August 2012 Archives

Maria here.

Woke up this morning to some rumbling thunder in the distance.

The skies looked grey, but nothing too bad. We discussed how to do all the things we had to do at Staffanson: demo rechecks, harvesting Kelly's Echinacea heads, removing twist-ties and flags from heads/plants that Kelly won't harvest, figuring out 6 nearest neighboring Echinacea plants to each of Kelly's plants that was going to be harvested, and pulling up ant traps. Whew!

We did some individual project stuff from 9 to 11am. Jill finished up sorting ants. Katherine and Kelly went to NWLF and NNWLF to pull ant traps and remove twist-ties from heads. I was in CG 99 South, measuring Dichanthelium from my maternal lines experiment, and got 4 rows done before 11am.

We set off for Staffanson, all 5 of us cozy in the truck. The corn and perennial weeds greeted us happily on the dirt road leading into Staffanson. Jill went to pull up her ant traps and then helped Kelly to remove twist-ties and flags. Stuart, Katherine and I brought out Sulu (the GPS), R2D2 (the netbook), and paper datasheets, and tried to figure out how to determine the 6 nearest neighbors to Kelly's harvest heads. We concluded that the most efficient way was to use R to determine the 6 mapped nearest neighbors, obtain the distance to the 6th neighbor, then use a reel tape to measure out the distance and search to see if there are any other nearest neighbors closer than the mapped one. We would have to do it another day.

Here's a fancy spider Stuart found on his knee today. Photo courtesy of Katherine.

On the way back for lunch, Stuart and Kelly belabored the pros and cons of color coding the top and bottom GPS poles.

After lunch we set out for Staffanson again. Kelly worked solo to harvest heads, while the four of us split into 2 teams (1 GPS + 1 clipboard) to do demo rechecks. After a little while, it started sprinkling and we heard some distant portentous thunder, so we turned back and left Staffanson.

Back at Hjelm House, Jill and Katherine cleaned up the ant traps and went to pull ant traps at Nessman. Stuart demonstrated dissecting achenes from Echinacea heads for Kelly, so she can dissect the heads she harvested when she's at Carleton.

Lastly, as requested by Stuart, the "Sync Your Visor" song I came up with as an alternative to "Sync, Sync, Visor Sync":

(To the tune of "Oh My Darling Clementine")

Sync your visor, sync your visor,
Sync your visor everytime;
Data lost and gone forever
Don't be sorry - sync it now!

Any suggestions for improvement are much welcome.

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This morning, Team Echinacea headed out to Loeffler's Corner to work on seedling re-finds. This site was a breeze compared with the challenges posed by Riley and KJ's. While the plants at Riley are frequently disturbed by mowing and the plants at KJ's are so dense that they're practically growing on top of each other, the plants at Loeffler's Corner are nicely spread out with easily findable seedlings.

In the afternoon, everyone made good progress on individual projects. Jill and I are both trying to wrap up our research in time for our last day on Friday. Jill and Katherine are sorting through the contents of Jill's pitfall traps and preserving the ants that they won't have time to identify for future study. Stuart and I are working to prepare my data to be analyzed in the winter when I hope to have an independent study to work on analysis. Maria is looking for Dicanthelium plants from which she can gather pollen in order to do a pollen viability test.

Here's a picture of a neat plant that I found at Loeffler's Corner. I think the leaves are somehow sharing the same petiole. Pretty cool!


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Ruth came this morning with Stuart and Nicholas in tow, just in time for an all-day seedling refind extravaganza. This morning we knocked out East Riley, the frequently mowed prairie remnant with densely clustered Echinacea plants. Kelly and I took on some particularly challenging plants, but were rewarded with this:
Photo Aug 28, 9 16 45 PM.jpg

A bee digging her nest next to one of our seedlings! By the time Kelly and I finished searching our plant, the bee had made a hole as big as she was!

After a hearty lunch, we did more seedling refinds, this time at Riley. Here's Kelly with our first plant of the afternoon. Photo Aug 28, 3 00 28 PM.jpg
The afternoon progressed quickly, ending with Maria, Stuart, Kelly, and I flagging plants for seedling refinds at Loeffler's Corner-- tomorrow's project!

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The last flowering plant in CG1 put out its last anthers today (August 27, 2012). It had been flowering over a week longer than any of the other plants we monitor! This marks the end of the flowering season for Team Echinacea, but we've still got lots of work left to do!

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On Saturday, Katherine continued working with aphids--moving them about in the common garden. I (Karen) continued working on my style persistence project. I am testing style persistence as a measure of pollen limitation in perennial Helianthus species through different pollination treatments. There are some promising preliminary results: for many, when treated with compatible pollen, the styles will shrivel in 1-2 days and will persist longer when treated with incompatible pollen or restricted from pollen. The following pictures show Helianthus pauciflorus after four days with incompatible and compatible pollen, respectively. DSCN6298.JPG,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0'); return false">DSCN6691.JPG

On Sunday, some of us took a trip to Glacial Lakes State Park for picnic lunch and 5mile hike. What a great outing!!!!

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Happy Friday! Today was our fourth day "going solo" while Stuart is away in Chicago. In the morning, we finished up seedling searches at East Elk Lake Road. That's two sites down! In the afternoon, we continued working on demography re-checks at some of the smaller sites. Basically, demography re-checks consist of fixing any errors that we might have made during the initial round of demography (i.e. one person said a plant had two heads while another said it had four), but it also allows us to go back and find basal plants that have flowered previously. By checking on these plants (or a random subset of these plants) each year, we can get a better idea of how often a plant flowers and the survival rate of flowering plants. Today we finished demography re-checks at Loeffler's Corner (East and West) and Yellow Orchid Hill.

Here's a picture of the crew at Yellow Orchid Hill after a hard day's work:

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Hey folks, Maria here.

This is our 3rd day without Stuart, and I must say we have been quite productive.

We continued seedling refinds at EELR this morning. Then we discovered that we had not yet flagged many focal plants, probably because they had not been flagged during demo/Katherine's aphid survey. So we returned to Hjelm House, and decided to do demo rechecks at Railroad Crossing and North Railroad Crossing instead. We finished in time for lunch!

In the afternoon, we used the GPS to stake and flagged focal plants for seedling refinds, and did seedling refinds. Jill and Kelly got quite a perplexing circle, where seedlings didn't match up with maps. They found that the measurements were useful, but the map as a visual aid was not.

Around 3.15 we went back to Hjelm House to work on individual projects. I measured 3 rows of Dichanthelium plants that were planted in 99 South Common Garden. There was one super-tall plant - ~15cm, as compared to most other plants that were 1-3cm tall. Katherine and Jill sorted ants.

Karen did her crossing experiment at Hegg Lake all day. Some Helianthus heads are done flowering, and she is quite pleased about that.

Oh, and the tick eggs hatched today! Almost everyone was quite flabbergasted at the sight of baby ticks splashed on the walls of the plastic jar that we kept them in. Ughh...

Here's an unrelated picture from July, the day Lydia and Shona GPSed/helped measure my Dichanthelium plants at Hegg Lake. I was taking a picture of Lydia taking a picture of Shona taking a picture of a plant :D Pic-ception!
2012-07-11 11.38.53.jpg

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We kicked off the day refinding Amy's Echinacea seedlings at KJ's. If you couldn't tell from the previous posts, we're all quite exasperated with KJ's. You can imagine how ecstatic we all were to wrap up the last 5 plants today and finally get a change of scenery-- seedling refinds at East Elk Lake Road!

However, as soon as we arrived KJ's this morning, I precariously balanced my water bottle on the truck bumper, and then realized we forgot the clipboards. Kelly took the truck to retrieve them and when she returned, clipboards in hand, I couldn't find my water bottle anywhere. Musing that it got thrown into the neighboring soybean field, I was already conjuring up a birthday present request for a nalgene. That is, until we came to the intersection with 27:
Photo Aug 22, 8 22 03 PM.jpg

My Nalgene got carried a full 3.3 MILES on the bumper of Stuart's truck! Kelly is simply a smooth driver.

This afternoon we harvested Echinacea heads from the common garden and Hegg Lake, and then harvested Bouteloua curtipendula at both sites.
Photo Aug 22, 3 36 35 PM.jpg
Photo Aug 22, 3 35 34 PM.jpg

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The past couple of days have been lovely for outdoor work--sunny, cool, a little breezy. On Monday we said bon voyage to the Wagenius family as they prepared for their trip back to Chicagoland. Stuart will be back next week, but Gretel and the kids are done for the summer. Now there are five of us and no shortage of work to do.

Monday morning we went to the site off of hwy 27 to take demography data on plants that flowered last year and reconcile errors from this year's demography census. With two teams working with the GRS-1 GPS units, the task went quickly and smoothly.

We spent Monday afternoon re-finding seedlings at KJ's. This is a particularly challenging site because there is a high density of plants in a small area. We continued the endeavor this morning, and I'm happy to say are nearly finished. We should be able to defeat the beast tomorrow morning.

Here are Jill and Maria looking for seedlings at KJ's. Red flags mark completed focal plants.

This afternoon we performed some routine maintenance of the main experimental plot, pulling out flags that marked plant we could not find. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon on individual projects.

Karen Taira, who came up last week, has been spending her days working on her pollination experiment involving several species of Helianthus. Her field story of the day was that she found a pile of entrails next to one of her experimental plants. Apparently they were bigger than a prairie dog's and smaller than a human's. Perhaps it's a new form of sacrificial sun worship--Praise Helianthus!

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After lunch on Wednesday, Andrew and I left for Chicago to present our posters and give 5 minutes talks at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Thursday we navigated the city, got caught in a downpour, and missed our train. Friday we had better luck-- we made it to the garden on time, stayed dry, and both gave strong presentations. In our downtime we visited the gift shop and toured the gardens.

Here are pictures from Friday:
Andrew's Poster

My talk

Andrew and I after our presentations and pizza dinner

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Like their hosts, Echinacea aphids exhibit a strong seasonality. There's a sharp rise in the frequency and abundance of aphid infestation followed by a rapid decline in early fall. That decline has occurred much earlier this year than last year. Fortunately, that has given me a chance to make some observations about what happens to aphids at the end of the summer. Here are a few things I've noticed:

1. Throughout my surveys in CG1 and several prairie remnants, I've noticed that the frequency of winged morphs has declined since July. Last week, I did not see any winged aphids, with the exception of a couple at East Elk Lake Road. This implies that dispersal declines as aphid numbers drop.

2. I and several others have noticed that aphids are starting to congregate at the base of the plant both at the petioles and at the base of the stem. I've also seen aphids crawling down beneath the soil surface and a few latched onto the tops of roots. One possibility is that as plants withdraw resources from their leaves, aphids move down the plant to follow their food source. I've also seen ants moving aphids at the base of the plant and placing them in dirt structures. These observations support the notion that aphids overwinter on Echinacea roots.

Many aphid species in temperate regions spend the winter and summer on different plants. Their winter host is where they lay eggs and their summer host is where they feed and reproduce asexually. My guess is that Aphis echinaceae does not have a separate winter host.

This plant at Nessman's had a bunch of aphids congregated at the base. Notice the little green guys on the stem:

This is one of the plants from my aphid addition/exclusion experiment in CG1. There are still aphids on the leaves, but most of them have moved to the petioles:


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After a fairly cool start, we enjoyed a sunny and mild day that was perfect for field work.
Katherine was finishing up with the ants and aphids at Staffanson today. Karen continued pollination treatments on Helianthus species at Hegg Lake and Riley. The team worked on demography at various sites, pulling flags and taking GPS points.

We can't wait to hear how about the REU symposium at the Chicago Botanic Garden that Jill and Andrew are attending today!

Today, we say farewell to yet another Team Echinacea 2012 member as Shona heads off to Vermont. The end of field season seems to be near.......

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Thursday was a cool, beautiful day in Kensington. Our main task this week has been to finish up the first round of demography at all of the remnant prairies. Today Stuart, Gretel, Shona, and I went out to work on some of the smaller remnants (usually <10 flowering plants). Demography is a great way to allow us to keep track of plants over time and monitor the flowering patterns of both individuals and populations.

Katherine and Maria started on Katherine's last round of ant and aphid surveys in the remnants today. It seems like the peak of aphid season has come and gone, but this last survey should help her determine the rate of decline of aphid populations (and maybe provide hints as to where they all go in the winter!).

After a few mishaps with regard to seedling re-finds (the process of re-finding the seedlings, or "slings", that have been discovered during Amy's seedling search experiment), I decided to write a haiku to best express our emotions:

Seedling re-finding
Basals, slings, all on visor?
No one really knows.

Thankfully, Amy and Stuart came through to save the day and we now have a much more firm grasp of our mission. In short:

Slings are important
Basals only if they're near
Gotta find the slings.

Here's a picture of a seedling that we found earlier this summer. Take a look at the two green cotyledons at the base of the plant. Cotyledons only appear in a plants first year of growing and are the only way to be sure that a plant is a seedling instead of just a small basal.

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Today dawned slightly warmer than the past few days, and we spent a beautiful morning doing demography out at Staffanson. The west side of Staffanson was burned late this spring setting things back a little later than the east side and the remnants, and the big blue stem and indian grass are now in full bloom and about five feet tall. Dichanthelium is flowering, and I even saw a phlox, which I haven't seen for weeks at any other site. The echinacea there have all finished flowering, but many still boast pink ray florets. The recent burn also removed all of the duff that we often have to dig through to find tags and check for nearby echinacea, and left everything greener and softer. One other result of the burn was this pencil that I found next to the last plant I demo'd. It looks like someone forgot to remove it from seedling can see the part that was sticking in the ground survived the flames.


It was Andrew's last day today, he and Jill left after lunch to present their posters at the Chicago Botanical Gardens, and only Jill will return. To send him off we had rootbeer floats after a lunch which was also enhanced with bowls of delicious cucumbers, cantaloupe and grapes from the Wagenius gardens.

This afternoon we all had some time to work on our independent projects. Although we presented posters last Thursday I think all of us have plenty more that we could do. In some ways I feel like I have more work to do than when I started this summer, although much of it is still just ideas of new projects or parts of my project that I could build on if had more time. I did take the opportunity to get in a little more fieldwork, and Gretel drove out to Hegg Lake with me to help gather more data. We GPSed all of the plants for my crossing experiment again (the first time around the files got a little mixed up) as well as all flowering plants in my population of E. angustifolia. We also began developing a protocol to measure leaf pubescence for my characteristics study. From each plant we cut off the end of a leaf to be pressed and viewed under a scope, and then I painted a small patch of "new skin" (liquid band-aid) on the top of the leaf, waited for it to dry, peeled it off and mounted it on a slide also to look at under a microscope. While we were out there I completely lost track of time, and when Kelly called to see if we were done yet I was shocked to realize that it was already 5:30!

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Title: Inspiring future ESA members in elementary or middle school, using place-based inquiry

Many obstacles hold back students' learning in science in K12 education. Some obstacles, such as school culture and persuasive paradigms that "school is not cool" are a few, long-term hindrances. Only about 1 in 3 middle school students currently achieve proficient scores on state tests. With great burdens and distressing statistics, what can teachers do? They can make short-term changes in pedagogy to increase motivation and responsibility in their students.
This project explored place-based inquiry, which allows students to use the natural environment in which they live as an inquiry-based learning environment. Students gained knowledge and learned skills that could apply across the curriculum. In a low-income middle school, in northwestern New Mexico, 160 students engaged in a mini-unit, broadly exploring the nature of life science. Students designed an observational study - they formulated questions, wrote procedures, collected data, and drew conclusions.
This type of pedagogy was successful for several reasons. First, students were motivated to answer questions that they typically could not answer with a textbook. Second, students gained knowledge and skills that could be used across the curriculum.

Here's a pdf of the poster: ESA Poster cswitzer 12.pdf

The conference didn't allow photos in the poster hall, so I took one later! Here's me with my poster!IMG_7075.JPG

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Tuesday was a cool, windy day with scattered rain showers. In the morning we descended on KJ's, a small site chocked full of Echinacea, to check on seedlings in Amy's recruitment study. We made some progress, but we have a long way to go at that site.

In the afternoon, we all crammed into the pickup truck and rode over to Krusmark's, an isolated site near the Wagenius property. Maria was especially excited to ride in the truck bed. We collected demography data on flowering plants and gathered seed from sideoats gramma grass (Bouteloua curtipendula) to scatter in the main experimental plot.

Since there were not many flowering plants, we finished up in time to catch up on chores around the field station. Here's the Wagenius kids helping Shona clean up after her pollination crossing experiment. She and several others developed a wire contraption to keep the pollinator exclusion bags away from the anthers.


It is bittersweet to see a good summer coming to a close. Lydia left on Sunday, Andrew's leaving on Wednesday, and Shona will head out on Friday. Although we are sad to see them go, we have plenty of work to distract us from our sorrow.

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Today was a cool day! High temp of mid 70s.

Ruth and Amy came up from the Twin Cities, to give us a jumpstart to Seedling Refinds.

We overcame some technical hurdles with DroppedBoxx on Sulu and Chekov (our two lovely GPS units), and started seedling refinds at Steven's Approach in the morning, worked way past lunch hour before Stuart called timeout.

We had lunch supplemented generously with bounty from the Wagenius family garden - juicy chestnut crabapples, ripe sweet cantaloupe, and cool yellow watermelon!

After lunch we stopped by the road outside CG2/Jennifer's Plot at Hegg Lake, and harvested Bouteloua. We will broadcast the Bouteloua seeds in CG2 after the burn if DNR decides to burn the plot; otherwise we will broadcast half the seeds in the fall and half in spring.

Then we resumed seedling refinds at Steven's Approach. We solved some tricky mysteries with the seedling maps, and completed Steven's Approach! We also found a couple of flowering plants that had been missed during demo.

While we were doing all that, Karen was working hard at her independent project. The searching and keying paid off as she found a third species of Helianthus, H. tuberosus, at Hegg Lake.

Here's an unrelated picture of a pheasant's nest near my Dichanthelium plot. The pheasant mum and I often startled each other during those mornings when I did fieldwork.

2012-07-13 10.22.49.jpg

Look, a pheasant egg!
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And I know you'll forgive me for posting yet another picture of Dichanthelium :D
2012-06-22 06.03.39 dewy with flash.jpg

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Hi all, Maria at K-town.

It was raining this morning as we bade goodbye to Lydia. All the best to Lydia as she prepares to go to Ireland for study abroad! Here's a great picture to remember the fun times in the prairie :D

2012-07-14 10.56.41.jpg

Karen arrived at the town hall yesterday evening! This morning, she braved the rain and went out to many prairie remnants to look for Helianthus. She reports that Riley, Staffanson and Hegg Lake seem to hold the best promise for her pollen limitation experiments with H. maximiliani and H. pauciflorus, and maybe another H. species, if she can find it.

Andrew arrived back from his weekend trip announcing that he had all the food that's bad for you all in one day. He, Shona, and Jill went to watch Alladin, the play by the Prairie Fire Children's Theatre that Per and Hattie were in. They enjoyed it very much!

The skies gradually cleared up though temps were still in 60s-70s. It was quite chilly in the town hall.

With the squash, zucchini, and cucumber explosion :D :D :D, Shona made zucchini bread. We also welcomed Kelly's return from Northbrook about an hour ago.

Lastly, here's a beautiful photo of Dichanthelium with morning dew:
2012-06-22 06.05.57 dewy.jpg

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Saturday was a quiet day for those of us living at the town hall. Katherine biked in to the Hjelm house to work on her aphid addition and exclusion project and I spent a few hours at Hegg Lake repainting the last of the bracts from my crosses and harvesting the first pallida head. Kelly and Andrew were both away for the day, and everyone else took a needed break and spent the day relaxing.
In the evening we took out our instruments and all played together for the first time of the summer. I'm not sure how it worked out that we didn't get around to playing together until Lydia's last night, but somehow that's just how it worked out. I'm glad we did get the chance to all play together.


Some of my painted bracts


playing music, photo courtesy of Jill

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A bittersweet day for the Echinacea Project crew, we returned to the Hjelm house feeling both proud that our poster presentations went so well, and sad that the summer is coming soon to a close for some of us. We spent the morning tying up loose ends on our projects, working on project status forms, and doing a little cleaning and organizing. I made an exciting discovery while following up on a comment I received on Thursday. It turns out that i missed a few pollinators when going through the many hours of video, so now I have data for for three more pollinator visits, bringing my sample size to 29 bees! Yay! After lunch We all worked together to complete an ant/aphid survey for Katherine's experiment, harvest heads in CG1 and CG2, and collect a pail full of Bouteloua seeds from CG1. We finished the week off right with rootbeer floats as a farewell celebration for Lydia on her last day working on the project.

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At 6:30 this morning we piled into the car, headed to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and presented our posters. Although the symposium was dominated by pre-meds, it was a good experience for us to explain our research to undergraduates with different focuses. Next week Andrew and I are off to Chicago to present again at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Here's a picture of all of us at the conference:

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It was a dark and stormy morning. With the exception of Jill, Maria, and I, the members of team Echinacea bided their time at the old town hall waiting for the rain to diminish. The three of us had indoor tasks to work on--specifically, sorting ants and entering data. After the sky had exhausted itself, a group of us went to a large site at East Elk Lake Road to search for flowering plants for the annual Echinacea demography census. We had searched the site before, but the cloud cover made prime conditions for finding Echinacea among the shrubs and trees. Stuart, Maria, and Andrew went to another large and difficult-to-search site (Aanenson) to take GPS points on plants.

After that, several of us began censusing Riley, a roadside remnant. The site is full of flowering plants, many of which are growing in the road. Because of this, many of the plants have lost their heads due to mowing. The team finished Riley in the afternoon, leaving enough time to census a nearby site we call Woody's.

I spent the afternoon excluding aphids from plants in my aphid addition/exclusion experiment. Aphid infestation is clearly on the decline for the season. Each time I perform aphid exclusion, I record the number of aphids present on the plant before I remove them. This time yielded the lowest aphid counts in my exclusion group this summer. I haven't crunched the numbers yet, but based on my exclusion data I estimate that the peak of aphid season was probably between July 25th and August 1st. That is much earlier than last year, when the peak was between August 12th and 26th.

Last Saturday when I was performing aphid additions, I noticed that a lot of the plants in my addition group had colonies of dead aphids. For example, one plant that hosted nearly 2000 aphids on July 21st was down to 7 last Saturday. For an idea of what this transformation looks like, here's a picture of a dense, thriving aphid colony:


And here's a picture of a colony that has died off:


It is unclear why this happens so suddenly, considering the plant is still green. My guess is a surge of defensive chemicals in the plant.

On Thursday, all the undergraduates are going to the University of Minnesota for a poster session. They all did a great job on their research projects and put a lot of time and effort into their posters. I wish them all good luck in their presentations and look forward to hearing about their experience.

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Here's all of my data from my crossing experiment and the R script that I used to analyze it! I'll put up a metadata sheet soon.

final crossing script.txt

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Hallo once again from K-town! It was yet another wonderfully nice day out in the prairie of Minnesota. This morning, Maria and Katherine headed out to the Landfill site to GPS all of the flowering plants we found earlier (about 80 of them this year). Kelly, Jill, and I headed over to Around Landfill to do demography on the plants Kelly used for her phenology project. And Shona and Andrew won (at long last) a battle with our second GPS unit (which arrived yesterday), Chekov. Chekov has come to join Sulu in our endeavors to gain coordinates. But it's best if both work properly. Oh, and Kelly's last plant at all her remnants finished flowering today! It's bittersweet.
We came back to the Hjelm House later in the morning and had time to work on getting things ready and wrapped up for our poster presentations on Thursday. Yoiks! It's coming up quick! Ruth came up with Lisa, and undergrad, and Dave, a potential post-doc for the Echinacea Project. After lunch, Dave gave us his presentation on his work with Solidago velutina (goldenrod). We then headed over to Aanenson to do demography. There were not very many flowering plants there this year, though Jill and I found a monster of one on the side of the road. We had both GPS units out with us, but we had a ton of trouble with them and were only able to GPS a few plants. We'll just blame it on solar flares again. Once finished, we reconvened at the Hjelm House for some nummy watermelon fresh from the garden! Maria also found something interesting while we were out. We're thinking these might be egg sacs of some sort, but we're not quite sure.

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I'm really excited to present on Thursday at the U of M! Come check it out.PolEfficiency2012_small.pdf

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Title: Examining Pollen Limitation in a native prairie panic grass, Dichanthelium leibergii


It has lots of cool pictures and Dichanthelium as the background! :)

See you at the symposium!

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Here's the poster I will be presenting at the University of Minnesota on Thursday.
Shona Sanford-Long_compatibility poster_small.pdf

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Here's a copy of the poster that I submitted for the poster session at the University of Minnesota. It has some preliminary results as well as a list of future data analysis that I want to complete.

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What a day! The kitchen at Town Hall was busier at 7:20 this morning than I've ever seen. It seems like everyone had the same idea to get up early and give their poster one last look before submitting it for printing. Thankfully we all got our posters in on time and we are enjoying a nice reprieve from poster-work this evening.

At work today, we completed demography on East Riley. There were lots and lots of flowering plants within a meter or so of the road that had been mowed and did not get chance to flower this year. In the afternoon, we worked on more demography at East Elk Lake Road and Around Landfill.


In the morning, Stuart told us about some roadwork that was happening along the Douglas-Grant County line by our Landfill sites. Katherine, Jill, and I stopped by to check it out. It looks like the road workers have dug up about 3 meters of roadside along the North-northwest of Landfill site. On the positive side, it's lucky that this is happening after the plants had finished flowering, but on the negative side, one row of Jill's pitfall traps have been buried. We met some of the construction workers who told us that they were working to improve the drainage of the road by evening out the roadside ditches. He also showed us the seed they were replanting: a mixture of brome, timothy, alfalfa, and clover among other things.




I guess this is a prime example of the habitat fragmentation and altered disturbance patterns that we're here to study. It's hard to watch the plants go, but in the long run these disturbances and our ability to monitor if/how the plants recover will teach us how to better manage prairie remnants in order to maintain stable plant populations.

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Here is my poster for the University of Minnesota symposium. I may make some changes for the Chicago Botanic Garden symposium, but that depends on how much more data I get through by the 17th. Jillian Gall_REU Poster_Small.pdf

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Posters, posters, posters. That's what Saturday was all about for Team Echinacea (mostly). Saturday morning Shona, Kelly, and I broke away from poster monotony and headed to Alexandria to check out the farmers market, later ending up in an antique store trying on hats from the 30s.

Here's what the rest of the gang was up to on Saturday:
-Maria biked to Hjelm house to clean up her data for R
-Katherine did her aphid experiment
-Andrew headed out of town for the day
-Lydia spent time with her Aunt

By the evening, however, everyone was back at town hall glued to our computer screens until the wee hours of the morning. Midnight banana and zucchini bread made by Kelly and Shona kept our spirits up.

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Here is a link to my poster!

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So, a while back when GPS-ing the recruitment plots, there were a number of places where no nail was found in our initial survey. Here's the list of those point numbers in the GPS:

These were supposed to have nails, but we were unable to find them.

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Wow! Last year my last day of field research was a harvest day in September and I took heads from plants in the common garden and the last one from Hegg Lake plots,. This year we have started harvesting already and there are roughly one-fourth the heads to keep as there were a year ago. I tried but failed to get a good picture of harvesting but Shona clicked a nice one on Wednesday. While the wheat fields get harvested with big machines - some John Deere or Internationals, Echinacea harvesters are more "hands-on"DSCN5201.JPG

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Today was full of re-checks for Team Echinacea. In the morning we finished re-checking all of the locations in the CG-1 experimental plot where we could not find a plant when we were measuring. If plants are not found for three years in a row, then they are considered to be dead. This means that an empty location gets checked five times before it gets a staple! This procedure allows us to be sure that we aren't just overlooking a small plant that needs to be measured (small plants have important data too!).

For the remainder of the morning, all of the undergraduates worked hard on preparing for the University of Minnesota Undergraduate Research Poster Session next Thursday. Many of us are working hard to learn R before Monday when our posters have to be submitted. I believe that opinions are still divided with regard to R (although I personally converted back from the dark side after I finally figured out how to make my graphs work!). We'll report back later with a final opinion.

Since we have been perfecting our re-checking skills in the CG1 experimental plot, Stuart decided we were finally ready to start tackling the CG2 plot at Hegg Lake. Unlike CG1, the Hegg Lake garden does not have nicely mowed rows or staples, which makes it more challenging to measure. However, we did find a fair number of previously overlooked plants this afternoon.


To cool off after work, Stuart bought ice cream and root beer for everyone. We all had ginormous root beer floats while trying to find GRE vocab words that could stump Stuart. I think we failed pretty badly. In the end, 2 liters of soda and 5 quarts of ice cream were consumed and good times were had by all!

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Here's an improved version of my poster on my pilot study of Dichanthelium germination, which I presented at the Undergraduate Research & Arts Expo at Northwestern. It's pretty much the same content, but less text and neater.


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Might I ask how it already got to be August? Time sure seems to fly out on the prairie. To start out with, we continued doing rechecks in the Common Garden. We've found about 80 positions that were previously listed as Can't Find. Yay!! The rest of the morning was spent on individual projects. Katherine worked on her aphid survey in the Common Garden, Jill continued to ID ants from her pitfall traps, and Stuart talked to Andrew, Shona, and I about doing glm's (generalized linear models) on our data. Hooray for stats! The battle with R continues, though Kelly beat it by producing a pretty snazzy graph.

Now for the good part (not that other things weren't good, but you'll see what I mean). This afternoon, we started harvesting echinacea heads. If the head looked ready (as in pretty much everything on the plant by the head is brown), we chopped it off in an organized fashion and placed each head in a labeled bag.

Here's a picture of us harvesting!
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On a more displeasing note, that tick of ours is STILL alive and kicking. Or waving. Or whatever.

In the evening, the Wagenii made an appearance at Town Hall to watch the Bee Movie. It was enjoyed by all!

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Oops!! I had an entry written for Tuesday, just waiting for the obligatory photograph, but somehow my title was published and nothing else was saved. So here is the delayed version of Tuesday's events, maybe the extra hindsight will shed a different light on our activities...
We started off the morning with an hour of rechecks (Stuart and Gretel have limited the amount of time we are allowed to spend on them to limit the frustrating and demoralizing experience of looking for plant after plant and rarely finding any trace). It's not all bad though, because among the strings of can't finds, there is, on rare occasion, a tiny, fuzzy, triple lined leaf of echinacea peaking through the grasses (or sometimes a large and blatantly obvious one), and finding one of those is always worth a shout of joy.
Later, Maria, Gretel and I returned to the common garden to remeasure a few other plants whose measurements didn't quite seem normal. We searched in vain for a black head someone recorded a no twist tie as being on the same head as, removed a few staples where there had been no records of staples ever being placed, and remeasured a head whose height had been recorded as 95cm (normal for pallida maybe, but not angustifolia).
In the afternoon Katherine, Jill, and Stuart took the GPS out to finish demography at On 27.
The rest of the day we spent working on independent projects. We've found out that our posters need to be finished by 10am next Monday so I think we all appreciated a little extra time. I spent most of my time on R again, it would probably take me less time if Stuart just told me exactly what to do, but figuring out what I can on my own is more rewarding, and this way I actually understand what I'm doing and will be able to figure out R again next time I need it. Kelly and I did spend about two or three hours trying to figure out how to show the number of flowers that had started flowering by each day, and after a few premature high fives, and one or two nudges in the right direction from Stuart we eventually produced a beautiful graph. At least it will be once Kelly changes the axis labels from accumprop and sDints and makes it so those of us who don't know what those mean can make sense of what it means.

Working out in the common garden recently the views have been changing. Goldenrod is in full bloom along the edges and Big Blue Stem and Indian Grass have sent up tall stems (culms) and begun flowering. Some of the culms reach up above my head and I makes me wonder what it would have been like to walk through a prairie full of them.
Indian Grass- Sorghastrum nutans

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