June 2013 Archives

Hello everyone!

Today was a very nice day up here at Kensington! So nice in fact that several of us went to the lake up near Hoffman. We had a blast and even saw a shark, though it ended up being just a toy...
beach jpg

On other news, Sara Z, the last team member that is living in Kensington, joined us today. She safely arrived from Chicagoland around 8 and got settled in. Hope Sara is excited for Stipa searches, because I am!


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Today was a relaxing day for team Echinacea. Dayvis and Marie headed out in the wee hours of the morning to Fargo where they did some exploring and checked out a Nordic Festival. Ilse and I headed over to Alexandria in the morning to do our first load of laundry of the summer and to visit the farmers market. Reina was also in Alexandria checking out more books at the library and doing some shopping of her own. The afternoon didn't have too many highlights -- the refrigerator got reorganized and Ilse and Sarah B went out for runs. Kory returned from the cities and I finished my book (Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese -- I highly recommend it), and then we all cooked up various fixings for dinner. Our final team member (Sara Z) will be joining us tomorrow. A couple days ago we moved around various furniture to create a cozy living space in the loft. Check it out!


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Today I went with Gretel to Staffanson to look for flowering plants. We walked along the east and west transects and found quite a few plants that should flower next week or the week after that! I still don't know exactly where the transect lies in the large remnant that is Staffanson, but I'm sure I'll learn! :)
I flagged quite a few plants that are due to flower soon.
Also, while searching the common garden for E. angustifolia plants, I found an interesting one at row 22, position 956.007.JPG
Apparently, this plant is famous for showing up every year looking like this. Could this be a mutated plant?

Sarah B

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Although we are down two team members (Kory left today for the weekend, and Mike will be gone for the next week), the crew accomplished everything on the agenda today.

In the morning, we assessed the flowering status of Echinacea in the '99 South garden. Because plants are spaced at 33cm, it can be very easy to forget at which position you were last measuring. According to Gretel, however, it is not all about using the meter stick: having a good approximate distance in mind can really boost efficiency.

After we finished in the '99 South garden, we moved on to assess flowering in the '96/'97 and '99 gardens. For each plant, we noted the presence of aphids as well as whether or not the plant was expected to flower. Only 2 plants possessed conspicuous aphids.


In the afternoon, the conditions couldn't have been better for a third day of Stipa searching! This particular activity seems to be the most polarizing of anything we have done thus far. Out of everyone, Sarah derives the most enjoyment from searching for this elusive grass - this is likely due to the fact that she consistently finds the greatest number of Stipa plants. Today, however, Gretel topped her by two plants. At the end of the day, the whereabouts of 43 Stipa were noted and logged.

Sarah and Gretel drove to Stapphanson later in the afternoon to look for flowering Echinacea. While they were doing that, Dayvis, Lydia, Ise, and I went out to Hegg Lake. Dayvis looked for flowering Echinacea to use in his pollinator experiment, while I flagged the seven angustifolia parents of the one year-old hybrids that I'll be studying.

On the home front, grilled cheese with tomato and onion is on the dinner menu for tonight. Reina found a loaf of blue, moldy bread in the fridge, and rumors abound regarding the origin of the abandoned walker in the basement.

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Here is my first draft of my research proposal for this summer!
Echinacea Project Summer Research Proposal.pdf

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Hello all,

This is the first draft of my research proposal regarding fitness and heritability in the offspring from Shona's crosses last summer. I still have a bit more research to complete - in particular, brushing up on quantitative genetics. Nevertheless, I have enough information to go forward, and hope to get a good chunk of my measurements done by next week.



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Today the team accomplished a variety of projects. The morning began by searching for grasses in the common garden. A decent amount of grasses were located and the garden was resounding with choruses of "woots" shouted out when the grasses were located. The rest of the morning the team worked on individual projects. Throughout the day, Pam and I measured the Amax, transpiration, and conductance of echinacea plant leaves in the hybrid garden within the common garden. We managed to measure 42 plants before Helga (our fabulous machine) needed to take a rest and recharge until tomorrow. In the afternoon, more grasses searches were done. The team also ventured out to Hegg Lake to help Kory find echinacea plants about to flower in common garden 2 and to help Davis find flowering echinacea pallida plants. Overall the day was beautiful to be outside, and it was a very productive day! -Reina


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This morning for Kory's birthday he was sent to go weed the garden, along with Reina, Mike and Dayvis. The rest of us worked on data entry and some other odds and ends. In the late morning we went out to find the grasses planted just north of the Echinacea plants in the common garden, there was not much to find, but the team of Sarah and Gretel won by finding 10 plants. Most of us only found three. The afternoon was time to work on individual projects. Turned out to be another beautiful day in Kensington!weed_removal.PNG

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I am a Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, MN. I just started my year-long sabbatical and it is great to begin it as a member of Team Echinacea! Historically, I always have worked in grasslands, Pacific coastal, Montana and Minnesota sites, so one could say I love prairies.

My research questions focus on processes that generate and maintain diversity in plant populations. This summer Mike, Reina and I will examine three related questions: 1) Do plants from different genetic crosses experience different levels of herbivory? 2) How do morphological and physiological traits such as photosynthetic rate, WUE or leaf area vary as a function of different genetic crosses? 3) What is the feedback between herbivory, physiological traits and genetic identity, and how might this influence plant fitness?

I am originally from Colorado and lived 10 years in California, but I have lived in Minnesota for the past 15 years. I love being outdoors, especially in natural areas where I can hike, canoe, ski, bike, and camp. I also like to garden, read, cook or watch birds (my second favorite avian species with red plumage is the Rose-breasted Grosbeak). Travel to new places, from Kensington to India and beyond, has always given me new perspectives of the world.

Aug4.jpgMy entry on the website is at: The Echinacea Project People PK

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Hi all,

My name is Ilse (pronounced ILL-suh) Renner. I am originally from Green Bay and I recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry, I plan on attending graduate school in the near future. My biology major focused on ecology and plant biology. Previous research I have been involved with focused on taxonomic vs functional based beta diversity of forest community understories, I'm excited for this chance to work in the prairies this summer!

Recently I have been using aster to analyze the 1997 common garden experiment, and will continue with that this summer. As of yet I have analyzed data on fitness with respect to head count based on different populations, but analysis on achene count is in process as are a few other analyses from different perspectives (not based solely on population of origin)...so stay tuned! In addition to the ongoing analyses I will be contributing to other members' studies this summer.

In my free time I can usually be found running the roads of Kensington in the young hours of the morning. I also enjoy biking and playing the violin.

Here is a link to my page on the Echinacea Project Website violin.jpg

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Today was yet another very productive day.
We started out the morning with flagging plants in common garden 2 at Hegg Lake. Working in pairs, we used giant meter tapes and worked hard to get the whole plot flagged before lunch. We also learned the best way to "reel in" the meter tapes - it looked a bit like a dance to me.

As we walked back to the cars to head back for lunch, Stuart stopped to point out Heliopsis helianthoides, also known as false sunflower. This plant has composite flower heads, as does Echinacea angustifolia, so it was good to learn about the similarities in structure between the two such as ray flowers and bracts.

Our afternoon was spent using PDAs (Visor) to input data about plants in the inbreeding gardens. We worked in groups of 2 again, along with Per and Hattie who helped us (they were awesome!). The weather turned hot and humid at this point but root beer floats were waiting for us when we finished! That was my personal highlight of the day. In the common garden, we saw some E. angustifolia due to flower quite soon. Exciting!

After that, the team headed back to the old town hall to eat dinner (pasta with shrimp and artichokes) and then watch a movie (Donnie Darko). All in all, a pretty good day! :)

Sarah Baker

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Hello, everyone! If you couldn't tell from the title, I am Sarah Baker. I am a rising Junior at St. Catherine University and an REU intern this summer. I am a biology major with an interest in wildlife and conservation biology. During the academic year, as well as being a student, I work as a teaching assistant for ceramics courses at my school. I will also be working as "animal room technician" this upcoming semester, taking care of organisms used in labs and research for biology related courses.

Anyway, a bit of information about me: I grew up in Golden Valley, Minnesota and spent a lot of time in my childhood and teenage years outdoors. I often went hiking, canoeing, biking, and other types of adventuring outdoors with my family and learned much about nature from those experiences. My father, being a biologist, would often point out various plants and animals to me and identify them, teaching me what they were and interesting facts about them. These excursions fed my interest in wildlife and conservation. In the future, I plan to attend graduate school to study wildlife or conservation biology.

When I'm not doing cool science-y things, I enjoy making pottery, being out in nature, sailing, and hanging with friends. I am also the president of the ceramics club at my school where we host Empty Bowls community service projects to raise money for Minnesota Open Arms.

This summer, my independent project will focus on flowering phenology of various remnants. I will be adding to a data set from 2011 and 2012. My main interest with this project is to see if there are correlations between peak flowering times of the same remnants across multiple years. I look forward to all I will experience this summer!

If you are interesting in learning a bit more about me, check out my webpage on the Echinacea Project website!


Sarah Baker

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Hi there everyone,

I was an intern with the Echinacea Project last summer (2012) and worked on the remnant flowering phenology project. Over my winter term at Carleton I worked on an independent study to analyze the seed set of some of the remnant plants. After finishing dissection and x-raying the achenes (with a lot of help from the lovely volunteers in Chicago!), I created a poster which I presented at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference in March of this year. I have attached the poster to this post. Hopefully, it explains some cool findings!

Good luck with field work everybody!

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Hello everyone! I am Kory Kolis and am from Eau Claire Wisconsin. I am a Junior at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Minnesota (about an hour southwest of the twin cities). I am a biology and studio art double major. Last summer I was doing biochemistry research at Gustavus examining the four proteins that make up the kinetochore of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. I am very excited to be a part of Team Echinacea this summer, and for the opportunity to work outside! Woot!

This summer I plan on continuing the research done by Katie Koch and Andrew Kaul. I will be looking at the efficiency of pollinators on the Echinacea angustifolia. By doing my observations in Jennifer Ison's common garden I hope to be able to be able to trace the pollen back to the parent plant, allowing me to see if there are any relationships between distance from the two plants and pollinator.

In my free time I love making art. My favorite medium is ceramics, but above all love making sculptures. I recently put on a small show of my artwork in my school library titled "The Alchemist."

If you would like to see the link of me on the Echinacea Project home page click here.

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Hey everyone! My name is Lydia English and I just graduated from Carleton College a couple weeks ago. I'm originally from Rhode Island where my parents and two cats reside, but I just can't get enough of the midwest so I'll be spending another year out here.

My interests lie in conservation biology and restoration ecology and this will be my second summer working in prairies. I'll be looking to continue Katherine's work on aphids and their effects on Echinacea fitness and phenology, but I'm also really interested in the compatibility experiments. Overall I think it'll be a fun and exciting summer!

If you'd like to check out my page at the Echinacea Project's website click here


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Hello, flog readers! I am Marie Schaedel, a rising junior at Carleton College. I'm very happy to have gotten the opportunity to study Echinacea and learn about remnant prairie biology this summer. Although native to the congested Chicago region, I am very easily becoming accustomed to Kensington's sleepy serenity.

This summer, I plan to assess fitness and heritability in the hybrids that Stuart planted earlier this spring. For more specifics about my research question, see my Echinacea Project team member page.

Fun(ish) facts about me:

I have a rabbit named after an Egyptian pharaoh. I play the violin and piano, and am currently learning how to play the ukelele. In my free time, I like to run and lift weights. Winter is my favorite season because I love to cross country ski. This fall, I am traveling to Tanzania to study the biology of traditional agriculture on Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I am looking forward to the rest of the summer! Stay tuned for periodic project updates.


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Hello there! My name is Reina Nielsen and I will be a sophomore at Gustavus Adolphus College this fall studying biology. I am excited to be doing research this summer with Dr. Kittleson and Mike. I love being outdoors and can be found fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, or downhill skiing. I am looking forward to an exciting summer!


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Today we spent the morning working on the recruitment experiment at Hegg Lake and a waterfowl production area southwest of Kensington. We were quite productive during the morning, finishing four plots! While we were in the field, we found an array of new forbs flowering for the first time. After today, we are finished with the recruitment experiment and will be moving on to work in the common gardens.

In the afternoon we were treated to a presentation by Amy Dykstra on seedling recruitment. It was helpful to get more background information on Echinacea and the different ongoing experiments we get to be involved with. We ended the day by preparing for tomorrow and readying the necessary flags for flagging common garden 2 at Hegg Lake.


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My name is Mike Howe and I am a senior at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter Minnesota. After spending one summer studying plant demography and pollen limitation in prairies, I was lucky to get involved with the Echinacea Project for this summer.

This summer I will be working with Dr. Pamela Kittelson focusing on how genetic diversity interacts with herbivory and ecophysiological traits. One of the ecophysiological traits we hope to explore is photosynthetic rate using a LiCor-6400 machine. It should be interesting to relate photosynthesis and other ecophysiological traits to genetic diversity.

In my spare time, I am an avid cyclist, runner, and I Nordic ski for Gustavus. I am planning on exploring the roads around Kensington via my bike and rollerskis! Hope to see you around up here!

Valle Hermosa, Future Patagonia National Park, Aysen, Chile

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I am an undergraduate student from Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). Although I was born and raised in Venezuela (South America), I consider the American Midwest my home. Due to the high degree of anthropogenic disturbances in this region, I am very interested in studying its ecology. Particularly, I am interested in the effect that invasive species and habitat fragmentation has in native species and communities
During these the last two weeks, I have had the opportunity of experience the American prairie as never before. I have discovered a new entire world of colors and shapes. Even though there are only remnants of prairie, it is really impressive the beauty of this type of habitat.
I have been exposed to a lot of wonderful experiences. Since searching adult, juvenile, seedlings, and flowering plants to mapping sites and operating GPS.

As an independent project, I will determine the likelihood of hybridization between echinacea angustifolia and echinacea pallida (maybe purpurea too)in nature. In order to do that, I will have to determine if there is synchrony between them and at what level this different species of plants share pollinators. It will promise to be an interesting and wonderful summer for me in this beautiful state. IMG_0447.JPG

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The second week of the 2013 field season for Team Echinacea was excellent. We finished searching for seedlings and found a grand total of 102 seedlings in 13 remnant populations. We laid out the main common garden experiment with over a thousand orange, blue, and lime flags to guide our walking and to enable us to identify individual plants. We also began assessing survival in the recruitment experiment. On Wednesday Ilse presented results to the team on her aster analysis of 17-year fitness records for about 600 Echinacea plants in our main common garden experiment--details to follow. Pam took out her big new photosynthesis machine for its first trial run. Storms and wetness rained us out all day Thursday and we were without power for two hours on Thursday and about 18 hours on Friday. Team members are refining their ideas for independent projects and soon will be able to make their own posts. (IT folks at the UMN said they fixed the access problems-we'll see.) Stay tuned to read about their awesome experimental plans!

You can read about some of our team-members on our their Echinacea Project webpages...
Pamela Kittelson
Ilse Renner
Dayvis Blasini
Kory Kolis
Sarah Baker
Marie Schaedel
Reina Nielsen
What a great team!

Next week we aim to finish assessing survival, flag another experimental plot, measure more plants, work on independent projects, and purchase/make/organize equipment and supplies for our experiments. We are also looking forward to Amy Dykstra's visit. She will talk about her dissertation research.

We are making updates via twitter and facebook. These media have proved to be more reliable than this flog, but we hope that changes soon. See links on the Echinacea Project's main web page. We hope to set up a venue for sharing more of our photos--stay tuned for that, but here are a few photos from this past week...


Searching for seedlings at LF (the landfill site).


An orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)
flowering at the KJ site.


The team on the porch of the Hjelm house.


First trial of the new phtosynthesis machine.


Sorting flags to reuse & recycle.
We estimated 2600 flags here to reuse.

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Team Echinacea in Minnesota had a busy and productive first week of field work. Unfortunately we have been unable to log in to the flog to tell you what we have been doing. Something at the U has changed how to log in and we are stuck--arg. We will update you as soon as we can! This week we plan to search for Echinacea seedlings, flag the main common garden experiment, and start assessing survival in the recruitment experiment. I hope team members will be able to update progress on their independent projects.

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June is a transitional time for the Echinacea Project. Stuart left for Minnesota last Saturday and has begun working with a new crop of field interns. They will update the flog throughout the summer to introduce themselves and describe their adventures.

Stuart's four advisees at Northwestern--Josh Drizin, Katherine Muller, Karen Taira, and Maria Wang--are getting ready to move on to new endeavors. Maria is staying at Northwestern for one more year to complete a Master's degree. As much as she loves her grasses, she is embarking on a topic closer to her home territory: the population genetics of a Malaysian crop species. Katherine is moving on to a PhD program at the University of Minnesota, Josh is applying for conservation jobs, and Karen is preparing to defend her thesis in the fall.

Back in the lab, there is enough counting, randomizing, and weighing to keep our volunteers busy all summer. All of the counting for harvest years 2010 through 2012 have been entered into the new online data entry system at echinaceaproject.org/lab. That means that we will be able to keep track of their progress throughout the summer without the hassle of paper datasheets. As of today, 69% of the assignments have been completed. Counting for 2010 is nearly finished and 2011 is over half-way there.


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Hello! I'm Amy Dykstra, and I will be participating with the Echinacea project part time this summer, beginning sometime after June 18.

I have been involved with the project since 2006, and am looking forward to meeting this year's Team Echinacea!

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I defended my thesis on May 16th, presenting the results of my research on the hygroscopic motion of big bluestem and indian grass. I've attached the presentation to this post, though the presentation is a bit light on text. I'm putting together a section on my website with more text, which I'll link when it's ready.


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Thursday marked my last day in the lab for the spring and I was able to discuss my plan for the upcoming fall quarter. I will continue to complete my data set identifying ants from sites in order to compare the effect of proximity to Echinacea with ant diversity. I look forward to getting a more complete picture of the species composition in these areas and hopefully seeing some interesting trends! Hope everyone has a wonderful summer!

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