February 2013 Archives

Every so often, an Echinacea seedling emerges with an extra cotyledon. I introduce to you, the tricot:


These are the seedlings from Jill Pastick's experiment comparing Echinacea germination in agar vs. blotter paper. That picture was from last week (Feb. 19). Here is what they look like today (Feb. 27):


In other news, we are moving forward in developing an online data entry system for counting achenes. Stuart and I are beta-testing and Bianca, the CBG web developer, is refining the data management system. We will commence counting very soon.

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Our volunteers have been making progress in counting, randomizing, and weighing Echinacea achenes from 2011 and cleaning achenes from 2012. We are over half-way through randomizing and weighing achenes from the sizable 1999 experiment and have made progress counting achenes from the remaining 2011 harvest. And what better way to celebrate progress than with heart-shaped cookies, courtesy of Bob's wife (Bob is on the left, counting achenes)?


In other news, intern Jill Pastick is making progress with her experiment comparing Echinacea germination on agar vs. blotter paper. Last week she transferred the newly-germinated sprouts from petri dishes to plug trays in order to monitor their growth. So far, it looks like the agar method worked well in promoting germination and minimizing mold. However, we will know more once Jill analyzes the data on germination rates and seedling growth. The results of this pilot study will help guide our methods in two upcoming germination experiments.


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We have two interns pursuing independent projects in the lab. Jill Pastick, a junior at Lakeforest College, is testing out different methods of germinating Echinacea achenes and helping us prepare the germination phase of two ongoing experiments.


Gia Hallaman, a junior at Northwestern, is helping out with several projects, including counting achenes in x-ray images from Jill's germination experiment (you can see them on the computer screen below). She is also learning how to identify ants to morphospecies. That means distinguishing different species based on morphology and making our best guess on which species they are. It takes time to develop an eye for the different traits that distinguish closely related species; often the most obvious traits, like color and size, are not informative for differentiating species. Jill is learning to use a combination of tools, including online dichotomous keys and photo databases (antweb.org), to identify ants to species or morphospecies. With her help, we should be able to make a dent in identifying the ants we collected from Minnesota prairie remnants in the summer of 2012.


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This January Stuart and Gretel kindly hosted me in Chicago and gave me the opportunity to spend a few weeks working in the Echinacea Project lab continuing my research from the summer. Here is my final paper with some interesting results.


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