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!