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Nancy Braker and Marie Schaedel came to visit today! Nancy is the director of the Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College and Mary was a member of Team Echinacea 2013. They are also good friends of Jared's and mine and prairie enthusiasts--so there was no disagreement about how we should spend our time.

We spent the day on a grand tour of three of the area's largest and most diverse prairie remnants: Staffanson Prairie (right here in southwest Douglas County), Seven Sisters Prairie (near Ashby in Otter Tail County), and Strandness Prairie (Pope County). All are owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. Every few steps we would find a new wildflower, grass, or insect to inspect, identify, and appreciate. It was a nice reminder of why we spend our days toiling in experimental plots and roadside ditches: to preserve the vibrant beauty of the healthy prairie.

Here are a few photos from our journey:

The sumac forest at Seven Sisters swallowed all but Jared's binoculars.

In western Minnesota, a little elevation goes a long way (on top of Seven Sisters, 190 feet above Lake Christina).

Echinacea at Strandness Prairie. They look a little weird without flags and tags.

Prairie peeping makes for happy campers. (Strandness Prairie.)

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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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Something about springtime makes you more aware of the layers of grime covering every surface of your life. Thankfully, volunteers Leslie and Anne agreed to help us battle the accumulated dust throughout lab. Believe it or not, this is a vacuum cleaner, not a ghost-busting device.


Now that the lab is sparkling, clean, and free of ghosts, we can continue our scientific endeavors in a grime-free environment.

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


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


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This week we said goodbye to many of the students and volunteers who are traveling for the holiday season. Maria Wang left behind her dicanthelium to travel to visit with family in the UK. One of our volunteers, Bill W., is preparing for a trip to Panama. While a few people will be coming in next week, we won't see most of our volunteers until next year. We've made a lot of progress in the past few months. Here is a brief summary of what we've accomplished since September:

1. New faces
We hosted several new interns this fall. Five students from Lakeforest College completed a four week internship on various projects (you can read about some of their work on the flog) . Marie (Carleton College) has been doing great work for an ongoing study on flowering phenology in prairie remnants. We will miss her when she goes back to school.

2. Lots and lots of counting
We have made a big dent in counting the achenes harvested in 2011 from the main experimental plot. We finished all counting for the 1999 experiment (4000s batch) and have begun counting for the rest of the 2011 harvest. And of course, no counting endeavor would be complete without a motivational whiteboard graphic.


3. New protocols

Because there are relatively few Echinacea heads to process from this year, we have an opportunity to try out different protocols and improve our methods. Our new protocol for selecting a random sample of seeds will improve our ability to assess pollination based on seed weight. We are also trying out new techniques for extracting seed heads and separating the dust.


That about sums it up. These details (protocols, cleaning, etc.) may seem minor, but they are important for creating reliable data.

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We had a lot of people in the lab last week. On Wednesday, we had volunteers Kathryn Eber and Sam Goldman along with a group of interns from Lakeforest College:




The Lakeforest students will return for two more afternoons--or longer if they so choose.

In other news, we are nearly finished counting the seeds from the 4000s batch in the 2011 harvest. For this batch, we are trying out a new protocol for selecting a random sample of seeds to weigh. Volunteers Suzie and Susanne were the first to implement the protocol and have given us some good feedback.

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Every year the Echinacea Project collects all of the flowering heads from the experimental plots and processes them in the lab. Considering this process managed and completed by different people every year, it is challenging to keep everything organized from year to year.

One of our goals this year is to wrap up data collection on Echinacea seed heads from 2009 to 2011. Last year, Northwestern students Karen Taira and Ricky Rivera spent many hours organizing data from 2009 and 2010. They solved a lot of mysteries, including mislabeled heads, mislabeled files, and files saved in weird places. Last week I picked up where they left off. We are down to one box of mysteries--seeds that still need to be scanned, counted, and weighed. Once we finish with this box, we will have all our data from 2009.

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In other news, a class from Lakeforest College is coming to the Chicago Botanic Garden for a mini-internship program. Karen, Stuart, and I will all be mentoring students for the next few weeks in projects related to our research. We will introduce the students and update their progress on the flog.

Lastly, this week we said goodbye to volunteer Art Abt as he prepared for his winter migration to warmer climes. We will miss him and his expertise in seed weighing.

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Suzanne Turner foing inventory on 2012 Echinacea harvest.


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Bill Wallin Counting


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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.


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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We made a lot of progress this week. First, the volunteers finished the first round of counting for one of the larger experimental plots. There are still two more rounds of counting to finish, but we're mostly there.

Suzanne started taking inventory of the heads we harvested this year. It didn't take her long to get through everything, considering flowering was so low this year. Out of about 500 heads, there was only one that was mislabeled. There were a few missing, but they are on their way back from Minnesota.


I've been busy trying to identify all the ant specimens we have pinned. Right now it looks like we have two species of Lasius, five species of Formica, and one species each in several other genera. There are also multiple species within the genus Myrmica, but I haven't identified them yet. Apparently that genus is particularly difficult to identify.

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This summer, REU student Jill Gall put together a large collection of ants from prairie remnants in Minnesota. Yesterday, Stuart and I headed over to Lakeforest College to seek the advice of resident ant ecologist Sean Menke. Jill left us with two boxes of ants, which she pinned and identified to genus and separated into morphotypes:


Sean was impressed with her identification skills: she was correct in nearly every identification to genus and many of her morphotypes were consistent. He gave us some tips on what traits to look for when identifying ants. Now we have a plan for going through the rest of the collection. This will allow us to compare the species diversity of ants among prairie remnants, and hopefully pave the way for future ant research in the lab.


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Now that the summer field season has come to an end, it is time to focus on what's going on in the lab at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I am taking over for Josh as lab manager and have spent most of the week learning my way around the lab.

Since I arrived, the two major tasks for the volunteers have been counting, randomizing, and weighing achenes from heads collected in 2011.

Here is Aldo, using the computer to count achenes from a scanned image:


Once we have a count of achenes for each head, we select a random sample for weighing. Here is Char, randomizing achenes based on a numbered grid:


As for the 2012 harvest, we brought a little over 500 heads from the main experimental plot. This is much less than the 2890 heads collected last year. Our haul from this year also includes heads from Kelly's phenology study, heads from Shona's hybridization experiment, and a sizable collection of ants from prairie remnants. We have plenty of work in store for the coming months.

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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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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.

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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Like their hosts, Echinacea aphids exhibit a strong seasonality. There's a sharp rise in the frequency and abundance of aphid infestation followed by a rapid decline in early fall. That decline has occurred much earlier this year than last year. Fortunately, that has given me a chance to make some observations about what happens to aphids at the end of the summer. Here are a few things I've noticed:

1. Throughout my surveys in CG1 and several prairie remnants, I've noticed that the frequency of winged morphs has declined since July. Last week, I did not see any winged aphids, with the exception of a couple at East Elk Lake Road. This implies that dispersal declines as aphid numbers drop.

2. I and several others have noticed that aphids are starting to congregate at the base of the plant both at the petioles and at the base of the stem. I've also seen aphids crawling down beneath the soil surface and a few latched onto the tops of roots. One possibility is that as plants withdraw resources from their leaves, aphids move down the plant to follow their food source. I've also seen ants moving aphids at the base of the plant and placing them in dirt structures. These observations support the notion that aphids overwinter on Echinacea roots.

Many aphid species in temperate regions spend the winter and summer on different plants. Their winter host is where they lay eggs and their summer host is where they feed and reproduce asexually. My guess is that Aphis echinaceae does not have a separate winter host.

This plant at Nessman's had a bunch of aphids congregated at the base. Notice the little green guys on the stem:

This is one of the plants from my aphid addition/exclusion experiment in CG1. There are still aphids on the leaves, but most of them have moved to the petioles:


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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.


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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Today was a cool day! High temp of mid 70s.

Ruth and Amy came up from the Twin Cities, to give us a jumpstart to Seedling Refinds.

We overcame some technical hurdles with DroppedBoxx on Sulu and Chekov (our two lovely GPS units), and started seedling refinds at Steven's Approach in the morning, worked way past lunch hour before Stuart called timeout.

We had lunch supplemented generously with bounty from the Wagenius family garden - juicy chestnut crabapples, ripe sweet cantaloupe, and cool yellow watermelon!

After lunch we stopped by the road outside CG2/Jennifer's Plot at Hegg Lake, and harvested Bouteloua. We will broadcast the Bouteloua seeds in CG2 after the burn if DNR decides to burn the plot; otherwise we will broadcast half the seeds in the fall and half in spring.

Then we resumed seedling refinds at Steven's Approach. We solved some tricky mysteries with the seedling maps, and completed Steven's Approach! We also found a couple of flowering plants that had been missed during demo.

While we were doing all that, Karen was working hard at her independent project. The searching and keying paid off as she found a third species of Helianthus, H. tuberosus, at Hegg Lake.

Here's an unrelated picture of a pheasant's nest near my Dichanthelium plot. The pheasant mum and I often startled each other during those mornings when I did fieldwork.

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Look, a pheasant egg!
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And I know you'll forgive me for posting yet another picture of Dichanthelium :D
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Hi all, Maria at K-town.

It was raining this morning as we bade goodbye to Lydia. All the best to Lydia as she prepares to go to Ireland for study abroad! Here's a great picture to remember the fun times in the prairie :D

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Karen arrived at the town hall yesterday evening! This morning, she braved the rain and went out to many prairie remnants to look for Helianthus. She reports that Riley, Staffanson and Hegg Lake seem to hold the best promise for her pollen limitation experiments with H. maximiliani and H. pauciflorus, and maybe another H. species, if she can find it.

Andrew arrived back from his weekend trip announcing that he had all the food that's bad for you all in one day. He, Shona, and Jill went to watch Alladin, the play by the Prairie Fire Children's Theatre that Per and Hattie were in. They enjoyed it very much!

The skies gradually cleared up though temps were still in 60s-70s. It was quite chilly in the town hall.

With the squash, zucchini, and cucumber explosion :D :D :D, Shona made zucchini bread. We also welcomed Kelly's return from Northbrook about an hour ago.

Lastly, here's a beautiful photo of Dichanthelium with morning dew:
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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

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.


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:


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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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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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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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:


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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Katherine here.

Most of the Echinacea crew arrived on Sunday. The week has gotten off to a running start. Here are some pictures from our first few days in action:




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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!


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!"


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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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Last week (well, 9 days ago), we headed north to the Crookston area to survey the Western Prairie Fringed Orchid (Platanthera praeclara).
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Gretel is showing everyone what to look for on the plant here.

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Katherine looks over the prairie

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An ant dangles on a thread of spider silk, threatened by the dangerous milkweed

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Here's what we were actually looking for; the WPFO itself. We found over 1000 plants, way more than last year. All in all, a good day.

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After enjoying the pig races out at the Grant County Fair yesterday, it was back to field work for me today. I biked out to the Hegg Lake Restoration area to discover that my Echinacea pallida site had experienced something that is now common for many prairie remnants - mowing.

Echinacea pallida tagged PAL 1014 before mowing:

Echinacea pallida tagged PAL 1013 after mowing:

Luckily I still have a decent number of crosses, and this just cuts the number I was planning on having a bit shorter. Tomorrow I will begin crosses to use up my remaining supply of Echinacea pallida pollen.

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We accomplished a lot, even thought the weather was super hot! We even started at 7 am to try to beat the heat.

Monday, (July 18, 2011) was amazing in two different ways. The temperature was in the nineties, but the heat index was over 100 F. We worked in the morning, but by 10 am it was heating up. Because of the humidity, our clothes were soaked through by the end of the day. We measured plants in the common garden on Monday afternoon, and helped Katherine set up cages for her aphid experiments.

Here's a picture of what we felt like on Monday: (Notice the sweat on Josh's brow as he measures the height, in centimeters, of the Echinacea head.

Tuesday and Wednesday, we decided not to work outside during the afternoon, so we did morning field work, and then spent time updating the website and computer work during the afternoon.

Here are a few photos of our projects.

1. Callin's Compatibility Project:

2. Amber Z's Phenology Project at Staffanson Prairie Preserve

3. Lee's compatibility project with Coreopsis palmata and Heliopsis helianthoides

4. Katherine's Experiment with aphids. She set up lots of cages to keep aphids in the right places. Very cool!

5. Josh is helping other groups and helping with the main projects, because he's waiting for his Big Bluestem and Indian Grass to grow for his experiment (sorry, no photo).

6. Maria has been collecting Dichanthelium seeds for later experiments. Check out the cool purple flower of Dichanthelium in the picture.

7. Amber E. has been collecting pollen from Dalea in lots of different remnants (sorry, no picture). Dalea purpurea is a purple flowering legume.

8. Nicholas is just about to finish all his compatibility experiments between Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea pallida. To do cross pollination experiments, he first paints the bracts that subtend the styles he will pollinate. Aqua is a easy color to recognize on the bracts.

On Thursday and Friday, we were able to do more fieldwork in the common garden, even in the afternoon (common garden measurements and phenology).

We also had time to practice taking some photos for the website. The photo below shows Stuart scouting a good location for a website photo.

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Yesterday we went on a trip to the Crookston area to help Gretel with her White Fringed Orchid search. Here are pictures for your viewing pleasure :)

The day started off hot, but not excessively hot.....

Gretel and Stuart leading the pack.

Trekking into the prairie.

We worked in groups of three, with Gretel, Stuart, and Josh visoring in each group and the rest of us flagging and counting.

After working from 9+am to around 12.30pm, it was lunch time!

We proceeded to have lunch picnic style, but not for long - because a storm was headed our way!


We quickly headed back to the cars for safety, and watched the awesome storm while eating lunch. Fortunately the storm passed over quickly, and soon the skies were clear again.

Stuart contemplating the skies.

We went back to work in another section of the prairie for the rest of the afternoon.

Lee searching for orchids. 'Where forth art thou, white orchid?'

And there you are! (usually right under my nose)

Around 4+, we finally finished searching the plots...we were quite exhausted by then...

but we were done...Victorious Team Echinacea!

The amazing couple who still had the energy to race back to the cars.

After that we drove back to Douglas County. Stopped at Fertile, MN for ice cream but sadly they were closed on Saturdays. Also found out that Cafe 116, the dinner place in Fergus Falls we were going to, closes at 6pm on Saturdays. So we had a pretty sumptuous dinner at Don Pablos, a quirky Mexican restaurant in Fergus Falls :)

Reached Hjelm House around 9 or 10pm. That was a long but fun day! :D

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Team Echinacea got a lot done this past week. On Monday we finished seedling searches, and on Wednesday we finished recruitment surveys. We've also made a lot of progress with the New Media Initiative: We now have a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Then on Thursday, we started stipa searches. We looked in the Common Garden experimental plot for stipa that were planted as seed in the past two years. This means we were looking through bunches of grass to find this one specific kind of grass, which posed quite a challenge. As Stuart put it, it's like looking for a needle in a needlestack. But we persevered! We found quite a few stipa plants, and will continue searching this week.
We also began aphid searching, as Katherine mentioned. I was glad that I didn't find too many aphid infestations on our lovely Echinacea plants. It was a very satisfying way to end the work week.
Over the weekend, we had a 4th of July potluck-picnic celebration at Elk Lake. The food was all so delicious! And a construction team directed by Per made a formidable sandcastle fortress. Below are some pictures that Maria took. Happy (belated) 4th everyone!


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We went out to Hegg Lake for a plant-seeing adventure on Wednesday. Click the pictures to embiggen.

First of is some Onosmodium, a marbleseed.

A garter snake. Stuart knew the latin name but my memory isn't that good.

Thistles can be pretty!

Penstemon grandiflorus, what are you doing here? You're not native to this area!

Spiderwort, a Tradescantia. A nice find.

Dichanthelium is in flower! There's quite a bit of it this year.

Polygala senega was on top of a hill.

Death camas (Zigadenus). Watch out.

Sisyrinchium. These are blue, unlike the white ones I've seen at Staffanson

Deer flies. These suckers hurt when they bite.

Stipa is in flower! You can see the parts pretty clearly here.

Interestingly, the diaspore is pretty much fully formed by the time pollination is happening. This makes sense, as it's all maternal tissues apart from the seed itself. You can see it on Greg's hand.

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Yesterday we burned the common garden. There was a lot of fuel, since the common garden was last burned in May 2008. It was a slow, even burn.
Stuart lighting the fire, at the northeast corner of the common garden.
Click on the thumbnail image to see a larger picture.


Second photo: We doused the back fire with water, allowing the head fire to proceed west-ward across the common garden.


Third photo: View from the northeast, looking southwest. The dark green in the foreground has already burned.


Fourth photo: View from the northwest. It was a good burn!

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Wow! This month has just flown by! It's hard to believe that September is almost over, and so many things have happened.

Let me explain. No. It's too much. Let me sum up:

Josh and Hillary had their last day on the 3rd. But before they left we: visited the county fair and saw lot's of farm animals, visited Morris, and went out to a restaurant for dinner where Hillary created some beautiful art (see picture below). I think she has a great future in the creative arts.
Hillary's Art.jpg

After they left, Amy and I worked very hard on seedling rechecks. Unfortunately, the weather was not always in our favor, but we persevered:

I also spent a significant amount of time gathering my final data for both my seedlings and plugs:

I finished my last bit of measuring on the 14th.
Hegg Lake:
Bob Mahoney's:

Bob Mahoney's site has a ton of spiders. I'm not usually very squeamish, but these guys are huge!

So as you all know (I hope), I planted both plugs and seeds at three locations in Kensington: Hegg Lake, Runestone, and Bob Mahoney's. One of the goals that I had for the summer was to find out what I could about these three locations. The site history; what they were planted with and how they were managed. After I finished my final data collection, I was finally able to take some time away to focus on these questions. I visited the Wildlife Management Office (Runestone) in Fergus Falls and the Department of Natural Resources (Hegg Lake) office in Glenwood.

In Fergus, I met with Kevin Brennan and Chad Raitz, who were both very knowledgeable and helpful. I learned that the Runestone site is old farmland that was purchased in 1988. It was planted with corn in 1989, and with soy in 1990 and 1991, before being seeded with natives. The warm season grass seeds were harvested from a number of sites within a 50mi radius of Runestone, but the cool season grasses were purchased.

Apparently, the gov't offices can usually harvest their own warm season grasses, but have a harder time with cool season grasses because 1) their harder to find and 2) they don't have the manpower off-season to go collect the seed. I also learned that in general, they don't usually plant forbs, or rather they don't go out and harvest forbs specifically. They do bulk harvests at prairie remnants and previous restorations and if they get forb seed that's great, but they don't go out specifically to gather forb seed. This makes me wonder about how successful a prairie restoration can be if the entire community assemblage isn't present. How often do they go to harvest, what species are they missing? etc. Chad also told me that some of their harvesting sites are now being invaded with Tansy and parsnip, and so they can't use those sites anymore. But he didn't think they were working to fend off the invasion, again he sited lack of manpower.

Kevin Kotts at the DNR was also very helpful. He pulled out all of the files on the Hegg Lake site and let me wade through them. I learned a lot about the DNR, their management practices, and a bit about the politics involved in creating a wildlife refuge like Hegg.

It turns out that the DNR's purchase of the Hegg Lake site was quite controversial. The land was purchased in two parts, but the bulk of it was sold by Mel Hagen for $12,500 back in 1961. Another smaller section was purchased in 1962 from a Mrs. Viola Brown. However, before the land could be purchased, the sale had to be approved by the Douglas County Commissioners, and it wasn't. Much of the land at Hegg was in crop production, and thus was on the tax lists, and the commissioners didn't want to loose productive land to wetland restoration. One commissioner claimed that Douglas County already had "enough ducks"! John Scharf, the Area Game Manager for the DNR, had to work for a solid year to get the purchase approved. He wrote in one of his many letters that, "their narrow-minded approach left [him] in a foul mood." (Pun intended?)

Once they had the land, the DNR focused more on restoring the wetlands than the upland prairie areas at Hegg. Much of the site actually remained cropland for years after the initial purchase. The area where my site was located was finally restored in 1998 and planted with native seed harvested in the Fergus Falls area, at least that's what Kevin thinks. Despite all their files on the subject, there wasn't any firm paperwork on the actual restoration of that portion of Hegg.

Nevertheless, I got took some interesting pictures and found out some interesting information about the site.
Hegg in 1970's
Hegg Today:

Hegg Map:

On September 17th, I was able to drive into Minneapolis-St.Paul to visit the University of Minnesota one last time. I met with a number of really interesting professors there. University of MN definitely has a great faculty and some very interesting programs! After my meetings, I met Amanda (from 2009 crew) for dinner. It was great to catch up with her and also to discuss the pollinator study we've both been working on for over a year now. We will get this project published by hook or by crook! That night Amy let me crash at her place before driving back to Kensington. I finally met Brad! I felt like I knew the man, but I'd never actually met him. I also met Mr. Bird, and let me tell you, that was an honor! Mr. Bird is quite the personality. So, THANK YOU AMY AND BRAD for letting me spend the night!

On September 20th I drove back to Chicago! I was surprised to find temperatures in the 80s here in Chicago, when I had been, slowly, getting used to temperatures in the 50's and 60's up in MN. Here's my car all packed for the way home:

Two last pictures of a beautiful MN sunset:

Thus ends a very successful field season!

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Let's take a closer look at our small, squishable friend Aphis echinaceae:


aren't they precious little instars?!




Feel free to admire this beauteous winged alate


This madam is so mature that she looks like Jabba the Hutt. Note the honeydew she is secreting. That bubble of delicious sugary goodness is why ants farm aphids.

There is a cool ventral shot of Jabba that the flog won't let me load up for some reason or another. Perhaps I shall try again at a later date. Until then, enjoy (it's only taken me a month to get them up)!!!


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I was curious what the stigma/style looked like on psoralea and if I was actually pollinating or not. The picture displays it with pollen.Psoralea argophylla Repro400x.jpg

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Having stickered and scanned all of the collected Stipa seed (great job Ian, Hillary, and Lauren!) we've gone through and stuck them all into their foamy rows. 1700ish seeds later, we're ready to plant out in the common garden! Here's a few pictures:



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helandechfinaldataset3.csvAs all of you know katie and I are leaving this weekend to go back up to CBG, and I am hoping that Echinacea will be just about done flowering at all of my sites by then. It is looking hopeful and today I had my first site that was done flowering! I still need to tag the Echinacea at some of my sites though. I finished entering most of my data this weekend, and am very excited to see what the graphs and analysis will reveal. I am posting the cvs files for Stuart below, and some pics of a very interesting bug katie found today
P1010558.JPGThumbnail image for P1010560.JPG

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IMG_1162.JPGBeetles getting busy. The male was mounted on the other female shortly before this photo.

IMG_1940.JPGLooking for orchids, this is in some pretty swampy area. Someone Mentha.

IMG_1954.JPGSwamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata. Also while out looking at orchids.

IMG_1972.JPGShowy milkweed, Asclepias speciosa.

IMG_1981.JPGLepidopteran love.

IMG_1985.JPGThis plant appears to not be photosynthetic

IMG_1191.JPGClick to embiggen. This white fuzzy (yes, an insect!) is hanging out on an echinacea, doing whatever it is they do.


Parent's Visit and the 4th:
On July 1st, my parents came to visit us up in MN. They joined the group for burgers at the K-town bar on Thursday night. On Friday, we explored (Mom, Dad and I) Fergus Falls, which has a surprising amount going on for such a small town. We found a great Art gallery, with some really cool pictures of MN from the air, and visited Phelps Mill, an historic site. We ate dinner a yummy Italian restaurant, recommended by Ian (thanks Ian!) and found a wonderful little cafe for dessert, Cafe 116. Sunday, the 4th was spend with the Wagenius' at Elk Lake, which was a delight. All in all, the parents had a great visit. Below are some of the pictures Mom took:

Orchid Trip:
On Monday, July 5th Team Echinacea (or some of us at least), helped Gretel find and count the endangered Great Plains White Fringed Orchid. I did a mini-report on this plant for my Plant Evolution and Diversity class, so to find out more about the plant see Gallagher_PoW_16April2010.pdf .

It was really fun to visit to a very different type of prairie (wet vs. mesic), and spend a day doing something totally different. Unfortunately, this year the mosquitoes were especially bad, which kind of put a damper on the day. Fortunately, the team ended up have a lovely dinner at Cafe 116, and I think I can safely say that I had some of the best pulled pork in MN.

Some pictures of the orchid trip:

Planting My MS Project Sites:
On Wednesday, we finally began planting the three sites for my Masters Project. It was a huge group effort, and I can't thank everyone enough for helping out. Here are some pictures of the effort:
All Finished! WOOT!

Friday night Team Echinacea went bowling. While I wouldn't say we were horrible, I also wouldn't recommend that any of us, except maybe Laura, join a bowling league. The rest of us were inconsistent to say the least, although I think everyone got a least one strike, so there is hope. That said, I think any bowling league would be a bit... surprised by some of the techniques Lauren employed. Bowling left handed, and pushing the ball under Hillary's legs both seemed particularly successful strategies for her. Personally, I found left-handed bowling to be a complete disaster. Pictures of the fun:
Teamwork gets the job done:
The Under-the-Leg Technique... not so successful, but kinda fun to watch:
Sometimes the fates were against us... for looong stretches of time:
But we had fun anyway:
Ian's Assault.JPG

Et Voila! We're back up to date. 'Till next time!

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yesterday a group of us had fun searching for orchids in the wet land prairie, that is until the mosquitoes found us. However we quickly recovered from the attack with an excellent meal and delicious chocolate bread pudding for desert. Here are a few pics from the day.


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Well, it's been almost 2 weeks since my last post. How time flies.


  • Friday the 25th my seed envelopes (of remnant and restoration plants) arrived all sorted from IL. Thanks to my father and all the volunteers for working so hard to get that all done! Great job!

  • We finished measuring the first 9 trays of my seed plugs. I think almost eveyone in the team has been helping with this, so my thanks are profuse to you all.

  • Laura and I have been working hard to sort all of the purchased seeds into coin envelopes. (30 envelops for each species and source (3 species/3 sources) = 270 envelopes; 20 seeds per envelope = 5,400 seeds).

  • Laura and I have also been working on her project together. It's a lot of fun to visit her remnant sites and see how the floral neighborhoods change over time. Her data's going to be very exciting!

  • Early this week I was given verbal permission to plant my 10x10 meter plots of seeds and plugs at Hegg Lake, Runestone Park, and Bob Mahoney's. I will hopefully have all the paperwork done soon for that!

  • I've spent some time working on FNC and pollinator data, but not nearly enough. Hopefully, I'll be able to devote more time to it soon, especially because I have less than 3 weeks to finish putting together my poster! Eeep!

To Do:
The big goal is to get my plants in the ground ASAP! To that end:

  • Today, Laura and I will be marking out my plots.

  • We need to finish measuring the 2nd group of 9 flats. It's particularly important to get the Alive/Dead status for each plug, so I can plan for next week. I hope I can wrangle up more volunteers here, although I know everyone is working hard on their own projects. (Btw, special shout out to Lauren and Hillery who've been helping a lot with this!)

  • I need to assemble my data to create new envelope labels with the location information for the plots, I'm hoping to get that done and and envelopes labeled by the end of the weekend.

Parents are arriving today for a 4th of July visit! Hopefully they'll get here in time to enjoy burger night at the K-town bar and grill, but if not they can meet everyone Friday morning.

We will be exploring Starbuck Heritage Days on Saturday (people are free to join us). There will be fireworks at 10 pm.

Some pictures from the weeks news:

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Ok, you have to enlarge this photo.

Climaciella brunnea: the Wasp Mantidfly is really neither of those things (well, it's a mantidfly, but you know what I mean). It's not a wasp (order Hymenoptera, includes bees and ants, too) nor is it a mantis (order Mantodea, pretty much just mantids). It's actually more related to lacewings and antlions (order Neuroptera).

Doesn't it just look strange?

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June 21, 2010 marked the start of Echinacea flowering in the common garden this year. As of June 28, 2010 113 plants had started producing pollen. Approximately 775 plants will flower this season with a total of 1062 heads. We will be busy keeping track of the first and last day of pollen production per plant. As you can see from the pictures above, the pollinators are back at work, too!

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My project seems to be going well, I now have all of the sites picked out and data recorded for them. I have now seen all four of my plants in bloom at least at one of the sites. Here are a few pics I was able to capture of some of them.



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Here are the locations of E. strigosus plants in the common garden:
32 953, 33 954, 38 960
Plants have just started to flower!

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Exciting news! Amy and Hillary found some seedlings at a Hegg Lake plot, the one thats on a hill (the hill with all the phlox on the side) near that blind corner. Anyway, there were nearby flowering plants so its great their reproducing! There were also a couple seedlings found outside the frisbee sized circle area.

here are the pics:

staffanson and recruitment (44).JPG

This one is a close up of the shriveled cots (with an achene next to it), can you see it!?!
staffansen and recruitment (45).JPG

The seedling finders, working hard!
staffansen and recruitment (47).JPG

This was in the morning, getting ready for work:
staffansen and recruitment (4).JPG

This is just a prairie lilly (Lilium philadelphicum) that I spotted at Staffenson. First time ever seeing one and I think their beautiful!
staffansen and recruitment (22).JPG

Lastly, this is a reminder for me to show Stuart my preliminary data collection sheet:
data table for project.pdf



Broken up from the previous entry so as to not make things too messy in the Stipa category.

Carduus out at KJ's

Some critter snipped the stalk and laid some eggs, looks like.


This sad-looking Echinacea was out at NW of Landfill, along with other bent over and crummy-looking Carduus and others. The grasses and legumes around it looked pretty OK, so I'm wondering if perhaps these were hit by some herbicide overspray earlier in the season before the grasses grew up around it.

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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.

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We had a pretty eventful weekend with the Runestone festival going on in K-town! We checked it out Friday night and saw fireworks, had a pancake breakfast Sat morning (all except Ian), talked to the locals, and had fun sniffing candles at the crafts fair. Then on Sunday we watched the parade and biked to the lake in Hoffman!

parade and lake (5).JPG

parade and lake (16).JPG


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I'm back! You may have noticed all my photo links are broken... well, that website is dead and I can't edit my old posts. I'll go back through and comment on my posts with pictures with updated links so you can have a clue as to what's going on.

I now keep a (nearly) daily photo blog on Blipfoto and will do weekly posts linking all of the photos from that week, along with other photos and posts as necessary.

As for my project this season, I'm interested in looking at the effects of humidity on the awns of Hesperostipa spartea (aka Stipa spartea. thanks, plant geneticists). The current idea is to construct some sort of variable-humidity chamber with a humidity guage readable by time-lapse photography. I expect this will involve a sealed chamber and a humidifier, dehumidifier, and some way to control them powering on and off. The seeds will be in the chamber, digging through artificial duff or maybe just looking at how the awns curl.

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Yesterday, Janelle G. and Shelby F. helped me do the May census on the Hegg Lake plot of my local adaptation experiment. There were some surprises, including 3 or 4 NEW seedlings!
Another surprise was a visit from this fawn.

Another interesting discovery was a cluster of egg sacs. Anybody know what critter would leave these?
Today and tomorrow we plan to census the two South Dakota plots that are part of this experiment.

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With the early spring we've been having in Minnesota, I was curious about whether the Echinacea plants were sprouting. My husband and I made a day-trip out to Douglas County last Saturday (May 1). I did a quick check of my crossing experiment plot at Hegg Lake. I found some of the toothpicks we used to mark seedlings last summer, along with some of the plants--which are now a year old. I plan to do a complete census in another couple of weeks.

We also stopped by the common garden. Here's one of the plants--already quite a bit of growth on the first of May.

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And while I'm back visiting the field blog, here are a handful of photos from the Stipa planting at the end of the summer.






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Howdy gang!
Here's the list of tag ID's and corresponding letters at the sites used this summer. We flagged different plants on 7/13 and 7/6 and used the same plants for observations on 7/21 and 7/23. For some reason I can't find the list of flagged plants for 7/13, so it would be great if someone could check on the Hjelm house computer for that info. It may or may not be in the folder for this experiment. I'm sure I compiled that info from the visor memos, but I don't have the file on my computer.
ech flagged plants and tags.doc
We recorded the tag ID's during FNC so we could go back and check to make sure we had recorded the right number, but we never made the check.
Here's the file that lists whether the vial had a bee, fly, bfly, or beetle in it:
ECH poll obs ALL.xls
Here's the FNC Data in an excel file:

I hope everything's going well in MN! It sounds like lots of progress has been made since I left. I thought my poster presentation went pretty well back in Chi-town. The final version of it is in a previous flog post. Thanks again to everyone...I certainly could not have done this without all of your help. I hope the field season ends well. Keep in touch. Oh and here's an interesting paper I came across recently: brown bj loosestrife comp.pdf
And I really like this picture Daniel took:
And here's Echinacea taking center stage at CBG:

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You WISH you were eating these cakes!!!!!!

We miss you, Mimi!

You too, Greg!

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Listen up, Echinacea fans!

I've now finished making slides and taking photos of the first 68 insect visitors--only 107 left to go.

Here are some photos of the process:

1) Here is an insect carrying LOADS of pollen (haha! get it?) which I am about to transfer onto a small agar cube on a microscope slide.

2) I heat the slide, complete with pollen-covered agar cube and cover slip, on a hotplate. Next I throw the completed, labeled slide under the microscope camera and take photos like theseYL1304N119-5b.jpg:



3) I've pinned each specimen with a unique ID code that corresponds to its vial ID number.


The most common genera near as I can tell from the reference collection are...

Male Melissodes sp.

And Ceratina sp.

Please leave questions or comments and I'll do my best to respond!



On Medicago sativa in CG--Melissodes?
alfalfa bee.JPG
Beetle on Achillea millefolium
beetle yarrow.JPG
On Heliopsis helianthoides
heliopsis bee.JPG
On Monarda fistulosa
monarda bee3.JPG
Some flowers aren't as easy to land on as Echinacea...
monarda bee2.JPG
On daisy
daisy bee2.JPG
Ant on Symphoriocarpos albus
s albus ant2.JPG
thanks Gretel for letting me use your camera!

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So, there has been a serious lack of pictures lately (aside from those awesome Stipa scans), so I am posting a bunch of pictures taken a while ago, just so you can see what we are up to:
Amanda in her little corner of the farmhouse, doing voodoo with bees.
Greg and Kate locked away in the Basement of Oppression
Berry Picking, starting with Caroline's Gollum face. We have picked at least 20 buckets of berries from these people. - Aphids, the enemy.
Insects in the Common Garden that I found while searching for plants
Mimi broadcasting Stipa grass

We spent most of yesterday collecting pollinators and measuring plants in the Common Garden. (It has never taken me 3 hours to go 30 metres before, but all the plants I measured seemed to be in the middle of a grass clump). I have also figured out a procedure for refinding plants in the transects, and it should not take very long to refind all of them. This is good, as I might be working by myself to do that.

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Here's some of the work I've done with organizing my data. I still need to figure out how to organize it to be able to analyze it, so this is mostly just preliminary work. I have about 2 weeks to put this all together....any help/advice is appreciated because right now, the data I have is a little overwhelming. There are 3 sheets in this document.
Ech Guide to Co-Fl Sp.xls

For next week, it looks like the weather should hold up for Tues and Thurs to be able to do pollinator observations. So we will need to flag the sites on Monday and have everything ready to go for Tuesday. Remember, you ALWAYS record something for each observation you make, regardless of whether or not you observed/caught a pollinator. Select No for poll. observed and No for pollinator caught if this is the case. Some things I wanted to clear up for people helping with FNC:
>If you reach 100 when counting inflorescences, stop and record >100.
>When recording the species within 10m, you will no longer put this into a memo. Instead you will always select pl A, record 0 for infl ct, and in the field of quadrants, select the fifth option called "within 10m".
>Review the guide to co-flowering sp for how to count infl or print one up and ask me if you have questions.
>If you come across a new species that isn't in the list of species in the form, record in the notes not only the species but also a brief description of how you counted inflorescences.

Here's some of the pollinators I saw on Coreopsis near Hegg Lake. They seemed to only be pollinating Coreopsis although there were other species like Achillea, Amorpha, and Echinacea around.

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On Friday all of us except Greg went on a trip to a mesic prairie 3 hours away to help Gretel look for orchids. We split into 3 groups of 3 and flagged the flowering plants within the various treatment grids.
The Western Fringed Prairie Orchid, Pratanthera praeclara a threatened species. The first orchid I've seen in the wild!
Allegra, Amanda, Daniel, Caroline, Amy, Stuart--it was pretty cold for mid-July!
Mountain mint--Pycnanthemum sp. It was really neat to see some different species found in the mesic prairie, as well as some familiar ones. Some others plants we saw were Liatris, Rudbeckia hirta, Apocynum, Lilium philadelphicum,, Asclepias incarnata, A. speciosa, and Campanula. Below is another mint, whose name I can't remember:
Thanks Gretel for letting us help!

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To celebrate peak flowering in the common garden, Megan made these awesome cupcakes. We all enjoyed them. Thanks, Megan!!



Megan with her breathtaking display of deliciousness.
Do you notice the stages of flowering presented here?

Mimi contemplates consuming something so beautiful.


Stuart basks in the celebration of his beloved study species.

Daniel enjoys with passion.

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Photo from 2 July 2009, just after lunch break at the Hjelm house.
Daniel, Gretel, Mimi, Greg
Amy, Jennifer, Per, Hattie, Diedre
Kate, Allegra, Caroline, Amanda, Stuart
not shown: Ruth, Megan & Andrea
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Thank you thank you thank you to everyone for helping this week. Just in terms of my project, we characterized floral neighborhoods for almost 70 plants in three days. In terms of pollinator observations, Tuesday's escapades in the remnants were fruitful, but thursday's weather would not hold out for us, so we had to postpone the second day of observations to next week, meaning we will have to randomly select a different set of 8 plants for all 10 remnants. I expect to see some more diversity in the neighborhoods next week because some species are just starting to flower like Coreopsis, Dalia, Apocynum, and Amorpha.
Here;s Amanda measuring to the nearest flowering Echinacea in Aanenson's:
Here's some pictures of our fun 4th of July and the amazing sustainable sandcastle.
Waniel, Per, and Hattie
Yesterday Daniel told us we could have a romantic walk in Staffanson Prairie if we came with him, but instead he made kate and I search his and Amy's transects. What a trickster. Here he is cursing the heavens.
A flock of pelicans flew overhead at NWLF.

I have many more pictures in case you're interested.

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Carex molesta
Carex gravida
Lythrum alatum
Sporobolus neglectus

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Here are some more pics of species I need for my project. Thanks for everyone's help so far.
Agalinis tenuifolia
Teucrium canadense

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Today we got the microscope camera in the mail-- here are the results!


This is the long-awaited photo of Echinacea angustifolia pollen. THIS IS IT, GUYS. Are you crying yet?

Daniel and Amanda


Cirsium altissimum
Asclepias viridiflora
Elymus virginicus

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A certain someone has thrown the digital gauntlet down, and being who I am, I cannot stand by and let that someone's remarks pass. Generations of Raths back to the Dark Ages would roll over in their graves were their descendant to back down, spineless, before a challenge. I shall outmaneuver my opponent by focusing on quality, not quantity. My posts shall be masterpieces of prose and picture, and my adversary shall soon bow down, defeated.

Today was a rather productive day, as Amy and I flagged transects in Nessman, Stephen's Approach, KJ's, Northwest of Landfill, and East Riley. They all went fairly quickly one we got the procedure down: Determine where the plants correspond to the map, lay down the first metre tape, choose and flag random spots on the length of the tape, measure outwards from that tape to the edge of the remnant, and flag that point as well. After that, we put in shiners and tags so that we could be sure of finding them again. We also flagged plants for Jennifer's and Diedre's tissue samples.

Pictures below are of:

IMG_4528.JPGA beautiful sunset outside Kensington. I cannot get used to the fact that the sun sets around 10 out here!

IMG_4535.JPGA dragonfly eating another dragonfly at Glacier Lakes National Park. This one just kinda landed on Allegra's head.

IMG_4542.JPGPrairie Clover! There was a lot of this at Glacier Lakes, which made the prairie that much more beautiful.

IMG_4547.JPGMembers of Team Echinacea: Mimi, Kate, Daniel and Allegra at Glacier Lakes. Such a nice day!

IMG_4549.JPGEven though we were not at work, we could not stop ourselves from searching for seedlings! Didn't find any though.

IMG_4567.JPGThere is a nest of baby birds in the Common Garden in row 41 that I found a week or two ago. There were only eggs at first, but they hatched and are now sprouting quills! Expect updates on these guys as well as regular pictures!

Note: As I was writing this, Dr. Ridley walked in carrying two Pappa John's pizzas as a break from the healthy salads we have been eating all week! A move worthy of a saint!

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Potentilla arguta and other species for my project. If everyone could keep a lookout for these species, I would be grateful.

Potentilla arguta
Dichanthelium acuminatum
Panicum capillare
Potentilla pensylvanica

More spp and images to be added later.

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I was recently informed that Daniel Rath has been "outblogging" me on the FLog, and I agree, he has-- but it stops now. Daniel updates the FLog several times a week, and that's cool. So from now on, every post Daniel posts, I too will post a post. Plus one.

Consider this a challenge, Daniel Rath!

To make up for lost time, and because if you're anything like my mom (and you might be my mom-- hi mom!) you love photos, here is a visual record of the past two days.

1) The past two mornings have been surprisingly cold here in K-town! Around 11:00 AM the truck bed has absorbed enough heat for a really fine cuddle.

2) On the way back from the '99 South garden, Gretal (Queen Bee) and I saw a little hummingbird trying to run with the big dogs (some swallows) atop the telephone line.

3) In the end, he was a bit of an outcast.

4) Today many of us went to the landfill to practice our independent project techniques (characterizing floral neighborhoods, catching pollinators, collecting pollen from non-Echinacea flowers, etc). I expected a dump, but I found a wonderland-- just see for yourselves!

Don't be fooled, it's not Italy- it's a DUMP. In Kensington!!

Mimi couldn't imagine what good deed could have landed her in such a place!

Then we found this Prairie Lily (Lilium Philidelphicum)

We got pulled over by this cop, and she made us characterize a floral neighborhood!

There was also some flowering Leadplant (Amorpha canescens)
fl leadplant.jpg

I will post again soon about how my independent project plans are shaping up, so stay tuned. Don't forget to leave feedback in the comments!!

Edit: Click on the photos if you'd like a slightly larger image.


In an attempt to outflog the rest of the team, I will describe what we did today. In the morning, most of us collected data for the phenology exp. No new plants had flowered, but some mistakes were caught in the flagging of positions from yesterday. I saw one of the large Halictid bees going to town on one of the flowering heads.Then until about 1, most of us headed out to the landfill site with different tasks in mind. I needed to do a test run of the FNC (I get tired of writing out floral neighborhood characterization) to see what obstacles we are going to face and about how long each one will take. Amanda helped me ID plants and test out the general protocol and it took about five minutes but there only 4 co-flowering species--Amorpha canascens, toothed evening primrose, Phlox pilosa, and Northern Bedstraw. Some species are more difficult to quantify in terms of number, such as Galium. After some discussion with Stuart, I think we will probably count each inflorescence as 1 "unit" so that counting the number of co-flowering species will be systematic and consistent. And now for more pretty pictures: P6280114.JPG
Above: Glacial Lakes State Park trip, only a half hr away!
Thumbnail image for P6280055.JPG
A plant we couldn't ID. Help?
Old Runestone Day Parade pics, Per & Hattie the candy gatherers


The picture below shows the head that is leading the pack to flowering (row 46.67 pos 953.67). Its ray florets are spreading. As of June 22 about 50 heads had ray florets that were "up" (the ray florets were longer than the bracts of the receptacle).


These are pictures that I took in the common garden today.
Can you spot an aphid in the photo above?

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One of our long-term experiments evaluates the effects of burn treatments on seedling recruitment and survival (see abstract here: Here are some photos documenting how we prepare plots for burning...

Figuring out which plots need to be burned.

Mowing burn breaks.

Nice job, Brad.

Successfully burned plots.

The east half of Hegg Lake WMA was burned by the DNR. For our recruitment plots located within the burned region, we mowed burn breaks around plots we did NOT want to have burned.

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The classic seedling search position.

Young Echinacea seedling--cotyledons only.

Larger seedling with a true leaf.

We marked seedlings with colored toothpicks, so we can re-find them in August, and again next summer. I hope to be able to learn about initial seedling establishment as well as seedling survival through the first two seasons.

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Our excellent photographer, Christine, took some awesome photos of plants at the landfill. I'll update the scientific names when I get them identified.

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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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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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Robberflies can catch bees in midair. I've never seen it myself but I know that's not all they can do....

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The spider could not be reached for comment.

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cr.jpg cr2.jpg

There's something going on with the grasses in the common garden. I'm not sure whether it's crown rust, but it might be.

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Hello, all! This is Denise. =D =D

Lani and I are starting our posters. We're doing one that targets the field work and one that targets the lab work. We're hoping to fill it up with mostly photos like this:

Since I got back, I've been staying at Carey's house. His step-mom has a garden, and guess what I recognized? ECHINACEA! Loads and loads. ^o^ Anyway, we saw a sickly plant in her garden and were hoping for some feedback as to what it could be. There's some discoloration on the leaves and the heads don't look too healthy as well. Here are some photos:




=( Unhappy echinacea, yes. What could it be?

Here are some other plants from another part of her garden that look much better:



Last week's scandal recedes from the public eye following the disappearance of two bees from the south end in broad daylight on Thursday. Common Garden residents are now locking their doors and speculating about the identity of the killer in their midst. Well..... not all of them.

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Today marks the halfway point for the summer. Five weeks down, five to go. We've accomplished a lot and much more remains. After a long afternoon of measuring plants, we had some watermelon and carbonated beverages to cool off, mark the 1/2way, and wish the Chicagoans well.

Three of our team members are leaving tomorrow for Chicago (Jennifer, Lani & Denise). They will keep us posted about the analysis of the bee-tracking field data and how it relates to their pollen flow study.

Here's a photo of us on the porch of the Hjelm house today, just after lunch.
Lecia, Ben, Megan, Christine, Denise & Gretel
Julie, Jennifer, Lani. Amy & Stuart.

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I just posted photos of prairie insect specimens from our collection, including many bees that pollinate Echinacea. Enjoy!

Here's a photo of a specimen of Andrena rudbeckiae (Female). Click to enlarge.

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These bees thought it would add some excitement to their lives if they hired Team Echinacea to stand around them watch their... relations. Naive as they were, they didn't realize that there was a camera in the crowd and the photos would inevitably be leaked to the Internet. This is sure to cause a scandal among the insects of the common garden when they read of it in the tabloids tomorrow.

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Hi folks! Here's the protocol for measuring plants in the common garden this year. The protocol hasn't changed much from last year, but the description has improved; the protocol is now a html file and there are many nice images from 2007. Thanks to Jameson and Gretel for taking the photos. And thanks to the wonders of digital photography, Pendragon forms, the UMN library's blog, and contributors to this flog. Wahoo! Let the counting of leaves, ants, and aphids begin!

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Here's a practice time lapse series for plant (28, 943) from July 2nd-6th. I'll be photographing 16 plants every morning or until people get tired of driving me around to the garden. I didn't hit the 'thumbnail' option when I uploaded this, so if you want to see it in its full glory, right-click and go to "view image".


Even though I've marked the position and height of the tripod with flags, it looks like it's difficult to get the same photo every time. The changing background, I suspect, is a result of the head growing upwards a bit, causing me to change the camera angle. This shouldn't be as much of an issue in the pictures taken from above.

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I just found out that there is video footage of the house being moved on YouTube.

Here are the 3 links:
part 1
part 2
part 3


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I finally got around to completely updating my pictures on photobucket, so I thought I should post the link to the site on the blog. It's a mix of work pictures and others, or simply pictures from times I have my camera.

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There may be a sudden influx of blog entries very soon because when we don't work, we get to flog. I was out at Hegg Lake when the storm rolled in today around 11. Jennifer heard the thunder and told us to finish our row and then we would consider our options. Before we could finish our rows, Jennifer looked up, noticed the clouds and thunder were almost overhead and said we should go back to the farmhouse. Everyone else was already in the farmhouse at that point because it was pouring and there was lightning, so they decided to scamper inside. Some pictures from today:

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i started this flog entry last year and never finished it. I'm just going to publish it as it is...

To streamline the process and get everyone on the same page i'm compiling photographs of all the different categories that we are noting in association with Echinacea plants.

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Now that I've gotten a new toy, I've gotten several more pictures. Not all of them are with this fun lens though.


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We had a long afternoon of monitoring today. Andy and I worked together. On Andy's turn to measure we got row 35, which just happens to contain the monster plant. This plant has by far the most flowering heads in the garden. This year it has 15 fully developed heads and 2 pipsDSCF002600.JPG

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IMG_0032.jpg IMG_0033.jpg
The cameras were over-heating filming under the hot sun all day: so Andy bought hats for all of them to wear.


white fuzzies

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Here are my daily photos
this first one is actually from yesterday

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it's been a whole week since we last had internet access at the Andes, and I have a lot of material to post. I have many many pictures to upload and many stories to tell, but I can't do it all now. Anyway my posts from now on will probably not be in the order that the events actually happened. Here are some pictures i took today


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Studying and learning about insects that eat Echinacea and its seeds has been a sort of personal project of mine this summer. The other day I examined most of the inflorescences in the common garden that had been designated with disc florivory. I didn't immediately find anything too interesting but I took some notes and photographs that may lead to a breakthrough later on. Today I found something that I thought was interesting and could lead in an interesting direction. See if you can spot it.

if you still don't understand listen here

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Several pictures of the Bee Team marking bees.



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I took some cool pictures of Echinacea inflorescences and pollinators and other insects so i'm going to put some links to them here

Echinacea swaying in the wind

I found this bee hanging out under an Echinacae receptacle when we were doing herb & ray
Prairie Lily @ Hegg Lake

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Well, another picture-dump type entry tonight. Ian apparently like's Jameson's (now unused) mattress. He doesn't have this beetle in his collection. I probably should've put it in my pocket for him. Speaking of beetles, I met a very friendly ladybug.

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I'm a little behind in my blogging so I'll write yesterday's blog today. I'm sitting here in my closet office. I have maps of Wisconsin and Minnesota hanging on the wall. Yesterday I cut them out and pieced them together. It looks pretty cool even though the maps aren't the same scale. I put up a map of PA, my home state, on the wall above my desk last night too, before I went to bed. I took some pictures around Andes yesterday to show everyone what it's like here. The top of the tallest part of the hill is the highest point in Douglas county. From the top there is a beautiful view of North Lake Oscar, which is just to the south, and all around there are rolling hills dotted with small farms and small patches of trees. The native landscape of this region, prairie, is hard to find. At the foot of the hill on the north side is our summer residence. They call them Condos, one has two bedrooms and the other three. The men got the three bedroom condo, which Andy has graciously named the Mando. The women have started calling their condo Raj Mahal. Except for the Andes employees who are there when we are at work we have the whole place all to ourselves. We have a pond that we can swim in. We have places of ride bicycles, and catch insects, and read, and dig gardens. I put in most of the tomato stakes yesterday. I think it gives the garden a lot of character that it was previously lacking. Living with so many Bio people is interesting. We have had a bowl of soapy water outside for a week to catch insects. This makes the fact that I'm using a plate to catch the water under one of my peace lilies seem normal. I brought a betta fish and a newt with me from school. Ian catches insects everyday and puts them in kill jars so he can pin them later. There are video cameras everywhere, that are solely for taking video of flowers to monitor pollinator activity, and then there is the garden, and several other house plants (including a small potted grapefruit tree).
Today I got my first verified case of chiggers. They are apparently burrowed in my skin, producing itchy raised red bumps.
Stuart came back today or last night with his family and two mattress-box spring sets from Chicago. So I upgraded my mattress from the one I had, which had to be the worst quality mattress that i have ever slept on. We started our group/individualer projects today. I'm supposed to be tracking insects that visit Echinacea with binoculars.

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This afternoon for work, a kite was flown. Now, this was not just any kite. This kite had a name that involved "16", as that presumably is roughly the square footage of this beast. Being a gusty afternoon (Rachel clocked the wind speeds at anywhere from 7 to 27 mph). Having trouble getting the kite up by just letting the gusts grab it, I went to the house to grab a few more pairs of gloves (didn't want rope burn). As I returned, Rachel and Julie figured out the trick to get the kite up: run with it.


here is a series of photos that I shot of colin

Colin would like you to know that he was very angry at the time these photos were taken even though you may not be able to tell from his facial expression

i actually just decided that I am going to put every picture that I have taken of Colin so far this summer in this flog
ok not every picture but almost

Here Colin is bending over to pick something up

Here Colin points awkwardly

Here Colin searches for Echinacea plants

In this series Colin emerges from a dense forest still carrying a large storage container





photos best viewed in rapid succession

I don't remember what Colin was doing in this photo

Colin reads a compass from nail to Echinacea

Colin with flags

Colin stares down his enemy

Colin checks himself for creepy crawlies

Colin searches for a nail in the duff

I'm going to cut you

here Colin is watching Ian kill insects
In this series Colin plays with his hat and sits on the tailgate of Stuart's truck






And this is the series that you've all been waiting for

Colin after a long hard day in the Common Garden













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So in the past several days, we've had many interesting goings-on. Jameson has built a garden. We went looking for some baby(ish?) raccoons that Amy saw, but they weren't there. Instead, there were many dead damselflies and dragonflies. We also have a kill jars full of dead insects on our kitchen table as well as a betta fish and some snails. Jameson has also created the next big thing: hard-boiled eggsicles

As far as the Echinacea goes, it was rough work in the '99 garden today. the east side of the garden was initially labeled 1/3 meter short, but we fixed the problems and made stuff work. I actually got a good shot of a pollinator (some sort of bee) and Amy found a snake skin. After today, my tick count is 5 (the tick I took a picture of was named Marty the Martyr)

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Staffanson Prairie
don't let this happen to you
home base

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This is rural Minnesota where we are working
corn on one side and soybeans on the other and little bits of prairie in between
This is part of the Recruitment experiment. Here we are trying to locate spots where Echinacea seeds have been planted 5,6, or 7 years ago.
here Rachel is using a metal detector to find the nails that mark where the Echinacea are. In the background Julie is using two measuring tapes to locate the same nails.


Well, until I figure out why putting images in directly won't work properly for me, I'll just link them. Click to see the picture. Also, Ian keeps putting stuff in his kill jars. He's shuffling insects from this mortal coil.

Rosa arkansana - Pasture rose

Lilium philadelphicum - Prairie lily

some kind of Bluet - a damselfly


Heliopsis helianthoides - Sunflower

Phlox pilosa - Prairie Phlox

Echinacea angustifolia - narrow-leaved purple coneflower (before flowering)

This Echinacea (#11432) got creamed by a road grating truck. It had at least two heads and more than forty-five basal leaves. Being a taproot, it'll likely grow back at some point, but if cars keep driving over it, who knows.

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