We are launching into the new year like an Echinacea achene launching from its receptacle. The reason I mention this terrible simile is that we are in the process of extracting achenes from Echinacea heads harvested in 2012. Even though we haven't cleaned many heads, we have found quite a few stray achenes around the lab--on the floor, in drawer handles, in people's clothes. One of our volunteers, Lou, developed a device to minimize achene loss. Lou is a mathematician and avid hobbyist engineer who has contributed his talents to various aspects of the project, including building a tray for scanning achenes and a frame for mapping and finding seedlings in the field. Volunteers Bill and Leslie tried out his prototype cleaning shield on Thursday and Friday:
In other news, we are in the process of developing a new system for collecting achene count data. Basically, instead of writing down the count on a paper data sheet, each counter would enter the information into an online form, which would feed directly into the database. Bianca Rosenbaum, the CBG web developer, is helping us develop this system. If all goes well, we should be able to try it out in the next few months.
There is a lot of work left to do for the 2011 Echinacea harvest, including counting achenes on scans and selecting a random sample to weigh. Thankfully, many of our volunteers have returned from holiday vacations and have resumed their invaluable work in the lab. For those that are still in warmer climes, we look forward to their return.