Recently in Fun Stuff Category

We had a great party on Tuesday night--Dayvis & Marie's last day. We enjoyed excellent food, played croquet, and ate s'mores around two bonfires. Very enjoyable. The garden is late this year--no tomatoes or cucumbers yet. I regret I didn't take any photos, but here's the menu...

corn on the cob
pesto pasta
Pam's pasta salad
quinoa salad
fresh sourdough bread
black bean dip
corn chips
deviled eggs
kohlrabi slices
brownies
iced tea
s'mores makings

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Based on the flog, it may seem that the lab activity has been consumed with counting seeds and identifying ants. However, I should point out that there are some real live plants in the lab as well.

Maria has been lovingly tending her Dicanthelium plants that she germinated last fall. One of the perks of working at the Chicago Botanic Garden is the high-tech growth chamber that allows you to control light, temperature, and humidity on a programmed schedule. Maria has programmed the chamber to approximate fall in Minnesota.

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Any one at CBG can use the growth chamber for their research. Anna Braum, a grad student at Northwestern, is growing host plants for her experiment on the parasitic plant Castilleja coccinea--also known as the indian paintbrush. Here she is watering her plants (with help from Maria).

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Shelby, one of the PhD students working with Ruth, departed for St. Paul today. So only Katherine and I are left in the big town hall. I guess we poured ourselves into fieldwork as we got a lot done today. In the morning we finished demo rechecks at KJs, then flagged seedling refind plants at East of Town Hall. We returned to Hjelm House for lunch, then set out for Nessman, finished seedling refinds there (total 6 plants). We also finished seedling refinds at East of Town Hall (5 plants). From there we headed to Aanenson for demo rechecks, and got almost halfway done! We also had fun taking photos of prairie, ourselves and cows at Aanenson.

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Hey folks, it's Maria. Sorry for late reporting - the post I had written earlier was lost due to internet fuss, and I didn't have the heart to rewrite everything again. So, unfortunately, you'll have to settle for a concise report.

And yes this time I'm writing in a text editor first before copying and pasting onto the flog.

Friday was Kelly and Jill's last day.

In the morning we finished demo rechecks with 2 teams at Staffanson, while Kelly finished harvesting her heads.

After lunch Stuart went to K-town to pay rent and utilities, while the rest of us did our projects/ cleanup. When Stuart returned we went to Staffanson for seedling refinds. Stuart used the GPS to find and flag focal plants, and did a few sling refinds. Katherine and Kelly resolved a particularly complex circle - the plant by the road. Jill and I worked on a few simpler circles.

We celebrated the end of the day with rootbeer floats. Dinner was pizza and supper was black bean brownies, sending off Kelly and Jill with a flourish.

Photo courtesy of Katherine.
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p/s 31 August is Malaysia's National Day! Selamat Hari Kebangsaan to all fellow Malaysians :)

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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.
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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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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.
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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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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.

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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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Howdy folks,
Maria reporting from K-town.

Sunday we had a real day off =)

The weather was good and sunny, but not too hot.

Random tidbits from the town hall:
Shona made oatmeal pancakes for breakfast - they were really yummy - thanks Shona!
Kelly and Shona went swimming at Elk Lake and bumped into the Wagenius family
Katherine found a new trail in the forest at the Runestone Park on her biking adventure
Andrew had a great time at home and arrived at the town hall before 11pm
Lydia spent the day helping out in the kitchen at the camp in Alexandria
I made Irish Soda Bread to use up some sour milk, but still have ~1 cup sour milk (turned into buttermilk substitute, any ideas what to do with it? Pancakes would be easiest, but we just had them)

After the weekend break, it's time for work again! Monday (today) we divided and conquered.
AM - Greg set out his yellow pan traps in his remnants. Stuart, Katherine, Jill, Lydia and I did demo in the remnants. Ruth and Greg came to join us. We found many Echinacea flowering at Loeffler's Corner East, an okay number at Loeffler's Corner West, 2 at Railroad Crossing (Douglas County), and ~6 at Yellow Orchid Hill.
The others (Shona, Kelly, Andrew) did CG1 rechecks and then worked on their independent projects.

Ruth bought some delicious fluffy spongy chocolate cake which we cleaned off the dish.

PM - The two teams switched jobs. Stuart led Shona, Kelly, Andrew, Ruth and Greg in demo at KJs and On 27. The rest of us did CG1 rechecks, and then worked on independent projects.

Here's a file called "Crash Course in R", which might be helpful to folks
crashR.2.pdf

Now for some photos!

Flowering Dichanthelium!
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I think this is a super cool picture as it shows 3 stages of Dichanthelium stigmas/anthers emergence. See how the bottom-most spikelet has the stigma just emerging, while the anthers are still inside; the middle spikelet is open and has both stigma and anthers well-exserted; and the top spikelet is closed and the anthers are drooping out from the spikelet.
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Last but not least here's an epic picture from our bonfire last year :D
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Saturday brought a resurgence of the "not-so-bad" weather we've been enjoying this week. Several rainstorms have brought some much needed moisture to the soil. The reason I mention this is that while I worked on my aphid addition/exclusion experiment, I noticed a lot of dirt mounds on plants where aphids were present. Presumably, ants build these structures to cultivate aphids. Some of these were small, consisting of only a few small pieces, and some were large, taking up a large portion of a leaf. Here's one of the smaller examples. The opposite side of the leaf was covered in aphids.

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Here's a picture of one of the plants in my aphid addition group. As you can see, the ants are taking full advantage of the situation:

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As for other field work, Kelly spent the morning checking the status of flowers for her phenology study. Most of the remnants have stopped flowering, with the exception of one plant at a small remnant and many at the Staffanson prairie preserve. Because the west half of Staffanson was burned in May, Echinacea began blooming later than in the unburned half.

In the evening, we all gathered at the Wagenius family home for potluck dinner and bonfire. I should say bonfires, since there were two right next to each other. Pyromanic desires were fulfilled by all.

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Hi guys,

Saturday morning i woke up at 6am (body clock working on weekday schedule) and couldn't go back to sleep, so i decided to watch the approaching storm, from the safety of the front door of the town hall. Saw some really interesting things that will sound like they were right from a children's book but it was all true.

The sky was a strange yellow glow. i'm guessing it's because of the sunrise before a storm. In the north and northwest direction, there were dark clouds and low rumbling thunder in the background. But in the opposite direction, birds were chirping incessantly. The sun was literally gleaming above the dilapidated barn house. I saw a rabbit prancing across the neighbor's front yard. I watched as storm clouds in the west covered and uncovered a double rainbow. Gradually the storm clouds moved from north to south. Some pattering of rain, and cool lightning chases in the north/northwest, accompanied by louder thunder.

Around 6.50 i went back to bed. Jennifer was already up - she was going to meet Stuart at the Hjelm House at 8, and then go to Caribou Coffee in Alexandria to work on her manuscript for the whole day.

Later in the morning, Katherine went to the common garden to do her aphids experiment, which took all day.

Taking advantage of the cool temperature (high 70s with 10mph wind), Jill went out for a run at 10 and I went out for a slow jog at 11. Lydia, Andrew and Kelsey (Andrew's special friend) went to Alexandria around noon - Andrew was showing Kelsey around. Kelly, Shona, and Jill went to the Starbuck beach in the afternoon and had lots of fun. Apparently there was lake itch at the first beach they went to but they found another beach on the same lake that didn't have the itch.

In the evening, Kelly and Shona went out for a run before going to Alexandria to watch The Dark Knight Rises. Andrew and Kelsey joined them at the movies.

Oh, and the obligatory picture. My camera got really wet in the rain (i foolishly put it in my raincoat pocket), so it's retired from service for now. But I still have tons of good pictures from this summer and the last, so no worries.
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This was from the day of the storm. The yellow glow I was talking about. That's my bike parked outside my field site at Hegg Lake.

And this is a really cool bug I found on Dichanthelium. It can climb vertically and upside down very well, and it seems to have suction pads on its feet. Photo courtesy of Lydia.
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Maria

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Monday was quite sultry, if I remember correctly. In the morning we divided forces to look at flowering phenology in C1 and to finish measuring the plants in Amy Dykstra's experiment at Hegg Lake. She has two experimental plots there: one containing the offspring of inter-remnant crosses and the other containing seeds collected from source populations between Minnesota and South Dakota. She sowed seeds in 2008 and has been tracking their progress every year since. Once we finished finding and measuring plants, Stuart took GPS points for each experimental plot:

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While he was doing that, Shona trekked off into the prairie to check on the plants in her hybridization experiment.

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Meanwhile, Lydia and I waited by the truck and took advantage of the opportunity for an epic pose. I'd say it was successfully epic.

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Friday the 13th of July! Sorry for the late posting.

Weather report:
According to my field notes, at 6.35am at Hegg Lake it was warm, no breeze, and a little dewy. The rest of the day, it was hot and humid, though not as bad as the past few days.

Fieldwork report (morning):
I was at Hegg Lake from 6.35am-10.30am, checking on my Dichanthelium plants for seeds that are ready to be harvested. The unfortunate news: 1 of my experimental culms dried out, and another culm was broken off :( On the brighter side, the potted Dichanthelium from my pilot bulk experiment are doing quite well, and a second one started producing spikelets!

Kelly and Shona were out at Staffanson GPSing all the flowering Echinacea plants, including Kelly's phenology plants.

Andrew and Lydia were in C1 observing and catching pollinators for Andrew's project. Lydia caught one pollinator. There wasn't much activity in the garden.

Jill was identifiying ants under the dissecting scope in the basement all morning. She found that many of them were Lasius and Formica.

Katherine was working with the data from the aphid survey and conducting preliminary analyses. She is planning on performing aster analysis with her data.

Ruth, Amy and Brad came over today. After lunch, we headed out to Hegg Lake to Amy's plots where we measured seedlings that were sowed in 2008. We were out there until almost 6pm, impressive work!

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Stuart and Ruth :)

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Poor broken culm of Dichanthelium. See how some spikelets were still open?

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Tired Team Echinacea...

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After last week's sultry weather, we've been enjoying a "dry heat", as Greg Diersen so artfully put it. This morning everyone went their separate ways to pursue their individual projects:

Shona, Maria, and Lydia went directly to Hegg Lake and combined forces to measure plants and take GPS points. Shona also photographed Echinacea pallida and E. angustifolia plants as part of her project to assess species traits.

Andrew searched the main experimental plot (C1) for plants where he can observe pollinators. Because peak flowering has passed, his selection of flowering heads is growing slimmer by the day. Fortunately, he has some good observations under his belt and will be able to collect more before plants stop flowering.

Jill and Greg joined forces in operation pit-fall trap. Greg's traps are bowls full of soapy water that he sets on the ground and leaves out for a couple of days. Jill's are tubes full of propylene glycol that she submerges in the soil and leaves out for a week. Today, they set out Greg's traps and collected from Jill's. I have to say: the smell of dead insects stewing in propylene glycol for a week is probably one of the worst smells I have experienced.

I spent the morning removing aphids from plants in my aphid addition/exclusion experiment. Even though it has been three days since my last exclusion, there were aphids on 11 out of 50 plants in my exclusion group. One plant had 67 aphids--all in three days! Those aphids are moving and breeding fast.

This afternoon we joined together in our common goal of measuring every plant in C1. My mother used to say that the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time. Well, today we bit a big chunk off of our elephant, finishing up the sections planted in 1997, 1998, and 1999. We have less than half an elephant to go!

And now for a picture. In addition to helping us keep track of plants, pin flags make great habitat for spiders:
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We were all having so much fun on the 4th of July that I forgot to write the events of the day.

Technically, the 4th of July is a day off for the Echinacea crew. Plants don't celebrate national holidays, so we spent the morning assessing flowering phenology in the main experimental plot. After that, Andrew experienced a series of unfortunate events that kept him from observing pollinators. On the upside, he learned some valuable lessons and made a new friend.

Because aphids don't take holidays either, I spent the latter part of the morning visiting plants in my aphid addition/exclusion experiment to remove aphids from the exclusion group. The goal of my experiment is to capture the effects of aphids in natural conditions--i.e. no cages or bags. That means that in order keep aphids off of the plants in the exclusion group, I need to visit them every few days to remove them by hand. For fifty plants (plus fifty more in the addition group) that's a lot of footwork.

We celebrated America's national holiday with a picnic at Elk Lake. We crammed in as many all-American activities as we could: potlucking, canoeing, sand-castle building, frying in the sun. If things weren't American enough, Stuart brought a print-out of the Declaration of Independence, which we all took turns reading around the picnic blanket. Go America!

I didn't get a good group picture, but here's a cute shot of Jill, Shona, and Kelly:

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(Aghh I just finished writing and then when i tried to publish the site told me that my session had expired and of course I lost the whole blog post T___T )

Anyways...
Today was a very hot and humid day. Temperatures into the 90s, feeling like 100. Sweaty sweaty sweaty.

Some of us accomplished field work.
Andrew was in C1 this morning painting bracts and bagging Ech flowers.
Katherine was also in C1 doing her aphid add/exclude experiment.
Shona was out at Hegg Lake for 4 hours painting bracts and observing crossed styles.
I (Maria) was also at Hegg Lake (for my own reference from around 10.30 - 4.40pm) surveying Dichanthelium inflorescences I've been tracking for the past week or so, and more importantly, finding plants for my pollen limitation experiment. I have 31 plants flagged and 62 inflorescences twist-tied. I'll be initiating the experiment tomorrow, so I should be in bed now (hence, I'll give more details in a later post).

To end off the week, here's a special 6-leaved Virginia Creeper (they are usually 5-leaved) I found in the 99 south garden. Hope it brings everyone good luck!
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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:

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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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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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Hello everyone! This is Sebastian with another update on the x-ray machine. This post will discuss the various methods that can be used to determine the radiation dose of our x-ray machine. Below you will find my report on determining x-ray radiation doses.


Evaluating 3 methods for estimating radiation doses
23 March 2012
Sebastian Di Clemente


Introduction:
The population biology lab is trying to determine the dose of x-ray radiation that the x-ray tube emits per x-ray taken. Calculating the radiation dose is not an easy task because there is no straight forward way to do it. Each method used to determine the x-ray dose presents several differences in measure and calculation. Knowing the radiation dose of the x-rays can be used to determine what dose levels will hinder or harm a seed and what dose levels may even be beneficial to seeds; in short, knowing the radiation dose will allow researchers to quantify the point where seeds are affected by the radiation. With this experiment I will evaluate the sources that give the x-ray radiation dose and analyze the information given by each source.

Objectives:
1. To determine what method gives the most accurate information
2. To determine what method should be consulted to find the most appropriate radiation dose

Methods:
I gathered information based on web searches, contacting professionals, and contacting the x-ray machine manufacturer. I 1.) found a web page that calculates the x-ray radiation dose level and 2.) the manufacture provided the information that they have on dose levels that the Faxitron MX-20 machine produce at various settings. After receiving this information I test the web calculator by inputting the same settings that the manufacture provided and then compared the calculator reading to the value given by the manufacturer. I also further examined the information that the manufacturer provided and determined any differences in information or information format. The use of 3.) a dosimeter would give the most accurate measurement.

Results:
After comparing the web calculator result to the information given by the manufacturer using the same settings and criteria there is a significant difference in the dose level given. The web calculator had a dose level that was greater than the valued indicated by the manufacturer for lower level voltages (less than 20 kV), but the manufacturer indicated a greater dose level at anything above 20kV compared to the web calculator. The professionals offer the solution of a dosimeter. The comparison of the manufacturer data to the web calculator, and the three methods are provided in table below.


Comparison between manufacturer data and web calculator:

View image

The web calculator:


http://www.radprocalculator.com/XRay.aspx

The information given by the manufacturer is given in the following documents:

Dosage MX 20.pdf

mx-20 EXPOSURE DATA.pdf

MX-20 mR Ouput versus time.pdf

The professionals offer the solution of a dosimeter.

Conclusion:
Considering all of the information that I gathered I would trust the manufacture data over the web calculator data. The web calculator is good for fast calculations and changing between what units the dose level will be expressed in. Although, after testing the web calculator and see such a significant difference between it's calculation and the manufacturer data, I feel that the manufacture would be more likely to have more accurate information.

Since the manufacture data is most reliable it is the clear choice to use. The manufacturer data covers more information, such as time, voltage, as well as unit conversions for other factors. Considering that more information is provided more variations to experiments can be made and the radiation does would still be available after simple unit conversions.

The other option presented by professionals would be to use a dosimeter to directly measure the radiation dose. This option would be the easiest way out of the three options, and would cater more to a researcher's specific setting. If a dosimeter is available to use I would make this device my choice for determining radiation dose.

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Hello Project Echinacea Flog!,
My name is Sebastian Di Clemente I am the Lake Forest College 2012 spring intern class of 2013, and I am quite excited about, this, my first post. I've been assigned the project of determining the best settings and magnifications for the new x-ray machine. Below you will find my report about the various magnification levels.


X-ray machine magnification
27 February 2012
Sebastian Di Clemente


Introduction:

The population biology lab is trying to determine the best x-ray magnification to use for scanning Echinacea achenes. The criteria that constitute "best" are image quality and contrast, label legibility, and overall time and efficiency. Each magnification presents different advantages and disadvantages, some more prominent than others. The use of these x-rays can give a more definitive answer of whether an achene has been fertilized compared to achene weight. With this experiment I will evaluate the x-ray machine magnification levels and determine the best choices and ideally isolate one magnification setting that would be best.

Objectives:

1. Obtain the best contrast quality possible for achenes
2. Obtain the best quality setting to read the label on the envelope
3. To determine the best settings and magnifications to use to maximize both label legibility and achene contrast

Methods:

I scanned batches of Echinacea achenes in envelopes under the 10 second and 18 kv setting on the x-ray machine at the varying magnifications (magnifications are 1:1; 1:1.5; 1:2; 1:3; 1:4; 1:5) and window level settings. After taking a number of images at each magnification and assigning the prescribed window level settings (see X-Ray Machine Protocol for Echinacea) I compared images side by side. I then documented similarities and differences, and pros and cons of each image on their own and in relation to the other images taken. Based on the resulting images and my notes, I determined what each magnification might be useful for. Finally, I choose two magnifications out of the six that I thought would be most useful, and then weighed the pros and cons of each one more heavily and made my final choice as to which magnification would probably be best.

Results:

1:1 Magnification

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At the 1:1 magnification the labels are hardly visible. The zooming in on this image would not do that much good because the image will become more pixilated. It is quite difficult to distinguish the achenes that are hollow and have not been germinated. Also, it is not possible to tell where the envelopes end or begin. The only real benefits of this setting are that four envelops can be scanned at a time and the achenes that have an embryo can be fairly easily counted.

1:1.5 Magnification

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A magnification of 1:1.5 clearly does not show the greatest image. Although three envelopes can be captured in the image the labels are rather difficult to read and part of the third envelope gets cut off. The orientation of the envelopes is also a bit confusing and more laborious to set up. Positives of the image are that a large sample of achenes can be processed at a time. Another benefit is that after zooming in on the picture the achenes are easy to count and the visibility of germinated and non germinated achenes is fairly clear.

1:2 Magnification

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The first benefit the 1:2 magnification has is that two envelopes can be scanned at a time. This benefit can double the speed of the scanning process. The extra space around the two envelopes can be use to include any smaller envelopes that may come inside the main envelope. The labels in this setting are still readable and the achenes show up nicely. The image needs to be zoomed in upon to provide a more accurate count of the achenes and to tell which have been germinated and which have not. If time is not of the essence, one of the magnification settings soon to follow would be recommended.

1:3 Magnification

Best Compromise 1To 3 Mag.jpg

The magnification setting of 1:3 is a good compromise between the previous settings and the settings to soon be discussed. This setting provides an image that encompasses a full envelope and leaves some room to spare. The extra room can be used for adding any small envelopes used to set aside certain achenes that may come inside the main envelope. The label in this image is fairly legible and every achene can be counted. It is also possible to determine which achenes have an embryo or are lacking an embryo. Furthermore, if the image is zoomed in upon it is possible to see any damage or defects of the achenes. The only issue with this magnification setting is that only one envelope can be scanned at a time, which makes the overall scanning process proceed at a slower tempo.

1:4 Magnification

1 To 4 Mag T-3 Best.jpg

A 1:4 magnification setting provides a fine image that shows both the label and the achenes clearly. From this magnification it is easy to count achenes, see any damage or defects of achenes, and tell whether achenes are hollow or have an embryo. Drawbacks to this setting are that the entirety of the envelope is not captured in the image, which leaves achenes not visible at the bottom or top of envelop that is cut off. Another obvious set back is that it is only possible to view one envelope at a time. This setting would be recommended to use if a close examination of the achenes is need, especially when trying to examine a greater number of achenes at a time.

1:5 Magnification

1 To 5 Mag.jpg

At a 1:5 magnification the clearest results are returned. Each achene can easily be counted, identified as hollow or full, and the label is clearly legible. This magnification is the highest magnification possible on this x-ray machine and is therefore the high-end extreme. The negative aspects of this magnification are that it is not possible to capture the entire envelope in the image. Unless all of the achenes are pushed towards the label there is no way of telling how many achenes may not be accounted for. As a result of not being able to fit one full envelop in the image it is not a far stretch of the mind to understand that capturing two envelopes at this magnification setting is out of the question and that only one envelope (or part of one). At this magnification, it would only be recommend to be used to examine certain achenes in order to inspect damage, shape, or any other anomaly that is being investigated.

Conclusion:

Considering all of the magnification settings, the top two would have to be 1:2 and 1:3. These levels have the most benefits out of all of the other settings without all of the negatives of the other settings. These two options are thus recommend for use. The question that presents itself is a matter of time and efficiency, and what setting is best to use. At the 1:2 setting, does the time saved by scanning two envelopes at a time out weigh the time it would take a person to zoom in on each envelope and count the achenes and determine which are germinated and which are not? At a 1:3 magnification, does the time to scan one envelope at a time and continually switch out samples negate the time it takes for a person to count the germinated and not germinated seeds without zooming in?

After carefully considering the question of time and efficiency I conclude that the 1:2 magnification setting is indeed the best choice and the 1:3 setting the second best choice. The time it takes zoom in on one envelope to count the achenes and determine their germination states and then zoom out and zoom in to do the process over is shorter that the time it takes to scan one envelope at a time and be easily to count the achenes and determine the germination states without needing to zoom in. To zoom in and out and back in takes far less time than completely going through the image scanning process for individual envelopes. The time it takes for the media plate to go through the CR reader is what takes the longest and makes the 1:3 magnification the second best choice.

All accounted for, the best magnification setting to use is 1:2 for time and efficiency sake. If time is not of the essence, then the 1:3 magnification setting would be the best option. The final ranking of all of the magnification settings would be: A.) 1:2 B.) 1:3 C.) 1:4 D.) 1:5 E.) 1:1.5 and F.) 1:1 respectively. This ranking and the best option may very based on the experiment being run, sample size, and what the object of inquiry is. For a general scanning to most efficiently count and determine germination states this ranking holds. If a different experiment is being conducted and or a different sample size or object of inquiry is at hand then the best setting to use should be determined as needed based on the pros and cons as listed in the previous pages.

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Hello Project Echinacea Flog!,
I'm glad to be posting my first post! I'm Ricardo Rivera, and I started working for the lab in December and it's good to be back after the winter break. Seed cleaning for the 2011 harvest is close to being done and scanning achenes for counting is the next step. Karen Taira and I were given the task to try out a new scanning surface and provide feedback about how it could be improved. I have attached the report that Karen, Stuart and I completed.

Report:
Revised Scanning Glass experiment.pdf

Appendix
Control Image:
rkExpTrCont001.jpg
3mm Glass to glass distance:
rkExpTr5001.jpg
5mm Glass to glass distance:
rkExpTr1001.jpg
7mm Glass to glass distance:
rkExpTr2001.jpg
9mm Glass to glass distance:
rkExpTr6001.jpg
13mm Glass to glass distance:
rkExpTr3001.jpg

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We made an Echinacea Project float and participated in the annual Harvest Festival Parade in Hoffman, MN. It was great fun!

parade2011_1249.JPG

This is how our float was announced... "Native prairies are very rare in Minnesota, but there are several prairie remnants in the Hoffman area. Every summer a team of scientists from around the country comes to study the biology, conservation, and restoration of prairie plants and insects. They are based in the Hoffman - Kensington area. If you see members of The Echinacea Project working on a hillside or in a ditch, ask them what they are doing!"

parade2011_1251.JPG

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Team Echinacea is busy in two states! The Minnesota crew is working in the field and the dedicated crew of volunteers at Chicago Botanic Garden in Illinois is working in the lab. This panoramic image of the lab, taken by Bob Mueller, shows volunteers counting Echinacea seeds and taking random samples for weighing. Click & drag the image to see all 360 degrees!

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This week was much less strenuous than the last, thanks to a bout of rainy weather. Monday we took advantage of a dry day to conduct seedling searches and re-flag the common garden. Tuesday and Wednesday were too soggy for field work, so we stayed inside to work on independent projects and the new media initiative. Things finally dried up by Thursday afternoon, much to the relief of the antsier among us. That afternoon we learned how to conduct seedling recruitment surveys. These surveys are part of a long-term study to assess how Echinacea populations establish and persist in restorations (see Wagenius et al. 2011). Friday we conducted seedling searches at several sites (Landfill, NW of Townhall, and Staffanson Prairie Reserve) and planted seedlings at Staffanson.

That about brings us up to date, workwise. On Saturday we took a trip to Alexandria and enjoyed the wonders of the Runestone Museum. Callin took some delightful photos that he will share here shortly.

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Echinacea2010_sm.pdf

Voila the Echinacea 2010 Cookbook!
-Kate

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After the fourth

The 55th Annual Waterama is July 19th-25th, 2010 in Glenwood .

Grant County Fair: July 22, 2010 - July 25, 2010 in Herman.

Hoffman's Harvest Festival will be held August 13,14th, and 15th.

Douglas County Fair: Thursday, August 19 - Sunday, August 22, 2010.

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Fourth of July fireworks on Lake Darling, just NW of Alexandria.



View Larger Map.

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Here's the schedule of events for Barrett's Old Settlers' Reunion.

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Well, I was the last to arrive this summer, same as last summer. With the help of my lovely parents I was able to pack all of my plug trays (18) into my 2007 New Beetle. I have attached pictures of this amazing feet.

After a 9hr drive, I arrived in Kensington and finally met the rest of the group. We have a great team this summer, so that makes everything better.

Unlike last summer, I got to enjoy Runestone days in Kensington this year, which was very fun. We watched the parade, and I think it was the longest parade I've ever witnessed, which is ironic because Kensington is the smallest town I've ever lived in for any period of time. I think other floggers will be posting parade pictures, but I would just like to note that the giant Norse ship with the mini-vikings inside (i.e. kids dressed as vikings, shiny swords and all) was my favorite part.

Anyway, today is Monday, so back to the grindstone. To do:
1) Seed sorting. (I know the many CBG volunteers are helping to sort seeds for me back in Chicago. I will be doing my share here in the evenings.)
2) Measuring plants. Hopefully I can find a partner or two to work on this with me.
3) Organize my planting locations and get them ready to go.

Other work:
4) FNC ordination (still working on this)
5) Work on style persistence data
6) Call Amanda and chat about the "little aster" issue...

Well that should keep me busy. Attached are some pictures and last years Cookbook.
Ech2009Cookbook.doc
-2.jpg
-1.jpg
-5.jpg
-3.jpg
-6.jpg
-4.jpg
-Kate

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Come to the farm for a picnic celebrating the near end of the Echinacea season. I'll be making pesto and roasted zucchini and yellow squash. Jean is making brownies. We'll provide drinks and s'more necessities-including a monster burn pile. Hope to see you 6:30ish.

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It might be fun to see Prairie Home Companion-- Free!--in Avon Minnesota.

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Can you match up the Team Echinacea member with his or her handle, that is, the alias used over the walkie talkie radios? Answers to be posted later this week ...

The real deal
Amy
Daniel
Kate
Caroline
Mimi
Allegra
Stuart
Greg
Amanda
Gretel

The clever handle
GT
Penguin
Joker
Queen Bee
RoboCop
Yea Mon
Drone
Monster
Legos
Riddler

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Hi all--"Joker" here. I just spent some time reading all the flog entries from this month--I think I am caught up now! I really enjoyed reading your project proposals, and hearing about them on Friday. I'm excited about what we are going to learn this summer about aphids, ants and spittlebugs, and about floral neighborhoods, pollinators, pollen competition, etc. Good stuff! I'm also looking forward to sharing my experimental plans with the team.

Since I'm not in K-town for the weekend, I thought you might need a joke to tide you over. Here's the latest from our daily redneck calendar: You might be a redneck if you think re-booting your computer means kicking it twice. :)

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There was a nice steady rain this afternoon at the farm. Although the National Weather Service says we accumulated less than 0.1 in, I think the plants will take full advantage of precipitation in this unusually dry season.

Point precipitation map for Minnesota June 24, 2009

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Calling all Veggie Lovers! Anyone interested in a CSA basket? I'll call this farm tomorrow to see if they will give us a partial summer share for the weeks we are here. They deliver to Alexandria on Thursdays.
Ploughshare Farm
(218) 267-5117
http://www.ploughsharefarm.com

Also, Alexandria Farmers' Market
Tues & Sat 9 - noon & Thursday 3 - 6 pm.
(320) 763-6893
http://www.mfma.org

Located in Big Ole Central Park at Broadway and 2nd Ave., in Alexandria. Offering a full line of locally raised fruits and vegetables including: apples, beans, beets, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, herbs, lettuce, onions, peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, bedding plants, flowers, elk, lamb, beef and chickens. New location, South of Agnes Lake on the Central Lakes Trail, 1/2 block north of the Chamber Office/Runestone Museum

And, Berry Ridge Farm
Call for hours, May-Nov. (320) 763-6893
1301 Firemans Lodge Road SW. Located 2 miles west of Alexandria on the east side of Lake Latoka. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, beans, peas, cucumbers, pumpkins, squash and more.

Let the jam making begin!

I found these farms and more at http://www3.mda.state.mn.us/mngrown

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Something to look forward to! I heard that Team Echinacea's front steps are the best seats in town for the Kensington Runestone Days Parade.

Here's the schedule of events for this weekend.

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This summer, a very large portion of our lives has been devoted to that Purple Coneflower, Echinacea. This plant has infused itself into our conversations, dreams, birthday cards (my little sister has one coming with a bee and a purple flower,) and yes, baking.

Can you guess what these are?

echinacea cookin 019.jpg

Seedling cupcakes with vegan chocolate earth, marzipan greens, and sprinkles for the pubescence. Megan's idea.

What about this?

echinacea cookin 009.jpg

Why, that is an Echinacea leaf chocolate chip cookie, of course.

Even if we cannot eat the Echinacea, at least it inspires us to bake delicious desserts :).

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vmc.png

Here is a picture of the "inside-out cucumber" that Per brought into the Hjelm house today. But is it merely a strange vegetable or an apparition of the Virgin Mary? The vegetable says you must make a pilgrimage so that it can give you blessings.

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