June 2009 Archives

Can you match up the Team Echinacea member with his or her handle, that is, the alias used over the walkie talkie radios? Answers to be posted later this week ...

The real deal
Amy
Daniel
Kate
Caroline
Mimi
Allegra
Stuart
Greg
Amanda
Gretel

The clever handle
GT
Penguin
Joker
Queen Bee
RoboCop
Yea Mon
Drone
Monster
Legos
Riddler

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In an attempt to outflog the rest of the team, I will describe what we did today. In the morning, most of us collected data for the phenology exp. No new plants had flowered, but some mistakes were caught in the flagging of positions from yesterday. I saw one of the large Halictid bees going to town on one of the flowering heads.Then until about 1, most of us headed out to the landfill site with different tasks in mind. I needed to do a test run of the FNC (I get tired of writing out floral neighborhood characterization) to see what obstacles we are going to face and about how long each one will take. Amanda helped me ID plants and test out the general protocol and it took about five minutes but there only 4 co-flowering species--Amorpha canascens, toothed evening primrose, Phlox pilosa, and Northern Bedstraw. Some species are more difficult to quantify in terms of number, such as Galium. After some discussion with Stuart, I think we will probably count each inflorescence as 1 "unit" so that counting the number of co-flowering species will be systematic and consistent. And now for more pretty pictures: P6280114.JPG
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Above: Glacial Lakes State Park trip, only a half hr away!
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A plant we couldn't ID. Help?
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Old Runestone Day Parade pics, Per & Hattie the candy gatherers

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My project is almost ready to start this week!

I will be hand pollinating heads on 20 flowering plants in the '96 section of the CG with different species of foreign pollen and Echinacea pollen to simulate pollen loads arriving from generalist pollinators. The Echinacea pollen will be applied at the same time as the foreign pollen, 4 hours after, or not at all depending on the treatment. I should start painting bracts for the first flowers in the next couple of days. After discussing the pros and cons of different pollinator exclusion methods, I have decided I will use bags for the 20 plants in my study, and cages for the plants I will be taking pollen from frequently. All my plants now have blue flags in the CG. Ruth brought new paint for us to use, including a lovely new dark purple color. Thanks Ruth!

I have also decided to use 3 different foreign pollen donors and no mixes for my treatments. After some practicing collecting pollen from different species at the Landfill, here are the best species I have come up with that have easy to collect pollen:
Lead plant-Amorpha canescens-Fabaceae
False sunflower-Heliopsis helianthoides-Asteraceae
These are both common in the remnants and co-flower with Echinacea, hopefully sharing pollinators.

Other possibilities:
Coreopsis palmata-Asteraceae
Thistle-whichever is in flower?-Asteraceae
Prairie anemone-Anomone sp.-Ranunculaceae

Also, the bike gang is now 7 deep, so K-town betta watchout!

Allegra

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Look at this paper to see some nice photos of Echinacea floral parts (Wist and Davis 2008).

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Here's a file that lists sites you can choose for your study.

Also, here's a list of equipment that we used for during the first field season where we did systematic observations and collections of pollinators.

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Here's a file with plants that Allegra can use for her pollen interference/precedence experiment. These are all plants identified yesterday as going to flower in 2009. Plants are sorted according to priority order--random, except that plants from site of origin "Unknown" are given priority 1.

I recommend going down the list and excluding all plants that don't have at least two promising heads. Flag all included plants with labels 1, 2, 3, .... Stop when you have enough for your experiment. Ask Gretel which color flag to use. Blue is an option because your plants are in CG96 and Andrea's are in CG97.

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Here is an outline of the form needed for doing the aphid searches:

Rosette Count

Leaf Count

Length of Longest leaf - cm

Ant Presence - Yes/No

Size of Aphid Infestation (Required Field) - Categories 0, 1, 2-10, 11-80, >80

Count of Leaves with Aphids

Spittlebug Presence - Yes/No

Distance from Plant to Spittlebug - 0 if on the Echinacea Plant itself

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So, in an attempt to fit as many sampling needs as possible, here are the sites that we will be sampling for aphids, juvenile plants, and some tissue samples, along with the sampling strategies:
Large and Less Isolated
Staffanson(SPP)
Landfill(LF)
KJ's
Medium
Nessman (Ness)
East Riley (Eri)
Steven's Approach (Stevens)
Northwest of Landfill (NWLF)
Small
Randt
East of Town Hall (ETH)

We will use a couple different sampling strategies for the different remnants in order to try and randomize them as much as possible. These should accomodate Daniel's, Amy's and a portion of Jennifer's project. Note: All belt transects are 1/2 m unless otherwise noted.

Staffanson - Select 3 random locations in both the burned and unburned plots using randomly selected ULM coordinates, and find them using the Trimble GPS. Then, choose a random compass direction and run the belt transect roughly 10 m in that direction.

Landfill - Choose 3 random locations on the East Hill (Trimble again), choose a random direction, and do a 3-5 m belt transect in that direction. If more plants are needed, go a little further

KJ's - Choose 3 random locations, choose a random direction, and do a 3-5 m belt transect. Go further if needed.

Nessman - Since this is a roadside remnant, choose 5 random points along the road edge, and extend the belt perpendicular from the road to the cornfield.

East Riley - choose 5 random points along the road edge, and extend the belt perpendicular from the road to the edge of the remnant

Steven's Approach - Choose a bunch of random points along the road, and inspect to see if there are plants present. If not, go to the next point.

Northwest of Landfill - choose 5 random points along the road edge, and extend the belt perpendicular from the road to the edge of the remnant.

Randt - Choose a bunch of random points along the road, and inspect to see if there are plants present. If not, go to the next point.

East of Town Hall - Select random points used for seedling search, and look for plants there.

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Here's Jennifer's preliminary list of sites. She wants a total of ten sites and wants to sample from all that are asterisked.

Populations for sampling
These are pops I used for looking at long term flowering in the CG
The pops with * are the ones DR looked at in Dec with Fst values

Aa
Alf
Eri*
Kj
LC
Lf*
Ness*
Nwlf*
Riley
RRX
Spp*
Stevens*

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We have several microscopes and we would like to capture digital images of what we see--especially pollen grains. Which on should we pick? Any advice would be appreciated. Here are some links to pages about several models of inexpensive USB cameras that can mount to a microscope:

microsope.com sells several brand. They sell only one line from bigC.

Here's a company that sells the EM series from bigC.

documentation pages on the bigC product line (more on the AM series than the EM series).

Another source of info on the Moticam line.

I scanned this list of companies that sell (and used to sell) microscope accessories to find the above links.

FYI I stumbled across some pollen identification keys: a taxonomic list, a key to pollen of the bahamas, and an inaccessible "pollen database" that sounds good.

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This file lists places to look for spittlebug spittle masses in the CG. At the top there are rows in the 99 garden and the 99S garden sorted randomly. Then all bigbatch rows (noted with end positions) are listed in a random order.

Enjoy your search!

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Lots of plans for this week! Here are some highlights.

This week we will start systematic observations of Echinacea flowering phenology in the CG experiment. We want to know the first and last day of flowering for every head of every Echinacea plant in the CG. The main event early in the week will be to put a twist tie on every head that looks like it will flower. We will also put a flag near every flowering plant with its location on the flag. We have to get the locations (plant ids) correct and get it into a database. As of Sunday, four plants in the CG had started to flower, how many left to go? We will also record flowering phenology at Staffanson Prairie Preserve. We will observe many fewer plants, but it's a long walk.

Under the supervision of DR, we will spend ~1h looking for more spittle masses on Ea in the CG.

Jennifer and Diedre are coming from IL this Sunday and will stay for the week. They will help set up the phenology flags. They also plan to collect tissue from plants in several remnants to do a population genetic study using microsatellites (DNA markers).

Daniel and Amy will make a plan for searching for aphids and juvenile plants in remnants.

Caroline will fill us in on her plans.

The competition of pollinators crew (M "floral neighborhoods" J, A "bee's knees" G, K "style" G, A "the experimenter" H, and G "pollen from the source" D) will plan and practice for their project. Here are some things they will do...
Mimi: characterize floral neighborhoods
Amanda: catch bees, get pollen on slide
Kate: catch styles, get pollen on slide
Allegra: choose plants for experiment
Greg: order digital microscope cam & collect pollen (from the source)

GPS (maybe): Daniel & Amy.

What are we going to do about that tripod?

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Team Echinacea had a busy week last week.

We finished seedling searches in the remnants.

We found ~22 spittle bugs masses in the CG.

We talked a lot about plans for many projects and started organizing and practicing.

We ordered supplies.

On Thursday afternoon we pulled and cut thistles in the CG.

We started and finished the "recruitment experiment." This experiment started off as the "recruitment experiment." I hand broadcast seeds in fall '00, '01, and '02 in plots with different burn treatments. Now we are assessing plant survival. (We need a better name for this experiment.) Last year there were over 820 plants alive. After a quick scan of the datasheets, I think 9 plants will flower this year. Wow, much less than 1%! These plants are taking a long time to flower. After entering data, Amy will give a detailed summary of our findings this year. Notes for next year: improve datasheets for entering fl pla info, avoid searching at empty spots, & map plants using tripod system.

On Friday the first plant in the CG started to flower -- one floret started male phase. We saw the pollen. No plants started on Saturday and on Sunday 3 plants started to flower.

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So, *drum roll please*
Here are the possible candidates for the remnants that I will be looking at this summer.
In no particular order, I will pick 7 out of:

KJs
NW of Landfill
Landfill
Krusemark
East of Town Hall
Aanenson
Randt
Yellow Orchard Hill
Nessman

Depending on what Amy needs for her seedling searches, I can adjust accordingly, but these sites should give a good cross-section of isolated prairie remnants and well populated ones. Tomorrow, we will spend another hour searching for spittlebugs in the common garden, and hopefully enough will be found for a sufficient sample size. Phenology has also started in the common garden, and we have 4 plants that are flowering so far, with hopefully more by tomorrow.

We went out to the Glacial Lakes reserve today for a hike, and it was incredibly beautiful. We took lunch and hiked all afternoon, seeing some flowering Echinacea, noticing a bumblebee on one of the flowering Echinacea, and stopping every 5 minutes to look at a new plant. We even did a few seedling searches! (Stuart has trained us well....)

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Hi all--"Joker" here. I just spent some time reading all the flog entries from this month--I think I am caught up now! I really enjoyed reading your project proposals, and hearing about them on Friday. I'm excited about what we are going to learn this summer about aphids, ants and spittlebugs, and about floral neighborhoods, pollinators, pollen competition, etc. Good stuff! I'm also looking forward to sharing my experimental plans with the team.

Since I'm not in K-town for the weekend, I thought you might need a joke to tide you over. Here's the latest from our daily redneck calendar: You might be a redneck if you think re-booting your computer means kicking it twice. :)

Here's what I've come up with for the revisions to my original proposal as of Friday's group discussion; it is not in full form yet but I wanted to flog what I have so far so that people could read it and correct any mistakes I've made, make suggestions, etc.

Thanks
jenkins echinacea proposal revised.doc

Oh and friday was a big day in the common garden because the first Echinacea plant (in the 99garden I believe) released its pollen. Tomorrow we will investigate to see if any more have followed suit. We also searched for spittle on Echinacea plants for an hour on friday to help Daniel know whether he has a sufficient sample size and found 22 with spittle on them in roughly half the garden.
And I like pretty pictures so here's one for fun
P6200016.JPG
-Mimi

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Here is some information passed on to me by Megan Jensen about the breeding systems of common native prairie species. Notice, there are many holes! Hopefully, this sort of information will assist us in moving to a new, exciting phase of the Echinacea project ... which everyone will have to wait just a little longer to hear about. Have I piqued your interest?
Molano-Flores2004.pdf
NativeDryPrairieSpp.xls

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There was a nice steady rain this afternoon at the farm. Although the National Weather Service says we accumulated less than 0.1 in, I think the plants will take full advantage of precipitation in this unusually dry season.

Point precipitation map for Minnesota June 24, 2009

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The picture below shows the head that is leading the pack to flowering (row 46.67 pos 953.67). Its ray florets are spreading. As of June 22 about 50 heads had ray florets that were "up" (the ray florets were longer than the bracts of the receptacle).

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These are pictures that I took in the common garden today.
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Can you spot an aphid in the photo above?

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We finished searching for seedlings at the last site (Staffanson Prairie Preserve) on Monday. All the datasheets & maps (163 pages) are now organized in a 3-ring binder.

Here are a few highlights:

We found total of ...
> 22+1+5+1+8+2+24+4+13+0+5+7+1+0
[1] 93
... ninety-three seedlings at fourteen sites!

In August we'll go back and check the fate of every one of those seedlings. I hope we can find them all!
IMG_9234.JPG

Mimi, Amanda, Greg, Allegra, Daniel, Caroline, and Gretel
looking for seedlings on the scraped roadside at Riley's site.
(They didn't find any here.)

Two possible Echinacea seedlings (not counted above) were noted. We should go back to check their identity within the next week. At site NWLF we left a pin flag at focal plant #13073. At site ERI the possible Echinacea seedling was at R102 (see page 97). Help me remember to check these!

We found about 500 other Echinacea plants within the circles, mostly juvenile plants and some adults (flowering and not).
> 16+16+25+131+63+33+73+24+46+5+16+46+6+11
[1] 511

The roadsides at sites ER and ERI were scraped. In the area that was scraped, all the tags are gone. We did see many little Echinacea leaves peeking through the gravel, but no seedlings. In some areas the scraping was deeper and some roots of old plants were pulled out. I collected one pulled root from the S side of the road on the W half of RI; I couldn't tell from where it was yanked. IMG_8873.JPG

The root was huge!

With our very precise maps of plants from previous years, we will be able to identify which plants are gone and which persist. It will be a challenge though. In some dense areas we may not be able to figure it out. Stay tuned, we'll bring the detailed maps and try to figure it all out in August, after peak flowering.

IMG_9222.JPG

Gretel determining the identity of individual Echinacea plants
at the scraped roadside at Riley's.

The scraped gravel was piled in the ditches. Some plants in the ditches were buried and I expect that many of them will die. There will probably be a lot of weeds in and around those piles for the next few years (until the perennials take over again). IMG_9216.JPG

Two images (above & below) of the piles of gravel deposited
in the ditch on the S side of the road at Riley's.
IMG_9211.JPG

Another highlight (no photos though):

It was a pleasure to visit Staffanson. Gretel and I mapped the focal locations on Sunday and saw a patch of Cypripedium calceolus in flower (past prime). Almost every focal plant in the West unit (unburned) had spittlebug spittle on it. Almost none of the focal plants in the East unit (burned) had spit.

We didn't use the tripod to take photos. The camera didn't attach well and the remotetrip feature isn't ready yet. We'll need to work on the tripod and practice using it. I think it holds great potential to speed up and improve our protocol.

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Greetings from the green prairie! After a few days in the field, I feel I have a good handle on the projects done in the past and the current research. My name is Greg Diersen and this is my first year with Team Echinacea. I teach Biology (happy pollinator week) at Great Plains Lutheran High School in Watertown, South Dakota. That location in NE South Dakota is about a 2-hr drive from the Kensington/Hoffman area. They both have a "prairie pothole" landscape and have many of the same flora/fauna. My initial projects for this summer are to become "prairie literate" - able to identify the majority of plants and many insects in addition to the larger organisms with which I am already familiar. As I learn the "tallgrass" plants and insects - I will be comparing and contrasting the "mixed" prairie types of Eastern South Dakota.

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So, here is my revised project plan. I spent about 2 hours with Stuart today going over the procedure, and I think the randomization aspect and sampling aspect has been redesigned a bit better.
DanRathProposal.doc
Please let me know what you think. A bit more revision is to come, but this gives the basic idea.

Today was a beautiful day on the prairie. Got to try out my new bike this morning, and rode to the farm in a half hour. That last hill is a killer though. This afternoon, I rode back along Unity Drive, and noticed some Brome grass that had its anthers sticking out. Mistook it for a new type of plant at first. Nice warm weather with a nice breeze, so wonderful bike riding on those gravel back roads. Pictures will come eventually!

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P6200020.JPG
Those are just 2 of the many cool encounters I had yesterday on my bike ride past Hegg Lake and through Runestone Park. I also saw: pelicans, an American egret, a hare, tons of red-winged blackbirds and many other birds I can't yet identify, a wild turkey, a skink, and lots of interesting pollinators. I also saw some flowering Echinacea along the side of the road...I think Stuart probably knows about them (?) but I didn't see any tags and there ones that had flowered last year as well.

I thought I'd also flog the decisions we'd made last week about chores. The tasks are:
>sweep daily: G3--Mimi, the front porch--Allegra, and inside--Gretel
>clean the table tops and put away chairs daily--Amanda
>organize the bins and flags in G3 daily--Daniel
>shake out the rugs once a week--Amanda
>clean the bathroom once a week--?

-Mimi

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So, here is my proposal for looking at aphid proportion and density in the different prairie remnants this summer, as well as the presence of spittlebugs. Please criticize and let me know what you think.

DanRathProposal.doc

For the preliminary observations done to get an idea of the number of plants with aphids, I spent yesterday morning scanning the common garden for Aphids. I looked at rows 2, 3, 14, and 40, and wen through them up to the 20 meter mark. I found 3 plants with aphids and 5 with spittlebugs. For the younger plants, I scanned rows 51, 54, 55, and 56, and found 5 plants with spittlebugs and 3 with aphids. Given that I missed some, I would say that of the 270 plants looked at, roughly 2% had aphids.

Yesterday afternoon was also spent pressing plants, where I learned some of the finer points, such as ensuring that the flowers and leaves were well separated, how to fold some plants over, and to ensure that some leaves were turned over so that both sides of a leaf were captured. It is also very important to label clearly, and BEFORE you put the plant in the paper.

The little miss Runestone parade is today, and it is very likely that pictures of this event will be referenced or posted in later posts. (Depending on the varying levels of cuteness).

Also, here is the really cool paper on Spittlebugs, aphids and ants that I found: http://psyche.entclub.org/pdf/97/97-043.pdf

Daniel R.

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Calling all Veggie Lovers! Anyone interested in a CSA basket? I'll call this farm tomorrow to see if they will give us a partial summer share for the weeks we are here. They deliver to Alexandria on Thursdays.
Ploughshare Farm
(218) 267-5117
http://www.ploughsharefarm.com

Also, Alexandria Farmers' Market
Tues & Sat 9 - noon & Thursday 3 - 6 pm.
(320) 763-6893
http://www.mfma.org

Located in Big Ole Central Park at Broadway and 2nd Ave., in Alexandria. Offering a full line of locally raised fruits and vegetables including: apples, beans, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, bedding plants, flowers, elk, lamb, beef and chickens. New location, South of Agnes Lake on the Central Lakes Trail, 1/2 block north of the Chamber Office/Runestone Museum

And, Berry Ridge Farm
Call for hours, May-Nov. (320) 763-6893
1301 Firemans Lodge Road SW. Located 2 miles west of Alexandria on the east side of Lake Latoka. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and more.

Let the jam making begin!

I found these farms and more at http://www3.mda.state.mn.us/mngrown

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Here's my proposal for my project. Read it. Savor it. Constructively criticize it.
jenkins echinacea proposal.doc

It's still very helter-skelter at this point and in need of much fine-tuning, so any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Also, I'll re-attach the docx files from my last post in doc format.
Echinacea Pollinators nesting2.doc
Protocol for Taking Pictures of Insect Specimens.doc

On a side note, yesterday was a really exciting day because I found my first seedling, we got two bikes at a garage sale for $25 each, and there were the Runestone Days fireworks in the evening. The party lasted long into the night in K-town, and I think I remember falling asleep to the sweet sounds of AC/DC You shook me all night long coming from the street dance. These folks know how to party. I'm looking forward to the kiddie parade tomorrow! Although Amanda and I were saddened to hear it wouldn't be a kitty parade.

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Hello again, field log readers--

I know it's been a trying twenty hours of waiting, but I now have more details regarding my independent project!

GallinatProposal.doc

Just by clicking on my proposal (above) you will get an idea of the specific questions I'd like to answer, how I plan to go about answering those questions and how my study fits into this summer's bigger picture work on competition for pollination. Take it from me, it's a riveting read!

I would greatly appreciate any questions or comments about this proposal-- whether you are part of the Project or just an Echinacea enthusiast in K-town for Runestone Days, feel free to write in the comments. Thanks!

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My name is Allegra Halverson and I am from New Hampshire. I am an undergraduate student in Botanical Science at McGill University in Montreal, and a recent addition to Team Echinacea. Lots of things happened this week, so here are a few highlights:

We moved into the old town hall and I've been loving the bike ride to the farm in the mornings so everyone with access to a bike should bring it!

I saw a garter snake, two frogs, two deer, ground squirrels, a wild turkey and lots of birds.

Gretel and I selfed Megan J's prairie turnip plants at the landfill site on Wednesday. We also helped Andrea put out flags and fungal traps in the CG for her mycorrhizae project.

I started my plant collection at the landfill and common garden with 15 plants so far. I have to make a plant collection for a class next winter and will also make one for the Echinacea project at the same time to help future newbies with plant identification.

During this first week we received a lot of background information on the project and began the planning stages of our own projects related to the larger questions about Echinacea in the fragmented prairie habitat. Several projects surrounding the question of competition for pollinators were chosen along with pollen identification projects and one project about the aphids. My project will focus on how inter-specific pollen landing on Echinacea flowers effects style persistence. pollen competition proposal.doc

We developed a new key for the labeling seedling search maps:
-each plant in the circle has a dot with line drawn to the center and the distance (cm) to the focal plant written on the line

s with a circle around it: a seedling
B with a circle around it: a basal plant, not flowering
* with a circle around it: a flowering plant, should have a metal tag like this 7819.2 (.2 is the number of flowering heads)
N with a circle around it: a nail with a metal tag on it

any plot with a plant found in it, other than the focal plant, had a map made for it.
any plot with a seedling found in it was photographed and a pencil marker with a letter (for basal or seedlings) or number (for numbered plants) was placed 2 cm west of all plants
a toothpick was placed 5 cm from the seedling towards the focal plant

am i missing anything?

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I should introduce myself to the new Team - I'm Ruth Shaw. I've collaborated with Stuart and the Team on this project since 2000. I'm a professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Broadly speaking, my research addresses questions about ongoing evolution in plant populations, and I have found this project on the evolutionary consequences of fragmentation of populations of Echinacea endlessly stimulating!
I'm just back from the joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution, The American Society of Naturalists, and the Society of Systematic Biology, where I gave a brief talk about some of our results based on 7-years of data on "Inb1" an experiment to compare the effects of inbreeding and of crossing between remnants. This experiment has been growing in the common garden since 2000, and we have now documented that the degree of inbreeding depression is exceptional, far exceeding that found in other studies. Intriguingly, we have also found that both inbreds and progeny of between remnant crosses harbor more of the specialist aphid than plants derived by random mating within remnants.
A special highlight of the meeting is that our paper about estimating fitness, with examples (available via the main echinacea website), received the President's Award, chosen by the current President of ASN as outstanding paper of 2008 in the journal, The American Naturalist. Quite an honor!
I was out in Douglas County in late May for the early monitoring of seedling recruitment in the remnants, and I'm glad to hear that process is moving forward well! I'm looking forward to getting back out there and working with you all soon!

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echsmall.jpg

Hello, Echinacea lovers--

I'm Amanda Gallinat, a recent grad of Carleton College and brand new field assistant to the Echinacea project. After a quick transition from Northfield to K-Town (Kensington, to those of you who don't live here) I am finally settling into the daily routine of seedling searches, lunch, and more seedling searches.

On Monday we paid a visit to Staffenson Prairie and memorized the scientific and common name of each plant species we saw. Just kidding! We did get an idea of the general composition of the prairie, as broken down into four groups: C3 grasses, C4 grasses, legumes and forbs. I managed to leave with the ability to identify a large handful of species, and I'll be sure to update the Flog with my progress in learning all the rest!

Over the past few days, we've focused a lot of our energy on seedling searches, and it seems as though we newbies are really getting the hang of the procedure. So far we haven't searched any sites brimming with seedlings, but we have all seen some fine examples and each group has had the life-affirming experience of finding and identifying a seedling, if only once.

We've also spent some quality time discussing independent project ideas. My primary area of interest is plant-pollinator interactions, and I am excited to spend this summer investigating how the diversity of pollen carried by pollinators differs between remnant sizes (design details will be posted soon, so check in!). This should fit well with three other independent projects relating to competition for pollination, and might give us insight into why an increased frequency of pollinator visitation in isolated populations of Echinacea does not correlate with an increased seed set. Think we can solve the mystery? Stay tuned for updates...

If you have any questions or words of encouragement, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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Something to look forward to! I heard that Team Echinacea's front steps are the best seats in town for the Kensington Runestone Days Parade.

Here's the schedule of events for this weekend.

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Hello! My name is Daniel Rath, a rising senior Biology major from Carleton College, Minnesota. I'll be working with Stuart and the other incredible members of the Echinacea project all summer to find out the answers to some of the most interesting, fascinating and incredible questions about the prairie ever conceived.

Well, I might be exaggerating, but only a little.

I am 19 years old, born and raised in Dangriga, Belize, C.A., and ever since I worked in the Carleton Arboretum restoring prairie, I have had an intense fascination with the Midwest prairie ecosystem. I came to Kensington the day after Carleton's graduation ceremonies, and so far I have been blown away by the beautiful wide open expanses, particularly Staffenson Prairie. I have been fascinated by the small prairie remnants that remain in scattered areas throughout the landscape, and am working on learning the names of some of the key species (leadplant, tall bluestem and short bluestem, brome, veiny pea, and many others).

The question that has most caught my interest is the interaction between aphids and ants, particularly as it has been recorded in the Common Garden. I would love to know more about this potential new species, such as: Are the Echinacea-specific? Do their depredations vary among inbred vs outbred vs plants within the same remnant? Are they able to persist without the ants? What exactly is the nature of the ant-aphid interaction? How abundant are they in the wild? Tons of questions, so hard to choose! It gets even more complicated as you consider the little structures built for the aphids by the ants, as some entomologists believe that the ants use spittlebug spittle to construct them! However, I think I will narrow it down to a question that lets me spend the largest amount of time outside in the prairie remnants and the common garden.

I am also looking forward to gaining more field skills, such as using a GPS, looking at satellite maps, and learning about sampling mechanisms such as line transects and random searches.

Kensington is a marvellous little town, and I really like the feel of it. While I have not recovered from my sleep debt incurred at Carleton, I intend to explore the surrounding landscape as soon as possible. However, I would like future Team Echinacea members to know that the K-Town bar offers 2$ burgers on Thursdays. Incredible deal!

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Hello everyone! My name is Mimi Jenkins and I'm an REU student with Chicago Botanic Gardens. I am from Pittsburgh, PA where I am a senior (one more semester!) at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring in Environmental studies and French lang/lit and a certificate in Global studies. This is my first real experience spending more than one day in the Midwest and I love it so far. The wetlands and prairies out here are gorgeous and I feel very lucky to be experiencing a new and exciting place and working with such an interesting group of people on such a worthwhile and fascinating project. I have never been on such a flat land or in such a small town, but the flat topography makes for nice biking (hoping I can get my hands on a bike soon!) and the small town is a nice break from the city for the summer. I arrived in Chicago two weeks ago and after an introductory week for the REU program doing lab work on soil samples and such (not my cup o' tea), I met Stuart, took pictures with the help of Jake Friedman of some of the Echinacea pollinators and visitors that are pinned and in boxes at CBG, and did a little research on the nesting habits of bees.

Here is the protocol we came up with for the picture-taking:Protocol for Taking Pictures of Insect Specimens.docx

Here is some of the info I found on nesting of bees commonly found on Echinacea:
Echinacea Pollinators nesting.docx

I am really excited about this field season and I wish I could stay longer! I am really interested in improving my plant and bee identification skills on the prairie, as well as my knowledge of statistics in analyzing data and applied ecology in general. I also hope that this experience will help me to hone in on what I want to focus on for graduate schools in a year or two. I am currently trying to think about what exactly I would like to focus on because everything sounds so cool but I am limited to less than 6 weeks of research so it must be a pretty precise question, such as: does one family or species of bee act as a more effective pollinator for Echinacea than others using the style persistence method, or what co-flowering species are the pollinators pollinating that also land on Echinacea by observing pollinators on other plants or looking at foreign pollen on Echinacea heads. I would like to work in the common garden and in remnant populations to get a good sense of how these questions might differ depending on the community diversity of the remnant and the health of the Echinacea population.
I went out wandering yesterday and I think some of the locals thought I was a crazy person for walking on the side of the road but until I can bike, I will explore by foot. I turned onto the first dirt road on the right off of Kensington Ave and found this pretty hillside prairie remnant at the end of the road. I wanted to go further, but the electric fence kept me from continuing. I saw a patch of something yellow flowering off in the distance. Along the path of the dirt road between two corn fields I saw what I think was brome grass, prairie rose, common milkweed, alfalfa and clover, and some others like thistles that I couldn't identify. I saw a big white bird that Stuart told me today was an American egret. I also saw some more of those cool turquoise dragonflies that are in the common garden. I regret not bringing my camera with me because the view at the end of the dirt road was so pretty--there were relatively few trees and you could gently rolling green hills for miles.

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We mowed most of the CG this morning. Putting flags in went smoothly. It helped that we left many flags overwinter. We mowed according to the plan established two years ago. We started removing clippings & pulling flags that marked fl pla from 2008.

I noticed a plant I do not recognize at R46 P~903. Also, in R14 near P870 there is a patch of somethings that is starting to spread. We should determine if it's a weed we should eliminate.

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I heard a yellow-billed cuckoo from the farm house today. It was south of the farm house, perhaps in the South Field.

I went down to the common garden experimental plot around 9:30 or so. I didn't see or hear any black-billed cuckoos.

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My family drove from IL to MN on Thursday. We arrived late in the evening and didn't have that much time to look around, but we did see a lot of tent caterpillars.

First thing Friday morning I went out to the common garden. I flagged plants and planned to mow a few walking paths because Caroline was coming to figure out which plants were going to flower in the inb1 experiment. I paused while mowing and heard a black-billed cuckoo. Then I noticed that there were a few flying around and I heard several calling. I am positive that there were six birds within earshot, but I think there may have been eight. I have never seen more than one a time. It was really neat. There was one calling east of the common Garden and three calling from the shrubs and boxelders along the west edge of the CG. They also flew across the corn field to shrubs next to the wetland west of the CG. Two birds were cavorting in the ditch and flew right next to me on their way to the cottonwood at the NW corner of the CG. Very cool!

It is good to be back in Minnesota. The common garden looks fine. The kids are in their element. I can't wait for the field season to start! But first: unpack, set up computers, clean the Hjelm house, bring beds to Kensington, go to graduation party, get sleep.

The township supervisors (Joe Martinson, Carl Hamen, and Ken Anderson) drove by inspecting ditches. They are planning to cut trees on the township road N of the driveway because someone can't get their combine through.

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Three engineering students from Northwestern's Engineering Design and Communication class built a specialized camera stand for the Echinacea project. Michelle Pineda, Christopher Moran, and HengJie Tan designed and built a giant tripod which we will use to improve our protocol for relocating Echinacea seedlings.
NUengineers.JPG

I told them about the paper maps we made by hand and how last summer Ben & Christine worked out a method to flag seedlings and make maps from digital images. To avoid issues with parallax they determined that photos had to be taken from fairly high up (at least 2.9 m from the ground).

Then the main problem was taking photos straight down from such a height. The hang-a-camera-from-a-pole method wasn't stable enough (or safe). Michelle, Chris & Heng designed several scaled-down prototypes for their class project. Christine and I looked them over and then, based on our feedback and class feedback, they built this stand...

Chris&tripod.JPG

They presented the stand to their class and me on Saturday, along with a detailed report. I can't wait to try it out! We will try it out this summer. We hope to avoid making paper maps altogether. We'll see if it works!

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I collected GPS coordinates of plants at the landfill on Saturday with our Trimble GeoXH. It froze as I was getting ready to go to the Riley site. I didn't know what to do. I didn't have a reference manual, just the Quick Start Guide. For future reference, here's the link to manuals and perhaps other helpful resources...

http://www.trimble.com/terrasync_ts.asp?Nav=Collection-30232

Beware downloading PDF files from this site has crashed my browser many times.

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I flagged 20 spots at the landfill site last Saturday. 18 are centered on Echinacea plants that flowered last year (blue flags). 2 are random locations (orange flags). Amy and Caroline are going there tomorrow to search for seedlings.

I noted other plants that were flowering on the east hill:
Zizia aurea
Lithospermum canescens
Sisyrinchium (1 pla)
Viola pedatifida
Astragalus sp.
Pediomelum esculentum - just about to start
Geum triflorum - done
Commandra umbellata - mostly done

On the west hill I noted these:
Senecio (1 pla)
Taraxacum officinale
Antennaria neglecta - done

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