's Bee Team, and tips for next year's Bee Team.

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Here's a rundown of our equipment and various settings that we're using.

Sutton Flowform 16
G-kites Dopero
Peter Lynn Pilot 50

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It was Friday the 13th, the kind of day the superstitious worry about and the kind that I figure is just another day. The wind was pretty good, enough to pick up our Flowform 16 kite with our camera rig. We went out to North by Northwest of Landfill and set out our ground markers [images when our internet gets back up]. With a pretty good wind from the west, we got the kite up and the camera rig above the roadside population. We took two runs along the road, once south and once north (higher and lower). Overall, it was a good run.


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Here are some notes including completed management and what's left to do...

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the internet is down at Andes! and it has been for a week. Hopefully it will be fixed soon. Hopefully today

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The Federal Highway Administration is seeking input about how to prioritize research on highway corridors and the environment (e.g vegetation, wildlife, wetlands, endangered species, brown fields, and water quality).

If you have any ideas, send them a comment.

They are interested in comments on big ideas, not proposals, before AUGUST 24, 2007.

I think we need to know more about how corridors of native plants along highways affects bees and other pollinators, including threatened insects. Also, does planting hardy native plants save money by reducing mowing and weeding costs? Do native plantings make driving a more pleasurable experience?

I'm also curious about the effect of planting native plants in highway corridors near native remnant prairies. On one hand, larger plant populations might improve the survival of plants and animal in the remnants by increasing the habitat area and expanding pollinator populations. On the other hand, planting non-local seed sources next to a prairie remnant might introduce genes into the local remnants that might reduce plant performance (growth, disease resistance, etc) and possibly hasten the demise of a plant population in the native remnant.

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We haven't been blogging for quite a few days now because the internet has been down at Andes. Apparently the technician from Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association couldn't figure out what's wrong, so he went home.

Here at research central, we've been luckier. No visits necessary from Runestone (but no time to blog either). When service is back up, we'll have lots to write about, including:

1. Our trip to Pembina to monitor Gretel's orchid management experiment. (We saw a prairie chicken and sandhill cranes, but no moose).

2. Failed attempts at kite aerial photography on Friday the 13th. (Plus details about what we learned in the process.)

3. Reports from the Bee team on their successful tracking endeavors.

4. A recap, or three, of BSA meeting.

5. Weeding & other adventures in the common garden.

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I arrived in Chicago and am getting my presentation ready for the Botany meeting.

I heard that weeding went well today. Gretel said you all got a lot done. I know it's hard work. Did the 30-40 mph winds help? I miss being there.

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... are boring.

I took about 118 photos this afternoon and the > 100 straight-down shots are not interesting. Straight-down shot will provide good data when we have the ground markers and get enough shots in the right places. But for visual appeal & interest, the photos are boring.

Flying the kite was fun. It was cloudy with 10 - 15 mph winds from the N - NNW. It was a challenge to get the FF16 kite up--a 15 minute ordeal. But when it got up, it stayed. It was tiring to take it down and then it easily went right back up again. I took shots of the CG and then went to Staffanson.

Here's one of the few shots with the camera tilted. I like it.


This is a view of part of the common garden from the West. The rows are 1 m apart and those things are tripods for the video cameras. The tripods weren't in use today and have plastics bags over them. Flags are more visible than the Echinacea plants. But If you click on the thumbnail, you'll be able to see some flowering plants in the larger image.

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The toilet has again been modified. With the addition of the spider plant, the toilet is no longer a seat. It was uncomfortable anyway. The "maximum loading..." sticker came from the $10 hammock I bought from a garage sale. Not sure where to put it, but the trees near the pond seem to be the best bet. All I need is something to attach to the trees to attach to the hammock's chains.

Jameson has barricaded his garden in an effort to keep the enemy at bay. The enemy includes the likes of deer, bunnies, and probably ground squirrels.

Colin shot off some "fireworks" last night. A few of the pictures turned out well.

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As the crew posts profiles of themselves, certain aspects of people's personalities are inevitably left out. Our complex identities are unable to be fully described in a few short paragraphs. In an attempt to fill some of these holes, I present Julie Nicol.

Julie displays her talent.

Who would have known there are such wonderful animal impersonation talents in Team Echinacea. It appears that Jameson can do a killer cat impression too; we'll work on getting it on camera.

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Andy came back to the Mando today and he inspired us to create this
DSCF0683.JPG complete with swans
What is it you may ask? It's a revolutionary multi-functional piece of living room furniture. The full implications of this exciting new gadget are not yet realized. As a chair it has two or possibly three settings. It's great for playing guitar. It can be used as a planter. It also has ample storage space in the tank and in the bowl if desired.

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In general, the two main differences between '99 South and the main common garden (for damage assessment and herbivory) appears to be less damage in '99 South and more ants (and less ant diversity).

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The Bee team has been busy (I'm avoiding including a bad pun here) lately. We have implemented and perfected our tracking protocol in the past couple of mornings, and have gotten some good data looking at the flights between flowering heads in the Common Garden. Yesterday morning we successfully tracked the flight of one bee to 57 consecutive heads! For the most part, we have been faithful to the original protocol, although we have found that working in groups larger than two is more successful.

We discovered yesterday that the bee we have been identifying as Halictus rubicundus is actually neither that genus nor species. Stuart brought up a reference collection from the U of M, and our best guess is now that our bee is Melissodes cf. subillata.

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Rachel is a 3rd year master's student at the University of Minnesota in Ruth Shaw's lab. Her research is focused on the rapid evolution of invasive plant species in prairie fragments. She received her bachelors degree at the Central Washington University, and did post-bac work in the Australian rainforest with the School for Field Studies. She is a native of Washington state.

On the side Rachel enjoys breakdancing, hip-hop dancing, and gripping/gaffing on movie/television sets.

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Overall, today went pretty well. We managed to get the camera up on the small kite. CRW_3830.jpg

The wind gave us a few problems, though. The camera came down a few times and we had to run to grab it. CRW_3839.jpg

The big kite, however, had issues. After letting it out around 80 meters, the kite took a dive to the right... into a building. WHAM. This isn't a sound you want to hear. A few tears on the front, but not horrible. The problem came when Stuart was moving the kite. A gust of wind caught the kite around him. SNAP. Another bad sound. The carbon-fiber sticks were fine; an aluminum connector was not.

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We had a great picnic at Elk Lake Beach on the fourth. The wind off the lake was refreshing & would have been great for kite flying. Instead we ate great food, sat on the dock, swam, kicked the soccer ball, tossed a disk, and ate great food. The company was marvelous: Amy, Colin, Dwight, Gretel, Hattie, Ian, Jameson, Jean, Josh, Julie, Per, Pete, Rachel, Sarah, & Stuart. Folks stayed for about four hours and some got a little too much sun. The water was pleasantly warm, but a little greener than usual. I didn't take any photos.

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We did herb & ray again today, which is short for herbivory and ray damage (i think), and afterwards to streamline the process even further for the future I took pictures of the different categories of herbivory/ray damage. The Main categories are Brown ray florets, Brown tips of ray florets, and straight, obvious herbivory of ray florets. I tried to categorize my photos into the different groups. There is some grey area between Brown and brown tips and there may be overlap of how those two conditions are caused. Brown tips are almost always associated with shriveling of the distal ends of the ray florets. We decided that brown area larger than 2X2mm area classifies as brown and less than that at the tip of the rays is brown tip. There are also sometimes small brown areas on the sides of the rays, which I think merits some attention. Another common anomaly is for the rays to have dark uniform spots on them. The last picture shows that condition


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Here are some key resources:

Kensington general forecast and 48-hour surface wind forecast (from NWS in Minneapolis).

Hoffman general forecast and 48-hour surface wind forecast (from NWS in Grand Forks).

Current conditions at nearby weather stations.

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We forgot our list of what specific heads to video for each plant, so I decided, in the field, to just video the one with a twist tie color that comes first in the alphabet. I think we'll use this method from now on as it is at least haphazard and it's easy to remember.

Also, three of our rigged batteries failed immediately. I hope my big batteries from B and H come soon!

Video Andy

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A redesign of the original asymmetry contraption has finally reached (hopefully) it's perfected state. With a black felt backing I was able to take several test pictures in the '99 Garden South with the assistance of Dr. Andrew McCall.

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Studying and learning about insects that eat Echinacea and its seeds has been a sort of personal project of mine this summer. The other day I examined most of the inflorescences in the common garden that had been designated with disc florivory. I didn't immediately find anything too interesting but I took some notes and photographs that may lead to a breakthrough later on. Today I found something that I thought was interesting and could lead in an interesting direction. See if you can spot it.

if you still don't understand listen here

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Several pictures of the Bee Team marking bees.



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This morning, due to a revolutionary development in our marking protocol, the Bee team members caught and marked 6 Halictus rubicundus in a relatively short amount of time. The secret to our success was capturing the bees and cooling them before any painting was attempted, instead of trying to mark them while they worked the Echinacea heads. Tomorrow we will spend a good portion of the morning marking bees in the common garden, and then hopefully be able to train the rest of the crew in, so that we can begin taking data in earnest later in the week. Read on for new and revised protocols...


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Here are some preliminary instructions on how to observe and record bee/ant presence or absence while we are doing phenology measurements. I thought that while we are looking so closely at each head, we might as well try to garner some information on the Hymenopteran vistors as well. It will not be continuous data, but rather a simple 'yes' or 'no' measurement for each plant (bees) or for each head (ants).


Bee collecting composite pollen, copyright Jon Sullivan


As you begin your phenology measurements only scan for bees once you are within 1m of the plant. If there are any moving, active bees on any head, mark the appropriate box in your phenology form. As soon as you touch a head for phenology measurements, stop recording any bee presence/absence. So, if you are looking at a head and a bee lands on an adjacent head, just ignore it. For bees, we are interested in bee presence for the ENTIRE plant, so as soon as you see one, you are finished entering data.

Remember, wee are only interested in active bees, so don't count sleeping bees, dead bees, bees caught by crab spiders or assassin bugs, etc.


Ant, copyright Alex Wild


Ant data are collected on a per-head basis. As you take each head into your hand and begin your anther count, notice if you see any ants on the top of the inflorescence (either ray OR disk florets). Don't make any special effort at looking underneath the inflorescence. If no ants make an appearance as you are handling the head, mark the head as having no ants, if ANY ants appear whilst you are searching the head, enter the data as such.


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Hello everyone, this is Andy McCall reporting from the farmhouse in Douglas Co. Minnesota.

I'm currently an assistant professor of biology at Denison University, a small liberal arts college (a SLAC!) in Granville, Ohio. I, like many people on the project, graduated from Carleton College , where I first learned to appreciate and love the prairie landscape under the tutelage of Mark Mckone .

Needless to say, I love teaching and learning and have wanted to be a professor since my time at Carleton. After Carleton, I studied alpine flies in New Zealand while earning my Master's degree at the University of Canterbury, leafcutter ants in Costa Rica, and wild radishes in California.

I received my doctorate in population biology from UC-Davis in 2006 with Rick Karban and spent some time in Ruth Shaw's lab at the University of Minnesota last summer, thinking about inbreeding, flowers, and insects -- a few of my favorite things! I met Ruth when she came to UC-Davis for a week as a workshop speaker in the Center for Population Biology and we immediately hit it off because we both have done work on the lovely annual plant, Nemophila menziesii . She introduced me to Stuart and the Echinacea project, and the rest is history!

Ruth, Stuart, and I were lucky enough to receive funding through the National Science Foundation to support our work on pollination and seed predation this summer, and I have received generous funds from Denison and the Battelle Foundation to support the students I brought from Denison this year: Josh Drizin, Jameson Pfeil, and Colin Venner. I'm psyched to be part of the project as I am certain that we are learning brand-new things about both Echinacea biology and prairie restoration.

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Here's a list of our objectives for the week. Our goal is to gain greater understanding of the ecology and evolution of plants and their associated insects in fragmented prairie habitat. This week will be a peak flowering week for Echinacea this year (1 - 2 weeks earlier that most years). We will spend most of our time observing things related to reproduction. Get down, Echinacea!

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We have finished two weeks of the summer field season and I feel like we haven't settled into a routine because we have been doing something new and different each day. It's exciting.

Here's a recap of accomplishments this past week...

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I'm Josh Drizin, a rising senior at Denison University. I'm majoring in Biology (minor in Chemistry). I'm interested in plants, and possibly more specifically in population ecology. I joined Team Echinacea because I wanted the experience in field work and the project sounded interesting. My tick count to date is 10. I rather enjoy photography and quite like listening to music (I need to get back into playing guitar, though).

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Let me reintroduce myself. In rare forgetful moment, I left my self logged into the team computer at the farm house, and a prankster who shall not be named shared with the readers of this blog a couple of facts about my life. All of these facts, with the possible exception of the title of the entry are true. I'm a biology major at Carleton, and will be spending the fall semester studying rain forest ecology in Costa Rica. I like being outside in any and all capacities, love ornithology, and enjoy making and consuming delicious food.


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I'm Jameson Pfeil, the hairiest member of team Echinacea. I'm a rising senior at Denison University in Granville, OH. At School I live at an intentional community called the Homestead. I'm majoring in Biology at Denison and I'm trying to specialize within Biology, but I haven't settled on anything quite yet. I joined team Echinacea to get experience in the field and to learn a new discipline of biology. I'm originally from southeastern Pennsylvania, most recently Lancaster, PA, just west of the city.(and no I'm not Amish).

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