June 2012 Archives

We, well, most of us, headed out to the Hjelm House to assess phenology in the Common Garden. Those that were not there were out in the remnants/preserves working on individual projects. Shona went out at Hegg Lake to perform some angustifolia and pallida crosses. Maria also went out to Hegg where she looked at dicanthelium. Once Common Garden phenology was finished, Andrew worked on his pollinator efficiency experiment. Kelly and Lydia headed out to a few remnants to do phenology and assess within-remnant crosses, respectively. Lydia had a few crosses that were entirely successful as well as some ambiguous results.

The afternoon was fairly relaxing and comprised of a trip into Alexandria, laundry, frisbee, and playing with Felix, the new kitten.

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Despite the heat and humidity, Friday was yet another productive field day for Team Echinacea.

This morning everyone worked on their individual projects. Since my pitfall traps are ready to go, Greg and I placed pollinator traps on different prairie remnants. Pollinator traps are these nifty --and apparently hard to come by-- yellow bowls that you fill with soapy water. Traveling from remnant to remnant, we also discovered that there's a giant hole where the landfill prairie remnant used to be...
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Later this morning, equipped with buckets as chairs, Greg and I headed up to one of the hills around Hegg Lake to observe some large soil-nesting bees. After an hour of watching, we saw two bees land in different holes, but no bees emerge. We're not sure whether these bees are solitary or eusocial.

I also scored some pictures of the arthropod life on Echinacea heads.

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Here is the "fuzzy" Echinacea head from the Kittleson roadside. Echinacea styles typically shrivel when successfully pollinated and persist when unpollinated or pollinated with incompatible pollen. In the case of this poor plant, the "fuzziness" is caused by all of the styles persisting, indicating that this plant hasn't been successfully pollinated yet.
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After lunch, the team trekked out to the common garden (C1) to measure Echinacea that had been planted in previous years. Measuring each plant year after year gives us a sense of the fitness of the individuals. We recorded things like the number of basal rosettes, number of basal leaves, as well as the length of the longest leaf, insect presence, among a slew of other characteristics.

Greg and I took off a bit early from measuring to go collect the pollinators from the traps we set out earlier in the morning. Also, Shona made a beetle friend! We're still trying to figure out what exactly this little guy is and I'll post it once we figure it out.
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I realize that most of these pictures are sideways and I don't know how to fix it at the moment. All of them were rotated the right way when I uploaded them...go figure.

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This summer I'm building off of Nicholas' work with E. angustifolia and E. pallida hybridization. I uploaded my proposal last week, but I've already learned a lot since then.
First of all, after first thinking that I should be collecting pollen, painting bracts, observing styles and crossing all on the same day, Stuart pointed out that it would be better to do crosses one day and everything else the next. It makes things go faster, and it is also easier to tell which bracts were painted when. With that in mind I made a bare bones materials and protocol sheet to keep myself organized:


It worked wonderfully for a few days, when most of the heads were flowering and I didn't have to keep track of which plant had been sufficiently crossed and which needed more, and then it started getting a little complicated, especially when Gretel found another pallida head to add in....
Talking to Stuart and Gretel a few days into my crossing I found out that I had been crossing in a less efficient manner than I could have been. I had been trying to fit all of my potential crosses onto each head, every time I crossed. This meant that I would have five or six different colors to paint, each with three or four bracts, and that I would have to do the same the next time to have enough styles. Then I had to look back and forth between data sheets to see whether style shriveling was consistent. What I've switched to now (for the most part) I think is closer to what Stuart had in mind. Now I try to paint six bracts for each cross, and just alternate crosses. For example, I'll do three of the crosses one day and three the next time if there are 18 anthers on a head.
Today, Gretel came out to Hegg Lake to help paint bracts, and combined with less switching between colors, it took us about half as long as it has been for the painting and observing.
It also seems like most of my plants will be done flowering soon. A few have already finished, and a few of the plants with large or multiple heads have already been crossed with every possible cross.

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Echinacea at Hegg Lake

Here are two of my Echinacea heads at Hegg Lake, bagged to exclude pollinators and thoroughly flagged to help protect them from being mowed.

This morning we split our time between work on individual projects and observing phenology in the common garden and at Hegg Lake.

I spent my morning at Hegg Lake again crossing the E angustifolia and E paliida that I painted yesterday. And when Gretel arrived to do phenology at Hegg Lake and pick me up she found a new E pallida in its first day of flowering!
Andrew observed his first pollinators on Echinacea with a video camera, and even managed to catch a few for specimens, as well as working on phenology in the common garden.
Kelly went out to observe phenology in some of her remnants, and is starting to see many flowering heads.
Lydia went to make her first compatibility crosses, but had a few problems with cross contamination so will have to make more crosses tomorrow.
Jill and Katherine GPSed the pitfall traps they had set up earlier at Staffanson and Nessman as well as helping with phenology.
Maria had another early morning at Hegg Lake learning about Dichanthelium pollination and found out that Dichanthelium has two sets of anthers.
Greg Dierson also arrived this morning, and will be joining us for a while.

After a long lunch Gretel and Stewart explained the procedure for measuring plants in the common garden, and we completed the first few hours of what is going to be a lot of searching for and measuring plants. Of course, we also got to stand outside and enjoy the day, which thankfully wasn't quite as hot or humid as yesterday.

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With the help of Andrew and Kelly, I finished setting up all of my pitfall traps for my ant survey today--a grand total of 12 5x30m plots and 144 pitfall traps! I started on Monday with Katherine, setting up Nessman, the smallest of my sites. We quickly learned that digging holes with the soil core sampler is much more efficient when we have some sort of sharp object to dislodge soil from the sampler & that having a dibbler to pre-form holes speeds up the process.


On Tuesday Katherine, Lydia, Kelly, and I set up the plots on East Elk Lake Road, Northwest Landfill, and North Northwest Landfill. Today Andrew, Kelly, and I braved the ticks out in Staffanson prairie preserve, knocking out the final 4 plots, 2 on the east unburned side and 2 on the west burned side.


To give the disturbed areas some time to settle, I'm leaving my traps capped until next week, after which I'll collect specimens weekly and get cracking on ID-ing. For more details about why I'm doing what I'm doing, see my proposal.

Also, a brief protocol for setting up and collecting from my pitfall traps is below:
Pitfall Trap Procedure.pdf

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Here's my summer project proposal explaining my work with the ants in the prairie. I still need to tighten up the methods a bit, so keep an eye out for updated versions!
JG_REU Project Proposal 2012.pdf

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This summer I'm going to continue with Amber Z's phenology research from last year. I've added on two new sites: North Northwest of Landfill and Around Landfill. I started taking data on June 18th when there were only a couple of plants beginning to flower, but now, many more plants have started flowering and a couple are even close to finishing!

Kelly's Flowering Phenology Project Proposal.doc

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The Echinacea are blooming!


And all of the team members are busy working on their individual projects! Here's what we did today:

-Maria woke up at the crack of dawn to observe the Dicanthelium at Hegg Lake and even try out some crosses!
-Shona was also at Hegg Lake this morning painting the heads of 9 different Echinacea for her pallida-angustifolia hybrid research.
-Lydia also painted Echinacea heads today. She spent the morning at the Around Landfill site working with Gretel to prepare for her compatibility crosses.
-Jill and Kelly tag-teamed this morning to combine Kelly's work on phenology at Around Landfill, Northwest of Landfill, and North Northwest of Landfill with Jill's ant survey plot preparation at Staffanson Prairie Preserve.
-Andrew perfected his bee-catching skills this morning in preparation for his pollinator observation research. He caught over two dozen bees right in Hjelm House yard!
-Katherine was also hard at work in C1 this morning. She's making great progress on her aphid addition/exclusion experiment.
-Stuart plugged away at map making in Hjelm House this morning. He's using data from a GPS device in order to make maps of the locations of experimental plants in the remnants. They're incredibly useful when you're trying to keep track of over 50 plants in the same remnant.

Work proceeded as usual this afternoon despite a brief thundershower. In addition to continued individual project work, Lydia and Shona trimmed the rest of the Ash in the Common Garden. Here's to a productive Wednesday!

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As a continuation of Katie Koch's experiment in the summer of 2010, I am investigating the pollinator efficiency of bees that visit Echinacea.Project Proposal AK 2012.pdf

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Here are the day's events:

When we arrived at work this morning we came upon a poignant scene. The Wagenius' family dog, Roxie, had was nurturing an abandoned kitten:


I'm happy to say the poor creature has found a home with Kelly and her parents. Thanks to her loving care (and Roxie's), it is now purring and mewling with gusto.

Once the kitty situation was resolved, we moved on to more serious business. Shona, Maria, Kelly, and Lydia spent the morning working on their individual projects while the rest of us assessed flowering phenology in two experimental plots (C1 and C2).

A lot of work goes into maintaining an experimental plot. In order to keep C1 from being overgrown by woody plants, several of us spent the afternoon trimming ash trees and sumac. The rest of us made progress on our individual projects. Thanks to help from Kelly and Lydia, Jill and I succeeded in setting up ant traps for all but one of our field sites. I'll post more about that later.

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Last week was a busy and fun one for Team Echinacea 2012; no two days were the same. We wrapped up some of the first summer projects and started to transition into the second phase of the summer. We completed evaluating the recruitment plots, began to record their GPS locations, conducted demography and phenology observations in the common garden, and perhaps most notably, completed round one of seeding searches with the west (and recently burned) section of Staffanson prairie with help from Amy Dykstra, who came to visit on Friday. In addition to all the progress made on the long-term projects, we also spent multiple rainy mornings working on our individual research projects, the proposals for which have been recently, or will soon be posted here on the flog. IMG_1746.jpg Stuart Instructs us on the proper field techniques for cross-pollination, pollinator exclusion, and painting flowers so we can keep track of what we've just done.

After a short weekend, we started up working again this Monday with a morning dedicated to our independent projects, time which we all used to get out in the field and get our hands dirty. Ruth stopped by today and lent a hand and some very welcome advise, and joined the crew in the afternoon to do some weeding in the common garden. We clipped, pulled, and trimmed Buckthorn, Ash saplings, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Sweet Clover, and Sumac.

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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:


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I am slow to arrive at K-town this year because I am in transition of careers. I am moving from Great Plains Lutheran HS in Watertown, SD to Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN where I will be a teaching professor in the biology department. I am excited to teach ecology in the fall with a summer background with team echinacea. I will still be only about 150 miles from K-town, just a different direction. I look forward to meeting the 2012 team and starting to help with projects. Our family moved the earthly possessions last week and we are settling in after making a wedding/reunion trip to Wisconsin.

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Here is the first copy of my project proposal for studying hybridization between E. angustifolia and E. pallida. I'm sure you will see new drafts once I start to have a better idea of how it is all going to work out.
echinacea project proposal.pdf

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Hi! I'm Jill and I'm from Sewaren, New Jersey--exit 11 off the turnpike, in the heart of oil refineries and old factories. Sick of the polluted air and lack of wilderness, I fled home for Bar Harbor, Maine to attend College of the Atlantic (COA), a tiny liberal arts school tucked away on the coast of Mount Desert Island. There I study Human Ecology along with every other student-- a one-major curriculum allowing every student to independently design his or her own course of study. Entering my senior year this fall, I've spent my time at COA studying the relationships between soils, plants, and arthropods on contaminated and other ecologically "harsh" sites--sites distinguished by xeric, nutrient-poor, nutrient-imbalanced soils laced with high levels of heavy metals. I'll be completing my undergraduate thesis "Diversity and metal content of arthropods on adjacent serpentine and granite outcrops on Deer Isle, ME" this year, hopefully with a manuscript in the works.

Here with The Echinacea Project, I plan to study the ant communities on the prairie remnants and the prairie preserve to provide baseline data for further projects on the ants of the prairie. Like Shona, I'll post my project proposal on here once it's polished...
I'm looking forward to the rest of the summer packed with fulfilling fieldwork, great experiences, and wonderful people!


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Last Thursday we planted seedlings from Nicholas Goldsmith's cross pollination experiment in Josh's Garden. Here are the data sheets with planting information.

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Dearest Echinacea Project,

It has been great getting to you a bit these last 3 weeks, now allow me to formally introduce myself. I'm Andrew Kaul, a rising senior at St. Olaf College in Northfield MN. My academic interests are focused in terrestrial ecology, especially applications to conservation and restoration of endangered biomes. Outside of the classroom, you'd most likely find me listening to, or making music. I sing tenor and play a whole spectrum of percussion instruments, my favorite being bongo drums. My other hobbies include running, watching movies, board games, and of course spending time in nature. Since i was 9, the best week of my year has always been an annual camping trip with some of my extended family. I love trail bike-riding, hiking, and fishing. i'm really excited to be here in Kensington learning about habitat fragmentation and I can't wait to post my project proposal. Be looking for that soon! IMG_1665.jpgHaving a great time at the Runestone Days pancake breakfast: Kensington is such a fun little town!

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Hello! I'm Kelly. I'm a junior biology major at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. My hometown is St. Louis, Missouri where I live with my parents, an ancient dog and an obnoxious, paper-eating cat. My favorite animal is the beluga whale. I love to hike, bike, and swim. I hope to do some of those things this summer. I have also made it my goal to learn to cook without accidentally burning, breaking, botching or otherwise bungling anything.

I'm really excited to be a part of the Echinacea Project this summer! My first week in Kensington is just now coming to a close. I've had a wonderful time and I already feel like I've learned a ton about both Echinacea plants and the prairie ecosystem as a whole. For my independent project, I hope to study flowering phenology in several of the remnant populations. There's a great crew of people here this summer and I can't wait to meet everyone else who works on the project.

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with odin.jpg
Hi everyone! As Andrew reminded us all a few minutes ago, we were supposed to introduce ourselves this weekend and the weekend is just about over, so here it is.
I'm Shona. I'm a rising Junior at Middlebury College in Vermont, where I'm majoring in biology and grew up on a small organic farm also in Vermont. I'm excited to join the Echinacea Project this year, and to get a taste of what biology research is really like. When I am not crouched in the field doing seedling searches or recruitment surveys, I am planing to focus my independent project on hybridization between Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida. Someday soon I will post a link to my proposal here, once it is a little bit more polished...
This is the first time I've been to Minnesota, and I'm looking forward to exploring and enjoying the beautiful landscape and all of the wildlife (I had no idea that Pelicans lived out here!), and getting to know the rest of the group better. I've only been in K town for a week but I can already tell that I'm going to be happy here!

I'm sure I will add on to this more later, but here is my project proposal as it is right now:
echinacea project proposal.pdf

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Hi!! My name is Lydia, and I hail from the Twin Cities metro area. I will be a Junior at Bethel University this fall. I play violin, piano, harmonica, and other random assortments of instruments. My favorite animals are wombats and penguins and I have a very strong liking for peanut butter. In my spare time, I like to read, hike, bike, puddle jump, and laugh with my friends and family. Oh, and I like making weird faces. And it's a fact that sound effects make everything better.


So far, I have been in Kensington for nearly 3 weeks and have been enjoying every minute of it. I am well on my way to developing the echinacea eye! In addition to seedling searches, we've learned to use the GPS to find focal plants, done data entry, and built a new frame for mapping seedlings. This summer I am planning to look at self-incompatibility and style persistence in Echinacea angustifolia. As of now, I am thinking of collecting data from one or two remnants.

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Maria here. I'm back for my second year with Team Echinacea on the field!

I plan to continue work on Dichanthelium this summer. I had written a proposal for my summer project for a research scholarship earlier, here it is for your reference:
Krieghbaum Scholarship _Wang.pdf

And updates from the maternal lines germination experiment with seeds I collected last summer!
URG Final Report.docx

Currently trying to figure out the nits and grits of the Dichanthelium hand pollination technique. Wish me luck, Uff da!

Also been poking through my photos from last summer. It's so funny how similar some of them are to this year's photos.

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Katherine here.

Most of the Echinacea crew arrived on Sunday. The week has gotten off to a running start. Here are some pictures from our first few days in action:




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Here's a data sheet that will show locations where we'll plant Echinacea Hybrids. Echinacea at Josh's Garden-Excel.xls

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Last summer I conducted a biweekly survey of aphids and ants in the common garden, an experimental prairie restoration containing Echinacea from various remnant populations. I was interested in the spatial distribution of aphids and ants within and across years. This year I plan to scale down my survey to once a month, beginning next Friday. Here's a detailed protocol:

Common Garden Aphid Survey Protocol 2012.doc

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We just reorganized the bee collection into a cornell drawer, and need a cabinet to start storing drawers. Once we have better humidity control in the Hjelm house this is the cabinet we are considering.

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We delayed our fieldwork for a few minutes this morning because of scattered showers. Who knew we should have delayed for a few more minutes because of Solar X-Ray Flux?

The National Weather Service's weather radar indicated that the rain (aka atmospheric H2O flux) was mostly south of us, so we knew it would be a short delay. However, we should have checked NOAA's space weather forecast...

When we arrived at the site, the atmospheric weather was OK, but the space weather was poor and our gps machine, Sulu (a Topcon GRS1), had a difficult time getting oriented. It may have been groggy because of the burst of solar X-Ray Flux. Here is the graph of Solar x-ray Flux from NOAA:


Just our luck! Next time we'll check our local weather forecast and the space weather forecast!

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Here is Sebastian Di Clemente's final report on the main project of his internship:

X-ray Radiation Effects on
Germination and Growth of Echinacea angustifolia


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