I don't know if I've properly introduced myself on here.
My name is Katherine Muller and I'm a second year Master's student at Northwestern. I hail from the lovely, temperate San Francisco Bay Area. I'm not sure whether it was my thirst for adventure or my contrarian nature that led me to the Midwest--first to Oberlin College in Ohio, then to Northwestern and Minnesota. In any case, I now have the privilege of complaining about the weather.
This is my second year with the Echinacea Project. Last year I began research on aphids and ants in Echinacea angustifolia. I have two projects that I plan to continue this summer:
My first project is an experiment examining the effects of aphid infestation on Echinacea. Last year, I selected 100 non-flowering Echinacea, excluded aphids from 50 plants and added aphids to the other 50. I am repeating the experiment on the same plants. I performed my first experimental treatments on Saturday and Sunday and should soon be able to analyze my results from last year.
The other project I plan to continue this year is a survey of aphids and ants in a large experimental common garden. Last year I selected a 20x20m section of the experimental plot and led a biweekly of ants and aphids. I started this because I was interested in seeing how aphids spread over space and time. This year I will examine the same area to see how aphid infestation changes from year to year. Thanks to everyone's help, I collected my first dataset on June 15th. Considering the unusually warm winter, there should be some interesting developments this year.
My third project is to assess aphid and ant abundance among several Echinacea populations. My original plan was to survey aphids and ants on a representative sample of the entire population, including juvenile and non-flowering plants. As it so happens, Amy Dykstra and Daniel Rath conducted a similar survey in 2009 (you can read about it in the archives). For all their hard work, they found very few plants with aphids. Of the plants they surveyed--flowering plants had a much higher rate of aphid infestation than non-flowering plants--32% for flowering versus 5% for non-flowering plants. I decided to take a different approach and focus my sampling effort on flowering plants. Specifically, I will survey aphid and ant abundance on plants that flowered this year and last year. This will allow me to assess whether flowering in one year influences the likelihood of aphid infestation the following year.
That's about it for now. I'll be posting my progress on here as it happens. This summer I have the privilege of collaborating with Jill Gall, an REU student from College of the Atlantic. She's been hard at work preparing her project assessing ant diversity in prairie remnants, which I'll let her tell you about.
And because everyone else is doing it, here's a picture: