For my independent research project, I want to assess if plants in homogeneous Echinacea populations fare better with pollinators than plants in populations mixed with introduced sweet clover, introduced thistle, and native prairie rose. To accomplish this, I will apply several methods. First, I will randomly choose flowering Echinacea plants in several of the remnant populations to study. Then, I will record the number of introduced potential competitors as well as other native plants within a certain radius of the plant by using aerial photography. To get the camera high enough above the plant, I will stand on a ladder and hold a ~4m pole with the camera on one end and a counterweight (two wooden blocks nailed together) on the other. I will take two rounds of photos for each plant- once before peak flowering and once after. I will be able to determine distances from plant to plant by placing markers at one meter and calculating the number of pixels per meter when I review the photos.
my giant pole and me.
After classifying the surrounding populations to the flowering plant, I will determine the pollination success by observing the styles of the flower. When a flower receives compatible pollen, within 24 hours the style will shrivel, indicating successful pollination. I can count the number of shriveled style rows in each flower head to determine its success as a pollen receiver. I hypothesize that the flowers in closer proximity to other flowering plants will receive less successful pollen visits than Echinacea in more homogeneous populations. Hopefully, I will collect data from more than twenty plants. The plants are finally flowering, so this week I will be choosing my plants of study and start counting styles when they emerge.