Recently in Miscellaneous Musings Category

We started out the day doing what we do best: searching for seedlings in Experimental Plot 8 (a.k.a. Q2). Having braved formidable winds to plant them late last October, Stuart, Gretel, and Ruth were visibly relieved to see them pop up this spring. Since last week Team Echinacea has been diligently tracking down each seedling and "naming" them with colored toothpicks and row location coordinates, accurate to one centimeter.

In the afternoon we located and counted Echinacea in the recruitment experiment, a continuation of the project described in this paper. The procedure is really fun: we find the boundaries of the plots with metal detectors, triangulate points, then search within an area exactly the size of a regulation 175-gram Disc-craft Ultra Star disc (a.k.a. frisbee). Go CUT!

The best part of the day was tagging my first Echinacea. Maybe it just lost its old tag, but I like to think this is the first time this plant has ever born the silver badge. Sometime 10-12 years ago, this seed was planted. Now that it is finally about to flower, it has the honor of going down in history in the databases of the Echinacea Project, living out the rest of its life in the service of science. This 23rd of June, 3.65 m from the southwest corner and 0.79 m from the southeast corner of the northeast plot in Recruit 9, I named a flowerstalk "19061." Isn't it beautiful?


Doesn't the flower head look ripe? Stuart says we may start to see flowering as early as the end of this week!


Eventually the time came to leave my new friend and join the rest of the team. This is where they were:


(Can you spot the team?)

A nice day is Douglas County is a very nice day.

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Today was a day for independent projects. I'm not really sure what everyone did and Marie is currently trying to hit me with a mini beach ball.
Ok. I'm back now. This morning, I woke up at the usual time to meet with my parents and go to Staffanson to collect data for my flowering phenology project. Today, we found about 5 or 6 heads that look like they could flower within the next few days!
Ilse and Reina spent the morning sewing more pollinator exclusion bags for Kory's project and Lydia spent some more time with her aphids (this seems to be her new favorite activity) while Kory and Sara Z practiced capturing and identifying pollinators.
Marie and Dayvis went to Hegg Lake where they measured plants and practiced videotaping flowering.
Back at the Hjelm house, Stuart, Pete, and Dwight worked hard installing gutters to keep the basement from flooding when it rains.
Marie made us all some delicious pizza for dinner! I highly recommend the one with tofu and buffalo chicken wing sauce.
A good Friday for all, I think. :)
Enjoy the weekend!

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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.

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 past weekend a group of us went over to Glacial Lakes State Park for some hiking and a change of scenery (i.e. trees). During our hike we passed a few sections of remnant prairie, evident by the presence of lead plant (Amorpha canescens). One of these had what appeared to be a flowering Echinacea angustifolia. Due to a combination of curiosity and habit, I walked over to check the plant for aphids. Sure enough, there they were:


They looked like Aphis echinaceae, though they were slightly bigger than the aphids I've seen around here. The reason I mention this is that the specimens for Aphis echinaceae were collected in our field sites throughout Douglas County. Glacial Lakes State Park is a little under 30 miles away. I didn't collect any aphids, but I thought it was an observation worth sharing.

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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:


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


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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Last week was a busy and fun one for Team Echinacea 2012; no two days were the same. We wrapped up some of the first summer projects and started to transition into the second phase of the summer. We completed evaluating the recruitment plots, began to record their GPS locations, conducted demography and phenology observations in the common garden, and perhaps most notably, completed round one of seeding searches with the west (and recently burned) section of Staffanson prairie with help from Amy Dykstra, who came to visit on Friday. In addition to all the progress made on the long-term projects, we also spent multiple rainy mornings working on our individual research projects, the proposals for which have been recently, or will soon be posted here on the flog. IMG_1746.jpg Stuart Instructs us on the proper field techniques for cross-pollination, pollinator exclusion, and painting flowers so we can keep track of what we've just done.

After a short weekend, we started up working again this Monday with a morning dedicated to our independent projects, time which we all used to get out in the field and get our hands dirty. Ruth stopped by today and lent a hand and some very welcome advise, and joined the crew in the afternoon to do some weeding in the common garden. We clipped, pulled, and trimmed Buckthorn, Ash saplings, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Sweet Clover, and Sumac.

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We just reorganized the bee collection into a cornell drawer, and need a cabinet to start storing drawers. Once we have better humidity control in the Hjelm house this is the cabinet we are considering.

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Happily I am back in the Kensington Town Hall- all is well.
For the new in the crew - I teach 9-12 science at Great Plains Lutheran High in Watertown, SD. It is just over a 130 miles away. I am on my 2nd summer at Team Echinacea and will be here Mondays and Tuesdays (typically) to help the project and work on my own investigations.

I am amazed at the difference between the stages of growth throughout the several remnants and the SPP (Staffanson Prairie Preserve) this year compared to last. I would venture it is about 2-3 weeks farther along than it was last year at this time. It is different to see SPP without being burned this spring. The Hjelm house is seeing improvements as well.

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I received the camera today so I had to test it out since the opportunity presented itself. The picture is taken through a stereomicroscope at 45x magnification of a live amphipod from the Big Sioux River. On a qualitative stream survey, we found our water to be very clean. So the camera isn't just for live pollen anymore. School is going well. I find myself saying "protocol" instead of lab instructions sometimes. Must be a remnant from the prairie.Live amphipod (scud).jpg

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Perplexed by Stuart's question - a trip to the hilltop here in Watertown, and Mimi's poster, I checked again on the amorpha pollen - it is NOT bean shaped. But I do have reliable pictures - (Amanda don't bother getting its pollen tomorrow)

What keeps amorpha and medicago sativa from occupying the same locations? Legume wars underground? Does Andrea have insight?
Amorpha canescens g.jpg

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I was glad to participate in assessing floral phenology Wed morning and, with Amy, checking to resolve uncertainties remaining from this year's monitoring of the first recruitment experiment (not to mention a very fun lunch with the team!). We sampled tissue from closely neighboring rosettes, where it isn't clear whether they are the same or different plants, for eventual molecular analysis in Chicago by Jennifer and her team. Resolution of those plant identities should certainly help reduce the problem of counts of survivors *increasing* between censuses. But, in retrospect, I wondered whether the info we recorded was crystal-clear in terms of how this year's counts should be adjusted, depending on the outcome of the IDing, particularly for the zones where many seedlings were recorded. When the remaining double-checking is done, it would be good to keep this in mind...

Of the many, many other terrific things that I'm excited are being accomplished, I'll just comment that I'm happy to see Megan's post that she has sampled pollen and stored it in different conditions to check its long-term viability. Finding a way to keep pollen viable for a month to a year would pave the way for experiments I thought up while observing pollinators out at LF on July 7. I see that Megan noted the amount of pollen available for that sample wasn't large, so it would be great if another set of samples could be taken, also so other plants are represented.

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This two-part entry includes one observation about pollination that struck me odd. I had a floral head (A) at Loeffler's corner and as Agopostamas texanus approached - it stopped - flew backwards and away - and visited others nearby (all Echinacea). Did the presence of ants on the head - around the anthers have anything to do with the "I'll just come back later" actions of the bee? Has anyone else observed a head NOT get visited even though it was ripe with pollen because of the presence of ants?
My second half is simply noting that a calico cat and two large kittens were at the end of the common garden yesterday as I left about 4PM. The mother slunk away and the gold/white kitten watched me while the other kitten mostly white/ some black was trying to consume a chipmunk! Are these cats known to inhabit the area?


The little map on the right shows the locations of recent visitors to the Echinacea flog (since 29 June 2009). I just noticed that Hong Kong caught up to Belize (2 visitors each). These countries are tied for third (behind USA and Australia). Which country is going to have the most visitors by the end of the summer?

Here are the standings today (12 July)...

United States	182
Australia (AU)	3
China (CN)	2
France (FR)	2
Hong Kong (HK)	2
Belize (BZ)	2
Canada (CA)	1
Romania (RO)	1
Norway (NO)	1
Austria (AT)	1
Israel (IL)	1
Ecuador (EC)	1
India (IN)	1
Afghanistan	1
Japan (JP)	1

You can view current tallies to see where you favorite country ranks. Note that Ecuador is in 4th place and Hungary isn't yet on the list.

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I did some calculations of compatibility rates between pairs of half- and full-sibs while working on a revision of a paper about inbreeding depression in Echinacea. I started on the back on an envelope, but quickly moved to the flog because I did the calculations before, but lost the envelope. Here are the basic questions:

What proportion of matings between full-sib and half-sib Echinacea plants is compatible? Calculating a simple answer assuming no dominance in S-alleles is straightforward, but unrealistic. I think I started in the right direction toward a better answer. Comments appreciated.


Today I learned how to properly use a ratchet strap.

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I was talking to my mom on the phone last night and mentioned how we squatted all day, but it was hard to do so comfortably without squashing the vegetation. My opinion is that the buckets don't help much with this, especially on slopes. I thought my mom had a great suggestion: use milking stools. It would pack down less vegetation than the buckets and might be more comfortable (I say might because I've never actually used a milking stool). Just a thought.

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Per requests, here's the recipe:

1/2 c butter
1 c sugar
1 egg
1/3 c molasses
2.25 c flour
2 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t cloves
3/4 t ginger
1/4 t salt

That's it. Usual method - cream butter with sugar, add egg and molasses, then dry stuff. Recipe says bake at 375 for 10 min, but Thomas advises 350 for a little less time to keep them softer.

It was fun feasting on cookies - these, Julie's and Jean's - with you all on Thurs after our soaking morning!

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My mom, who is quite the gardener, sent me some pictures of Echinacea she's had growing in our garden for the past couple of years (I haven't been home during the summer since I graduated high school, so I've never actually seen it). She has a purple variety of ambiguous species identity as well as a yellow and an orange variety developed in the local nursery.

Echinacea garden 002.jpg

Purple variety, head status: indented

View image

Yellow variety

View image

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In general, the two main differences between '99 South and the main common garden (for damage assessment and herbivory) appears to be less damage in '99 South and more ants (and less ant diversity).

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Dearest floggers:

Well, it is 7am on my day off, but I can't stop thinking about science and the possibilities to learn more about how Echinacea fares in the rich community we have in the common garden. Florid, yes, but I am pretty excited about possible data. It is like gold.

Truly, there are tons of projects to do, but the trick is to find the ones that:

1) Can be done in a timely manner,
2) Are interesting and important in advancing our knowledge about Echinacea and prairie plants in general,
3) Are educational for the students (and researchers!),
4) Can be repeated well into the future of the CG or remnants, and
5), Have a good chance of filling a gap in the literature so they can be published in good journals (this, of course, is related to #2).

This last point is not crucial in the moral sense, but crucial in the practical sense, as papers are the currency of our profession, as my advisor, Rick Karban, once told me.

Anywho, as we do phenology every other day it occurred to me that we could also quantify the percentage of ray florets with herbivore damage at the same time. Perhaps some genotypes accrue damage faster than others...I'm not sure if many researchers have looked at florivory over time in such detail. There seems to be quite a bit of damage this year. I did some 'quick and dirty' sampling last year, but did not have the plant IDs recorded, DOH , oh well, live and learn.

We also have to figure out how to measure fluctuating asymmetry (FA) so that we have multiple measurements to account for measurement error. Measurement error is important to quantify because the small deviations from symmetry that we may observe may smaller in magnitude than our error, but we can't know unless we have replicate measurments! One way to do it is to take several pictures of the same plant, perhaps by different people. Or, you could have several people measure the same plant. Also, I wonder if FA changes with phenology or with organ under consideration...

Stuart and I are going to try and run electrical cord from the granary to the CG so that we can run the videocameras for a good long time each day. It is 120m from the granary to the SE corner of the garden, so this will take lots of cord to complete. Since I know very little about electrical wiring, save that you shouldn't stick live wires into tubs of water, I will wait until Stuart gets some advice in Chicago before diving in.

BTW, I took video of the biggest plant in the CG yesterday and didn't see any pollinators in 90 minutes of filming, so perhaps an even longer interval would be better to get good, non-zero data.

Signing off until this afternoon. I never knew I would like blogs, but they are useful, especially if people read them (hem hem)


We should measure style persistence as a measure of pollen limitation when we can (perhaps on Tuesday). Also, damage to ray florets would be excellent to measure. I wonder if damage to ray florets has greater indirect effects through reduced pollination than the direct damage to styles that we have seen?!

;) Andy

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Hey, it's 7:47 in the morning in Minnesota. Notice the timestamp on the blog entry. How do we make the timestamp correct?


If y'all like nerdy blogs, check out this one, made by a guy named Johann in Sweden:

Well, we are off to bed in the men's condo, or the 'mando'. I am excited to use the new shower caddy that Colin assembled earlier in the day.

I think Stuart's idea about measuring anther asymmetry is definitely do-able, especially if we can do some neat batch files to process the pictures automatically. I think this technology exists, as one of Stuart's volunteers did something similar at the CBG.

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