Recently in Stories from the Field Category

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

| No Comments

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

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

Friday was Kelly and Jill's last day.

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

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

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

Photo courtesy of Katherine.

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

| No Comments

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.

| No Comments

Hey folks, Maria here.

This is our 3rd day without Stuart, and I must say we have been quite productive.

We continued seedling refinds at EELR this morning. Then we discovered that we had not yet flagged many focal plants, probably because they had not been flagged during demo/Katherine's aphid survey. So we returned to Hjelm House, and decided to do demo rechecks at Railroad Crossing and North Railroad Crossing instead. We finished in time for lunch!

In the afternoon, we used the GPS to stake and flagged focal plants for seedling refinds, and did seedling refinds. Jill and Kelly got quite a perplexing circle, where seedlings didn't match up with maps. They found that the measurements were useful, but the map as a visual aid was not.

Around 3.15 we went back to Hjelm House to work on individual projects. I measured 3 rows of Dichanthelium plants that were planted in 99 South Common Garden. There was one super-tall plant - ~15cm, as compared to most other plants that were 1-3cm tall. Katherine and Jill sorted ants.

Karen did her crossing experiment at Hegg Lake all day. Some Helianthus heads are done flowering, and she is quite pleased about that.

Oh, and the tick eggs hatched today! Almost everyone was quite flabbergasted at the sight of baby ticks splashed on the walls of the plastic jar that we kept them in. Ughh...

Here's an unrelated picture from July, the day Lydia and Shona GPSed/helped measure my Dichanthelium plants at Hegg Lake. I was taking a picture of Lydia taking a picture of Shona taking a picture of a plant :D Pic-ception!
2012-07-11 11.38.53.jpg

| No Comments

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!

| No Comments

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:


| No Comments

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.

2012-07-13 10.22.49.jpg

Look, a pheasant egg!
2012-07-13 10.23.28.jpg

And I know you'll forgive me for posting yet another picture of Dichanthelium :D
2012-06-22 06.03.39 dewy with flash.jpg

| No Comments

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

2012-07-14 10.56.41.jpg

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:
2012-06-22 06.05.57 dewy.jpg

| No Comments

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!
2012-06-26 07.56.23.jpg

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.
2012-06-28 06.19.17.jpg

Last but not least here's an epic picture from our bonfire last year :D

| No Comments

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.

| No Comments

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.


| No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2012-07-13 11.18.02.jpg
Stuart and Ruth :)

2012-07-13 11.31.42.jpg
Poor broken culm of Dichanthelium. See how some spikelets were still open?

2012-07-13 17.48.55.jpg
Tired Team Echinacea...

2012-07-13 17.49.08.jpg

| No Comments

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:

| No Comments

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

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

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

To end off the week, here's a special 6-leaved Virginia Creeper (they are usually 5-leaved) I found in the 99 south garden. Hope it brings everyone good luck!
2012-06-30 10.52.29.jpg

| No Comments

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.

| No Comments

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:




| No Comments

Howdy folks! This week field work was delayed by a couple of wet spells, but thanks to reinforcements (thanks Ruth!), we conquered seedling refinds at Loeffler's Corner on Tuesday; East Riley and Riley on Thursday. Due to lack of time/manpower, we decided to scale back on seedling refinds (by focusing on searching circles that were reported to have at least 1 seedling). The frame maps made using R and the frame coordinates we recorded in June were really helpful.

Yesterday after lunch, the 4 of us (Stuart, Josh, Katherine and I) went out to Hegg Lake. I brought my bike out so I could pull in my Dichanthelium flags from my sites at Hegg Lake, and then I biked to C2 to join in the head harvest. I believe we harvested just over half the heads from C2. After that we headed back to Hjelm House and started harvesting in C1 until it was time to go.

This morning we went out to Staffanson in the truck. Stuart, Josh, and Katherine flagged plants for seedling refinds and harvested Echinacea heads as part of Amber Z's project. I did my final round of collection at Staffanson and then pulled in flags from the plot that was planted with seedlings in June. After lunch, we paired up and continued harvesting in C1. We filled up NINE grocery bags with Echinacea heads in just one afternoon! Uff da! That was really a heck of a harvest! Good job Team Echinacea!

| No Comments

Heya! Here's Maria reporting from the Town Hall.

Many of our team members had returned to school/civilization in the past 2 weeks: Nicholas, Lee, Amber Z, Amber E, Gretel, Per, Hattie, and Stuart. Thanks to Northwestern's quarter system, Katherine, Josh and I are still here. I'll be leaving next Saturday, Katherine the week after, and Josh two weeks later.

For the past week, we've been continuing to work in the field while Stuart was at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Here's a brief recap of what we did:

Monday: Katherine did C1 Phenology & started harvesting while Josh and I finished GPSing flowering Echinacea at Krusemark (after getting stuck with the truck, the GPS went dead on us - Friday was definitely not our lucky day). We joined Katherine and did harvesting for the rest of the day.

Tuesday: Harvesting at Hegg Lake C2 garden & my last round of Dichanthelium harvesting on the way in to C2 and at Loeffler's Corner. After lunch, we started flagging plants for Seedling Refinds at East Elk Lake Road, and then got started on a few plants.

Wednesday: Katherine worked on C1 Phenology and her aphid experiment, while Josh and I went out to GPS and harvest Dichanthelium at Loeffler's Corner, Hegg Lake, and Staffanson. We finished GPSing all Dichanthelium sites! After lunch, we continued seedling refinds at EELR.

Thursday: While waiting for the field to dry up, Josh went out to GPS the Astragalus planted in the C1 ditch and his grasses plot. Katherine and I worked on indoors stuff and our own projects. After that we went to EELR and finished seedling refinds for all but 2 plants that would require extra information (like missing maps). After lunch, we did seedling refinds at East of Town Hall.

Friday: Aphid survey and C1 harvesting took us the whole day. Conference call with Stuart at lunch. Josh discovered grapefruit sprouting from seeds in his grapefruit at lunch. Corn-on-the-cobs and lovely eggplants made our day. Big thank you to Bob Mahoney & Dwight & Jean :)

The weather is cooling up so we'll be starting work at 8.30am again. Stuart will be back on the field tomorrow. Hope we'll have another honest week's worth of work! :D

| No Comments

IMG_6159 crop.jpg

5 Crew members hiked out to Krusemark's to rescue Josh and Maria. The truck was stuck in a hole in a very soft 2-track. Order has been restored to the last field day for many of the crew. Josh, Maria, and Katherine will continue working for another few weeks and hopefully remember to stay to the LEFT!

| No Comments

During the last week of July, in addition to working on our independent projects, we spent lots of time measuring in the Common Garden. It's kind-of like a yearly check-up for all the Echinacea plants there: we count their leaves and rosettes and heads, measure their stems and longest leaves, and check them for bugs or other damage.
However, this past Monday we were forced to take a break from measuring due to a huge storm! The wind knocked down lots of trees. One landed right on the Hjelm house roof! Luckily there wasn't much damage, and everyone is safe and sound.
Tuesday was also eventful, but in a different way: It was Callin's last day with Team Echinacea before heading back to New Mexico to teach for another year. Good luck Callin! We miss you!
Later in the week, we finished measuring in the Common Garden and started demography. Demography is when we visit all the remnants in the Echinacea Project's study area to locate and collect data about flowering plants. It's been fun to visit some of the sites I hadn't been to before, and to see how the different land-use history of each has affected the plants that grow there.
Then on Friday we went to Staffanson Prairie Preserve to check on the seedlings we planted there earlier this summer. It looks like mortality was pretty high, but we only finished searching about a third of the planted area, so maybe the seedlings are doing better in the rest of the plot. I guess we'll find out next week!

| No Comments

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.

| 1 Comment

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.

| 1 Comment

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

| No Comments

This past week a lot more Echinacea started flowering, which meant we had plenty to do. We located all the Echinacea plants in the Common Garden that will flower this year. There were so many! They seemed to be particularly abundant in the 99 garden.
We also completed some more aphid surveys for Katherine's project, continued work on the New Media Initiative, and set insect traps for Greg's project. I really enjoyed taking a quick peek at some of the insects that Greg's traps caught. I don't have tons of experience with insects, so I don't know what genus any of them are yet, but some of them looked pretty nifty. I'm looking forward to finding out more about them.
My own independent project is coming along as well. I've been spending quite a bit of time this week working at the dump! For those of you who aren't familiar with the prairie remnants we're studying, I should clarify that I'm not actually working in a garbage heap. There are some little hills that haven't been used for agriculture because they are within the landfill's property, but they're not really close to all the trash either. As a result, they are covered in beautiful native prairie species! (And when the wind's coming from the right direction, it doesn't even smell bad!) Two of the species I'm studying grow there, Coreopsis palmata
and Heliopsis helianthoides.
I've started doing pollen crosses, with mixed results. On the Heliopsis, it looks like styles shrivel after receiving outcross pollen (suggesting they have been successfully fertilized), but not after receiving self pollen. I had a harder time seeing what happened to the styles on the Coreopsis I crossed because when I went back to check on them two days later, some of the flower heads had started falling apart. (As Amber Rae put it, "The Coreopsis are losing their heads!") Stuart says that this is unusual though, so hopefully the heads I use for crosses this coming week won't fall apart and I'll be able to get some clearer results.

| No Comments

Hi everyone, Maria here again. Today was a particularly happening day in my opinion. Everyone had something to do. Amber E. is back from Alaska with Ruth! Karen arrived from Evanston in the afternoon!

In the morning those of us who hadn't finished our Stipa searches in the common garden finished that! (So Stipa is done! - we scaled back though and only searched for the 2011(?) cohort). After that Gretel, Ruth, Amber E and I put Position/Row signs in the common garden and made the signs face East/Westwards so now it's so much easier to read the signs while you are walking in the common garden. Then we got started on looking at the phenology of Echinacea in the common garden. We systematically walked through each row, looking out for flowering Echinacea with emerged anthers and pollen, twist-tying the heads and recording them in our visors. Josh joined us when he finished his Stipa searches. We found quite a few flowering heads - bet there'll be more soon.

While we were looking for flowering Echinacea, we saw Stuart, Callin, Amber Z and Nicholas crowded around 'Joe' - the pet name given to the prominently flowering Echinacea at row 28, position 860. As described by Callin in the previous post, they were practicing bract-painting for their independent projects on Joe.

When we finished looking at all the rows, it was time for lunch and short presentations of our projects. It was good to hear about everyone's projects and talk about my own projects and get feedback. After lunch, we got started on our independent projects or worked on the New Media Initiative.

Gretel and I headed to Hegg Lake to look for Dichanthelium (Panic Grass) seeds for my second project. This summer I will be collecting seeds from Dichanthelium plants from different remnants, including Hegg Lake and Loettler's Corner (I might not have spelt that right - sorry). My plan is to collect seeds from 30 individuals from each "site", as there are several places at Hegg Lake that seem to have a lot of Dichanthelium. After collecting the seeds, I will be bringing them back to Chicago Botanic Garden and do more work on them in the fall/later.

Click here for the
Google doc of my summer project proposals

I am super super indebted/thankful/grateful for Gretel. Without her guidance, I'd probably be in a big mess/not knowing what to do/still be at Hegg Lake as this is my first time doing independent field work.

When we reached the place at Hegg Lake (it was near the road, area with ditch, south of the parking lot), a lot fo the Dichanthelium seeds had already fallen off the culms. It was quite disheartening. We walked a little north and found a patch of Dichanthelium with most of their seeds intact, then we laid out the tape measure for 20m in a roughly north-south direction (I kept thinking it was 2m while Gretel patiently corrected me ^^;;). Initial plan was to do every plant within arm's length from transect, or every other plant if population was dense. However, that was not quite possible given the circumstances. After Gretel and I collected seed from the first plant and did all the measurements, she continued measuring/collecting while I picked ~30 plants near the transect (more than my arm's length) that had at least one culm with 8 or more seeds to collect from and flagged them with a blank flag. I started measuring/collecting after I finished flagging. Around 4pm, Lee called - reinforcements were coming! Ruth and Lee arrived with Karen and they helped us finished the rest of the plants (by that time Gretel had completed 17 plants (!!) and I was on my 6th plant). It turned out that we had 31 flags so 31 envelopes with data and samples! We also collected some "random" samples - ie seeds from various random plants away from transect. Finished around 5pm - thanks to Gretel, Lee, Ruth and Karen! Really excited to get the first 30 done!

Take a look at the simple data entry for today's collection for more technical details if you're interested. I might also do the seed count for today's samples just to see how many seeds we can get from 30 plants using the '8 or more' rule. (I just need to be rreally careful not to lose any seed >.<)


We left 11 flags (labelled with sample number) at the site that we will return to later to collect more seeds from.

Now that I have more experience, I'll definitely be more systematic+efficient about it.
Notes to self for tomorrow/next time:
- "just-in-case" extras (extra equipment, envelopes, pens, sharpies, flags) do come in handy! Meter sticks are probably more efficient than tape measures. More flags would be good. Maybe use a different color for "done" or for extras.
- Extra samples are good too. Maybe do 32 plants per site?
- Bring a plastic bag/something to put a plant specimen in - I need to get a sample of the other Dichanthelium species ("hairy leaved") to press and identify.
- Equipment list would be useful esp when I have more than 5 things to remember.

Lesson of the Day: Having an experienced person around and helpers is always always always helpful! =D

Thanks again to Gretel and everyone who helped!

| No Comments

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!


| No Comments

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

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

| 1 Comment

Hey everyone, I'm Maria, making my first appearance on the flog. I'm from Malaysia, currently a sophomore/rising junior at Northwestern. Sorry for the late first post as I've been unable to get onto the flog until yesterday :)

I'm now sitting beside Amy Dykstra out on the porch of Hjellm house enjoying the scenery while freezing in the cold. We have not been able to go out to do field work since Tuesday afternoon(?) due to wet weather, but we're going to go out and plant the remaining <20 seedlings at Staffanson after lunch and perhaps seedling searches. Hope that the ground dries up!

Anyway, here's the link to the googledoc of my summer project proposal. I'm constantly updating it/working on it so it seems most practical to share it as a googledoc. Any input will be highly appreciated :D Hope that everyone will be able to assess the link. Let me know if the link is not working! Thanks!

*Update June 24: The googledoc link is updated. Everyone should be able to assess it now :)

| No Comments

I was nervous when I entered the idyllic enclave of Kensington, MN. Here I was, after five days of driving from San Francisco, launching myself into a new place with new people, without knowing what to expect. I'm pleased to say that I am happy with my decision to join team Echinacea. On Monday, June 12th we began planting seedlings in Staffanson prairie reserve. This was part of a study on how burning plots affects the next generation of plants. Amazingly, we managed to finish the entire plot on Tuesday, thanks to the efficient cooperation of eleven people. Wednesday was too rainy for field work, so we spent the morning cleaning up and organizing our materials. After lunch we took a field trip to visit various sites and explore the flora therein (Josh snapped some wonderful pictures and will post them here soon). Over Thursday and Friday we completed seedling searches in three remnants: RI, KJ, and NESS. At each site we flagged a subset of Echinacea plants and pairs of team members searched for seedlings around each plant, mapping their results so we can find them again in the future.
This week has also brought a lot of discussion. Prominent items on the agenda were chores (someone has to keep the field station clean), summer research projects, and our new media initiative. In addition to helping out with ongoing field projects, each member of the team must tackle a research question--working in groups or individually, depending on their preferences. Project proposals should appear on the flog over the next few days. I'm excited to see what people come up with. We talked at length about how we can use various media sources (the flog, the website, facebook, Twitter) to enhance communication within the Echinacea Project and with a wider community. I never thought a field biology internship would include making a Twitter account, but now I'm convinced it's a good idea. Check the flog for our plans and ideas.
Lastly, and most importantly, this weekend marks Kensington's annual celebration of Runestone Day, which means Viking shiploads of small town fun. Last night we saw a fireworks show paired with a lightning storm (I'm not sure which was more impressive) and this morning several of us ran in the Kensington Runestone 5K. Stay tuned for pictures.



| No Comments

Hey, it's Josh again (I'm back! I'll have a reintroduction post soon). We've had quite the productive week while Stuart was back in Chicagoland. With the help of awesome folks like Nicholas, Amber, and Callin, my garden is all dug up, weeded, planted, and watered. Now we wait (and water).

We also took care of the seedling searches at EELR, NWLf, and NNWLf, not to mention extending the lines of the Staffanson common garden to 100m and marking them.

Hey look, some planting!

| 1 Comment

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!

| 1 Comment

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!

| No Comments

Kate and I have had some beautiful weather for field work (except today--it rained most of the day). Here's a picture of the roadside site we call East Riley. Notice that our ambitious mower has mowed TWO swaths of the roadside. The mowed area includes most of the circles I am searching to re-find and measure plants we had identified in years past.

We do seedling searches every spring at 14 prairie remnants. We search within 41 cm (or 50 cm for smaller populations) of randomly selected Echinacea plants that flowered the previous summer. Since 2006 we have used these spring searches to find new seedlings (identifiable by the presence of cotyledons). When we find seedlings, we draw circle maps showing the seedling locations with respect to the focal plant, and make measurements to other tagged plants. In 2009 and 2010 we mapped ALL Echinacea plants within the 41/50-cm radius circles. Late in the growing season, we return to the 14 sites and re-find the seedlings and other plants. We update the circle maps, and measure the surviving plants.

Why go to all this trouble? I plan to use the data to estimate the growth rate for these small Echinacea populations. Are the Echinacea producing enough offspring to maintain their populations? That's the question I hope to answer!

The re-finds are complete at eelr, lih, nessman, nwlf, randt, sap, sgc and spp. I am currently working at eri; still remaining are eth, kj's, lc, lf and ri. Some of the sites are disappointing. There has been a lot of gopher activity at lih, and most of the Echinacea plants, big and small, are gone. I was only able to find 1 of the 12 seedlings we had previously mapped. Other sites (eri, ri, nessman) are disturbed by frequent roadside mowing and scraping. In spite of that, we were able to find 18 of the 23 previously identified seedlings at nessman. In total (so far), we have found 54/85 seedlings. Some of the survivors were first identified in 2007 (I don't think I've found any 2006 seedlings yet--but there weren't many to begin with).

I'll post an update when I finish entering all the data...or the next time I get rained out!

| No Comments

1) Hillary came back, now Lauren has the other half of her brain.
2) Echinacea Team Basket Ball
3) Kate was a dinner plate for a dragonfly eating a black fly. Kinda gross, but cool.
4) Vally Fair. Josh now likes roller-coasters. Mission Accomplished.
5) Ruth Visited. Josh made cookies to celebrate.
6) Swim after work on Monday. (In our clothes... it was just that hot)
7) Finished measuring all of Kate's seedlings. They live! Mwahaha!

| No Comments

Hey All,

It's been a very busy couple of weeks:

On July 27th I spoke at the Garden Club of America Zone 11 Annual Meeting in Lake Geneva. I was there for less than 48hrs, but I still had a wonderful time. I received the GCA's Fellowship in Ecological Restoration to support my Master's project, which is why I was asked to attend at all. I was pretty nervous about the speech, but in the end I think it went pretty well. They were a great audience and after this experience I feel much more confident about public speaking.

After I gave my talk, I was able go see the GCA flower show, which was really interesting. There were some pretty cool displays. I especially like the hats made of flowers, the miniatures, and the photography. They also had these challenge events where everyone was given the same supplies and theme and had a fixed amount of time to create a display. The GCA has some very creative members.

That evening we were given a tour of the lake on a boat called the Louise, where we had h'ors d'oeuvres and cocktails. The boat dropped us off at a GCA member's house for dinner. It was a lot of fun!

The next day I got to hear Kathryn Kennedy, the president of the Center for Plant Conservation, speak. She gave an excellent talk about endangered species and the challenges we face in protecting these high-risk plants in the coming decades. I was totally revved afterwords, so she did her job.

Pictures from the GCA trip:



After I got back from Wisconsin, I had to turn around and finish working on the poster for the ESA conference. After much work, and help from Stuart, Amy, and Josh, I finally finished the poster.

I drove to St. Cloud to print both the FNC poster and Allegra's poster, and then on Sunday Stuart and I went to the ESA conference in Pittsburgh. Mimi, the REU intern from last year, was able to join us for the conference on Monday. It was great to see her again. She's currently working at Frick park as a Outdoorsy type summer camp counselor. She'll be leaving in September to teach English in Guadalupe. Should be fun!

Mimi and I got a lot of great feedback on our poster during the poster session, and I'm pretty confident that with everyone's help we can write an interesting paper.

The poster is entitled: Interspecific Co-flowering Prairie Plants Compete for Pollinators.

Here's the abstract we submitted:


Pollen limitation is prevalent in many species, and can be especially worrisome in fragmented landscapes. Reproduction in the purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia (Asteraceae), which grows in small remnant patches of tallgrass prairie in North America, is pollen limited, but not pollinator limited.

Pollen limitation of Echinacea increases with isolation of individual plants, decreases with size of population, and has a strong negative impact on reproduction. However, pollinator visitation does not explain the reduced reproductive success. Wagenius and Lyon (2010), found that plants in the densest and largest populations of Echinacea receive fewer pollinator visits yet have greater reproductive success than plants in small isolated populations, which receive more visits but have decreased reproductive success. Among the many prairie plants pollinated by native solitary generalist bees, interspecific co-flowering plants may either enhance pollination by attracting more pollinators, or reduce reproductive success through competition or interference with compatible pollen receipt (Feldman 2008, Mitchell et al 2009).


We investigated the community of co-flowering species surrounding a plant (floral neighborhood). We measured the effect of floral neighborhood on pollinator visitation, pollinator diversity, and pollination success of Echinacea. We randomly selected 8 focal plants at each of 10 remnant prairie sites in Douglas Co., Minnesota and observed and collected insect pollinators four times during summer 2009. We also identified and counted inflorescences of nearby co-flowering species.

We found strong evidence that floral neighborhood composition influences pollinator visitation of Echinacea. Forty species co-flowered with Echinacea, nine of which are invasive. Co-flowering species richness ranged from 14 in the largest remnant to five in the smallest. Alfalfa, Medicago sativa (Fabaceae), the most abundant exotic co-flowering species, occurred at seven of the sites, while leadplant, Amorpha canescens (Fabaceae), the most abundant native species (besides Echinacea), was only found at three remnants. The presence of alfalfa within a focal plant's floral neighborhood increased the probability of a pollinator visit by 7% (according to a glm with binomial response p<0.03). In contrast, native leadplant decreased pollinator visits by 9% (p<0.02). There is no evidence that alfalfa, leadplant, and Echinacea interact in their effect on pollinator visits. We also collected pollen from Echinacea insect pollinators and flower parts to see if patterns in floral neighborhood composition and pollinator visitation are reflected in pollen loads on pollinators or stigmas.

Here's a small copy of the actual poster:

The main conclusions were:

Neither the community of co-flowering species nor the presence of non-native plants was associated with variation in pollinator visitation.

Co-flowering species diversity was a predictor of pollinator visitation only late in the flowering season. Floral communities, as quantified by NMS analysis, were associated with the presence of non-natives all season long and overall diversity only in the early season. NMS characterizations of species co-flowering with Echinacea did not predict pollinator visitation at any time.

Echinacea neighborhoods with Amorpha, a native, had lower pollinator visitation, while the neighborhoods with Medicago, a non-native, had higher pollinator visitation.
We found no compelling evidence that interspecific co-flowering species influence pollinator visitation to Echinacea in small prairie remnants. The previously observed high pollinator visitation and concurrent pollen limitation might result from low quality of pollinator visits, an hypothesis we are now investigating.

Here's a picture of Mimi and I in front of the poster at the conference:

Now that I'm back in Kensington, it's time to get back to my master's project. The work is never done! This week I'm hoping to do seedling checks for my three plots. Hope I can count on lots of help getting it done!


| No Comments

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!

| No Comments

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


| 1 Comment

I made it to the fourth day of school without taking my class outside to the nearest prairie remnant (the hill above the river in town)
It took very little time for them to learn to recognize ech. deadheads and rosa arkansana (rose hips). Some were even able to find basal ech. plants. (without offering 6-packs of pop as bait)



So, for another update from the luxurious Hjelm house, which is THE place to be this summer. We recently had the wireless router in the basement stop allowing people to log on to the network wirelessly, so Stuart ordered a new wireless router, along with an 8 port switch so that we can have more than 3 computers connected at the same time. They got here yesterday, and I took them downstairs to set up.

The entire process of setting up took about 20 minutes, and everything worked like a charm. I hooked the cable modem up to the router, set up the router DHCP (Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, used to assign IP addresses to computers on the network), and hooked the router up to the switch, after mounting them on the wall. However, I wanted to see if we could get wireless access in the Wagenius house, about 60 metres away.

Setting the router up near the window in the basement did not work, so I moved the router upstairs. After a couple hours trying various spots, it was placed in Stuart's office, which offered easy access to an Ethernet jack, as well as a convenient window.

In order to enable both the wireless router and the wall jacks, while preserving the network, I had to disable DHCP on the new wireless router, and place the old one downstairs to act as a DHCP distributing thingy for the house. It took me a couple hours to figure this out as well, since I thought the wireless router could perform the same function through the switch.

Anyway, to cut a long boring story short, the new router upstairs fell just short of the Wagenius house computer's range, so using the excellent resources of (, I made three parabolic reflectors out of cardboard and tin foil to boost the signal. They worked like a charm! They are originally the idea of this site:, and I got the template to build the antennas from here:

Some pictures of the new wireless router:


| No Comments

I found a few things besides Echinacea plants, while searching for plants that may have died in the common garden. I found a fossil shell. I gave it to Per and he held on to it for a while but dropped it. Someone else will find it! I found a stylus (for a handspring visor). It's probably Gretel's; she lost hers earlier this year. I found a snake skin with an intact top of head--the eyes were transparent-cool! Per gave to Hattie, I think. I found a mouse in a mouse nest (right on top of dead Echinacea leaves from last year). The mouse bounded away. Also, Ruth called while I was searching to say that she had just found the serial cord for the survey station data collector that we couldn't find--we had been looking for that for a few days. Wahoo! Finally, I emptied my pockets of litter that I had picked up: three pieces of flagging, one melted plastic plug label, and 2 blue plastic cocktail stirrers.


Stuff from Stuart's pocket: stylus (1), flagging bits (3),
melted plastic plug label (1), blue plastic cocktail stirrers (2)

We are making great progress on annual measurements of plant in the common garden. On Monday we finished measuring all plants (~10000). On Tuesday we finished placing staples at all locations where plants died overwinter in 2007-2008 (>700). Today we made a huge dent in "rechecks."

Rechecking is when we revisit all the locations where we recorded a "can't find" and left a flag while measuring. We placed about 1500 flags. About 700 of those "can't finds" were stapled this year. So, we just verified that staples were in the correct locations and pulled flags. Some locations had staples from previous years that a measurer didn't find. We pulled flags there too. Then there were the plants that were alive last year. We rechecked those and found quite a few plants. Each time someone found one, they yelled "wahoo" and the rest of us responded with a whoop and a holler.

Shucks, it was fun!! Actually I was burned out by the end. Next year we should plan two 2h sessions instead of one 4h session.

| 1 Comment

I went on a fantastic bike ride yesterday and saw a large prairie restoration on the east side of county road 7 between Moe Hall Rd SW and Tower Hill Rd SW. I also saw a population of Ratibida and Desmodium on the west side of County Rd 15 between MN-27 and Tower Hill Rd SW. Sorry I couldn't be more specific with my directions but if you bike or drive those sections of road you will definitely find the spots.

| No Comments

Warren ventured into the Hjelm house again today. Gretel and Hattie & I tried to urge him to leave. Warren tried to hide, but Roxy found him and escorted him out.

| 1 Comment

Hello all!

This is Daniel with another update on what team Echinacea has been up to in the past week. Allegra, Stuart and I have become what I like to call the "Staffanson Crew", and we are responsible for doing phenology at Staffanson every other day. Today we got the time down to about 2 hours and 20 minutes, from 3.5 hours originally. The process was made a lot more efficient by splitting up sections and giving everyone a separate checklist. Of course, the temperature was almost 40 below, so that was slightly unpleasant. Add the wind and the fact that I was only wearing 2 thin layers, and you have a recipe for hypothermia. However, I persevered, thinking of my avocado and sausage sandwiches waiting for me at the Hjelm house.

The pollinator project has been going along well, with Kate, Amanda and Mimi hard at working sorting out the oodles of data they have obtained. Greg and Kate are based in what I like to call the "Basement of Oppression", working on making slides and taking pollen photos. Amanda is pinning bees and creating agar slides with the different pollen loads, then photographing them. Finally, Mimi is working on sorting out all the different types of flowering plants found at each sites. Meanwhile, who knows what Amy and Caroline are up to? Reviewing papers and entering data most likely, tasks far beyond the comprehension of we undergrads.

In my case, I have been searching for the different plants in the common garden that we identified as having spittle. I spent all afternoon in the common garden yesterday, and it was a ton of fun, especially since I saw so many interesting things. The most interesting thing of all though, was watching a bunch of ants pick up and move an aphid that was sitting on a leaf. The aphid may have been dead or alive (alive would be so cool!), but since I was silly enough to forget my camera, I guess I'll never know.

Most of the plants I looked at have aphids on them, but I will need to wait until I finish looking at them all before I draw any conclusions. Meanwhile, our transect searches are done until next week. However, I have found aphids on many of the plants I saw during our Staffanson searches, so I remain hopeful!

| No Comments

You know you could barely contain yourself with all the excitement and anticipation ... here are the handles revealed!

Allegra- Legos
Amanda- Robo Cop
Amy- Joker
Caroline- Riddler
Daniel- Yea Mon
Greg- GT
Gretel- Queen Bee
Kate- Monster
Mimi- Penguin
Stuart- Drone

| No Comments

Hello everyone,
I'm glad you are all going to visit, neighbors. The echinacea is about to flower in full force, as are the leadplant (not today but soon), coreopsis in abundance, some goldenrod, purple prairie clover, dalea. Additionally galium, phlox, alumroot, ground cherries and lilies are blooming.
There will be many pollinator neighbors out next week trying to make a speedy delivery. If the weather is nice Mon AM, why don't you join us, neighbor?
See you all Mon.!

| No Comments

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


Team Echinacea had a busy week last week.

We finished seedling searches in the remnants.

We found ~22 spittle bugs masses in the CG.

We talked a lot about plans for many projects and started organizing and practicing.

We ordered supplies.

On Thursday afternoon we pulled and cut thistles in the CG.

We started and finished the "recruitment experiment." This experiment started off as the "recruitment experiment." I hand broadcast seeds in fall '00, '01, and '02 in plots with different burn treatments. Now we are assessing plant survival. (We need a better name for this experiment.) Last year there were over 820 plants alive. After a quick scan of the datasheets, I think 9 plants will flower this year. Wow, much less than 1%! These plants are taking a long time to flower. After entering data, Amy will give a detailed summary of our findings this year. Notes for next year: improve datasheets for entering fl pla info, avoid searching at empty spots, & map plants using tripod system.

On Friday the first plant in the CG started to flower -- one floret started male phase. We saw the pollen. No plants started on Saturday and on Sunday 3 plants started to flower.

| No Comments

So, *drum roll please*
Here are the possible candidates for the remnants that I will be looking at this summer.
In no particular order, I will pick 7 out of:

NW of Landfill
East of Town Hall
Yellow Orchard Hill

Depending on what Amy needs for her seedling searches, I can adjust accordingly, but these sites should give a good cross-section of isolated prairie remnants and well populated ones. Tomorrow, we will spend another hour searching for spittlebugs in the common garden, and hopefully enough will be found for a sufficient sample size. Phenology has also started in the common garden, and we have 4 plants that are flowering so far, with hopefully more by tomorrow.

We went out to the Glacial Lakes reserve today for a hike, and it was incredibly beautiful. We took lunch and hiked all afternoon, seeing some flowering Echinacea, noticing a bumblebee on one of the flowering Echinacea, and stopping every 5 minutes to look at a new plant. We even did a few seedling searches! (Stuart has trained us well....)

| No Comments

We finished searching for seedlings at the last site (Staffanson Prairie Preserve) on Monday. All the datasheets & maps (163 pages) are now organized in a 3-ring binder.

Here are a few highlights:

We found total of ...
> 22+1+5+1+8+2+24+4+13+0+5+7+1+0
[1] 93
... ninety-three seedlings at fourteen sites!

In August we'll go back and check the fate of every one of those seedlings. I hope we can find them all!

Mimi, Amanda, Greg, Allegra, Daniel, Caroline, and Gretel
looking for seedlings on the scraped roadside at Riley's site.
(They didn't find any here.)

Two possible Echinacea seedlings (not counted above) were noted. We should go back to check their identity within the next week. At site NWLF we left a pin flag at focal plant #13073. At site ERI the possible Echinacea seedling was at R102 (see page 97). Help me remember to check these!

We found about 500 other Echinacea plants within the circles, mostly juvenile plants and some adults (flowering and not).
> 16+16+25+131+63+33+73+24+46+5+16+46+6+11
[1] 511

The roadsides at sites ER and ERI were scraped. In the area that was scraped, all the tags are gone. We did see many little Echinacea leaves peeking through the gravel, but no seedlings. In some areas the scraping was deeper and some roots of old plants were pulled out. I collected one pulled root from the S side of the road on the W half of RI; I couldn't tell from where it was yanked. IMG_8873.JPG

The root was huge!

With our very precise maps of plants from previous years, we will be able to identify which plants are gone and which persist. It will be a challenge though. In some dense areas we may not be able to figure it out. Stay tuned, we'll bring the detailed maps and try to figure it all out in August, after peak flowering.


Gretel determining the identity of individual Echinacea plants
at the scraped roadside at Riley's.

The scraped gravel was piled in the ditches. Some plants in the ditches were buried and I expect that many of them will die. There will probably be a lot of weeds in and around those piles for the next few years (until the perennials take over again). IMG_9216.JPG

Two images (above & below) of the piles of gravel deposited
in the ditch on the S side of the road at Riley's.

Another highlight (no photos though):

It was a pleasure to visit Staffanson. Gretel and I mapped the focal locations on Sunday and saw a patch of Cypripedium calceolus in flower (past prime). Almost every focal plant in the West unit (unburned) had spittlebug spittle on it. Almost none of the focal plants in the East unit (burned) had spit.

We didn't use the tripod to take photos. The camera didn't attach well and the remotetrip feature isn't ready yet. We'll need to work on the tripod and practice using it. I think it holds great potential to speed up and improve our protocol.

| 1 Comment

Thumbnail image for P6200085.JPG
Those are just 2 of the many cool encounters I had yesterday on my bike ride past Hegg Lake and through Runestone Park. I also saw: pelicans, an American egret, a hare, tons of red-winged blackbirds and many other birds I can't yet identify, a wild turkey, a skink, and lots of interesting pollinators. I also saw some flowering Echinacea along the side of the road...I think Stuart probably knows about them (?) but I didn't see any tags and there ones that had flowered last year as well.

I thought I'd also flog the decisions we'd made last week about chores. The tasks are:
>sweep daily: G3--Mimi, the front porch--Allegra, and inside--Gretel
>clean the table tops and put away chairs daily--Amanda
>organize the bins and flags in G3 daily--Daniel
>shake out the rugs once a week--Amanda
>clean the bathroom once a week--?


| 1 Comment

Here's my proposal for my project. Read it. Savor it. Constructively criticize it.
jenkins echinacea proposal.doc

It's still very helter-skelter at this point and in need of much fine-tuning, so any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Also, I'll re-attach the docx files from my last post in doc format.
Echinacea Pollinators nesting2.doc
Protocol for Taking Pictures of Insect Specimens.doc

On a side note, yesterday was a really exciting day because I found my first seedling, we got two bikes at a garage sale for $25 each, and there were the Runestone Days fireworks in the evening. The party lasted long into the night in K-town, and I think I remember falling asleep to the sweet sounds of AC/DC You shook me all night long coming from the street dance. These folks know how to party. I'm looking forward to the kiddie parade tomorrow! Although Amanda and I were saddened to hear it wouldn't be a kitty parade.


My name is Allegra Halverson and I am from New Hampshire. I am an undergraduate student in Botanical Science at McGill University in Montreal, and a recent addition to Team Echinacea. Lots of things happened this week, so here are a few highlights:

We moved into the old town hall and I've been loving the bike ride to the farm in the mornings so everyone with access to a bike should bring it!

I saw a garter snake, two frogs, two deer, ground squirrels, a wild turkey and lots of birds.

Gretel and I selfed Megan J's prairie turnip plants at the landfill site on Wednesday. We also helped Andrea put out flags and fungal traps in the CG for her mycorrhizae project.

I started my plant collection at the landfill and common garden with 15 plants so far. I have to make a plant collection for a class next winter and will also make one for the Echinacea project at the same time to help future newbies with plant identification.

During this first week we received a lot of background information on the project and began the planning stages of our own projects related to the larger questions about Echinacea in the fragmented prairie habitat. Several projects surrounding the question of competition for pollinators were chosen along with pollen identification projects and one project about the aphids. My project will focus on how inter-specific pollen landing on Echinacea flowers effects style persistence. pollen competition proposal.doc

We developed a new key for the labeling seedling search maps:
-each plant in the circle has a dot with line drawn to the center and the distance (cm) to the focal plant written on the line

s with a circle around it: a seedling
B with a circle around it: a basal plant, not flowering
* with a circle around it: a flowering plant, should have a metal tag like this 7819.2 (.2 is the number of flowering heads)
N with a circle around it: a nail with a metal tag on it

any plot with a plant found in it, other than the focal plant, had a map made for it.
any plot with a seedling found in it was photographed and a pencil marker with a letter (for basal or seedlings) or number (for numbered plants) was placed 2 cm west of all plants
a toothpick was placed 5 cm from the seedling towards the focal plant

am i missing anything?

| 1 Comment

I should introduce myself to the new Team - I'm Ruth Shaw. I've collaborated with Stuart and the Team on this project since 2000. I'm a professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior. Broadly speaking, my research addresses questions about ongoing evolution in plant populations, and I have found this project on the evolutionary consequences of fragmentation of populations of Echinacea endlessly stimulating!
I'm just back from the joint meeting of the Society for the Study of Evolution, The American Society of Naturalists, and the Society of Systematic Biology, where I gave a brief talk about some of our results based on 7-years of data on "Inb1" an experiment to compare the effects of inbreeding and of crossing between remnants. This experiment has been growing in the common garden since 2000, and we have now documented that the degree of inbreeding depression is exceptional, far exceeding that found in other studies. Intriguingly, we have also found that both inbreds and progeny of between remnant crosses harbor more of the specialist aphid than plants derived by random mating within remnants.
A special highlight of the meeting is that our paper about estimating fitness, with examples (available via the main echinacea website), received the President's Award, chosen by the current President of ASN as outstanding paper of 2008 in the journal, The American Naturalist. Quite an honor!
I was out in Douglas County in late May for the early monitoring of seedling recruitment in the remnants, and I'm glad to hear that process is moving forward well! I'm looking forward to getting back out there and working with you all soon!

| No Comments


Hello, Echinacea lovers--

I'm Amanda Gallinat, a recent grad of Carleton College and brand new field assistant to the Echinacea project. After a quick transition from Northfield to K-Town (Kensington, to those of you who don't live here) I am finally settling into the daily routine of seedling searches, lunch, and more seedling searches.

On Monday we paid a visit to Staffenson Prairie and memorized the scientific and common name of each plant species we saw. Just kidding! We did get an idea of the general composition of the prairie, as broken down into four groups: C3 grasses, C4 grasses, legumes and forbs. I managed to leave with the ability to identify a large handful of species, and I'll be sure to update the Flog with my progress in learning all the rest!

Over the past few days, we've focused a lot of our energy on seedling searches, and it seems as though we newbies are really getting the hang of the procedure. So far we haven't searched any sites brimming with seedlings, but we have all seen some fine examples and each group has had the life-affirming experience of finding and identifying a seedling, if only once.

We've also spent some quality time discussing independent project ideas. My primary area of interest is plant-pollinator interactions, and I am excited to spend this summer investigating how the diversity of pollen carried by pollinators differs between remnant sizes (design details will be posted soon, so check in!). This should fit well with three other independent projects relating to competition for pollination, and might give us insight into why an increased frequency of pollinator visitation in isolated populations of Echinacea does not correlate with an increased seed set. Think we can solve the mystery? Stay tuned for updates...

If you have any questions or words of encouragement, feel free to leave them in the comments!

| 1 Comment

Hello everyone! My name is Mimi Jenkins and I'm an REU student with Chicago Botanic Gardens. I am from Pittsburgh, PA where I am a senior (one more semester!) at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring in Environmental studies and French lang/lit and a certificate in Global studies. This is my first real experience spending more than one day in the Midwest and I love it so far. The wetlands and prairies out here are gorgeous and I feel very lucky to be experiencing a new and exciting place and working with such an interesting group of people on such a worthwhile and fascinating project. I have never been on such a flat land or in such a small town, but the flat topography makes for nice biking (hoping I can get my hands on a bike soon!) and the small town is a nice break from the city for the summer. I arrived in Chicago two weeks ago and after an introductory week for the REU program doing lab work on soil samples and such (not my cup o' tea), I met Stuart, took pictures with the help of Jake Friedman of some of the Echinacea pollinators and visitors that are pinned and in boxes at CBG, and did a little research on the nesting habits of bees.

Here is the protocol we came up with for the picture-taking:Protocol for Taking Pictures of Insect Specimens.docx

Here is some of the info I found on nesting of bees commonly found on Echinacea:
Echinacea Pollinators nesting.docx

I am really excited about this field season and I wish I could stay longer! I am really interested in improving my plant and bee identification skills on the prairie, as well as my knowledge of statistics in analyzing data and applied ecology in general. I also hope that this experience will help me to hone in on what I want to focus on for graduate schools in a year or two. I am currently trying to think about what exactly I would like to focus on because everything sounds so cool but I am limited to less than 6 weeks of research so it must be a pretty precise question, such as: does one family or species of bee act as a more effective pollinator for Echinacea than others using the style persistence method, or what co-flowering species are the pollinators pollinating that also land on Echinacea by observing pollinators on other plants or looking at foreign pollen on Echinacea heads. I would like to work in the common garden and in remnant populations to get a good sense of how these questions might differ depending on the community diversity of the remnant and the health of the Echinacea population.
I went out wandering yesterday and I think some of the locals thought I was a crazy person for walking on the side of the road but until I can bike, I will explore by foot. I turned onto the first dirt road on the right off of Kensington Ave and found this pretty hillside prairie remnant at the end of the road. I wanted to go further, but the electric fence kept me from continuing. I saw a patch of something yellow flowering off in the distance. Along the path of the dirt road between two corn fields I saw what I think was brome grass, prairie rose, common milkweed, alfalfa and clover, and some others like thistles that I couldn't identify. I saw a big white bird that Stuart told me today was an American egret. I also saw some more of those cool turquoise dragonflies that are in the common garden. I regret not bringing my camera with me because the view at the end of the dirt road was so pretty--there were relatively few trees and you could gently rolling green hills for miles.

| No Comments

I heard a yellow-billed cuckoo from the farm house today. It was south of the farm house, perhaps in the South Field.

I went down to the common garden experimental plot around 9:30 or so. I didn't see or hear any black-billed cuckoos.

| No Comments

My family drove from IL to MN on Thursday. We arrived late in the evening and didn't have that much time to look around, but we did see a lot of tent caterpillars.

First thing Friday morning I went out to the common garden. I flagged plants and planned to mow a few walking paths because Caroline was coming to figure out which plants were going to flower in the inb1 experiment. I paused while mowing and heard a black-billed cuckoo. Then I noticed that there were a few flying around and I heard several calling. I am positive that there were six birds within earshot, but I think there may have been eight. I have never seen more than one a time. It was really neat. There was one calling east of the common Garden and three calling from the shrubs and boxelders along the west edge of the CG. They also flew across the corn field to shrubs next to the wetland west of the CG. Two birds were cavorting in the ditch and flew right next to me on their way to the cottonwood at the NW corner of the CG. Very cool!

It is good to be back in Minnesota. The common garden looks fine. The kids are in their element. I can't wait for the field season to start! But first: unpack, set up computers, clean the Hjelm house, bring beds to Kensington, go to graduation party, get sleep.

The township supervisors (Joe Martinson, Carl Hamen, and Ken Anderson) drove by inspecting ditches. They are planning to cut trees on the township road N of the driveway because someone can't get their combine through.

| No Comments

This is my first trip up to Minnesota this year. My goal is to locate populations of the species I want to work on this summer.

| No Comments

I drove up to Minnesota from Illinois on Monday night, May 4. I felt like I drove backward in time about two weeks. The trees weren't green, the brome wasn't above the thatch, and no warblers were in the yard of the farm. When I left on Friday, it felt like spring had progressed more than a week. Maybe I was just happy I got everything done on the to do list.

| No Comments

Amy and I were out at Hegg Lake last Tuesday and Wednesday sowing seeds for a couple of new experiments. Hard to believe there's still fieldwork to be done in the middle of November! It seems everything was pushed late this year. On Tuesday, as we were measuring and setting up plots, we experienced about every form of precipitation: light snow and heavy, wet snow and freezing rain and good 'ole regular rain. Luckily by Wednesday, there was little accumulation and nothing falling from the sky. We sowed my entire experiment, looking at the ability of genetically rescued plants to recruit new individuals to a population, and one third of Amy's, which examines both local adaptation and the relative potential of different populations to act as genetic rescuers. Here are some pictures showing ice around the edges of Hegg Lake and our attempt to get achenes right on the ground in our plots (utilizing kitchen scrubbers/mini-brooms to brush away vegetation).



| No Comments

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:



Hi all,
Lani, Denise and I are back in Chicago safe and sound. After such a rainy start to the day overall the drive was smooth and even included a Disney sing along. My reunion with my puppy, Raven, was filled with lots of jumping and tail wagging.
Photo of Raven from before I left for Minnesota...tried to take one tonight but she was too hyper.

Ben, Lecia, and Julie, I had a great time working with all of you and I wish you the best of luck in your future ecological endeavors. Everyone else I will see you back in Chicago or in Minnesota in the near future. Have a great rest of the summer Team Echinacea and we will keep you posted on our progress here in Chicago.

| No Comments

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.

| No Comments

It was an exciting day on the prairie. After a soaking morning rain, it felt hot and steamy. Just before noon the plants started flaunting their pollen and the bees took advantage. There was plant sex and bee sex and Team Echinacea jumped into the fray trying to keep up with the frenzied activity. Every team-member broke a sweat trying to keep up with all the bees. It was a crazy scene and the excitement in the air was palpable. The bees eventually outmaneuvered and outlasted us, but we had a great time. We left around 12:50 looking forward to another exciting day.

Unlike most of the shy bees, this rascal loved the cameras. She gave quite a show flying from head to head, daring us to follow. We caught her here spreading pollen all over her legs.

| No Comments

We had a busy day today. Reinforcements arrived to help on all of our projects. Ruth Shaw (U of MN) helped with phenology, bee tracking, PX caging, collecting pollen and crossing. Elliott Graham (Madison, WI) helped with bee tracking and PX caging. Jack Kiefer (Wadsworth, IL) is leading the plumbing initiatives and made progress on several fronts including connecting the main water line to the Hjelm house!

Great forward progress on a sultry day. Well, in late afternoon it was still with air temp of 85 degrees F and a dewpoint of 57 degrees F.

Thanks to all for a great day!

| No Comments

Less than 10% of the heads that we think will flower this season had started flowering as of Sunday. Flowering is so late this year! We'll walk through the Garden systematically tomorrow (Tuesday) to see what's new. It's possible one head (49.33 946.33 grn) will be done flowering tomorrow.

There's always something new and exciting going on when Team Echinacea is in full swing. After we all pitch in to assess flowering phenology tomorrow, Amy will work on her large-scale crossing experiment that requires erecting pollinator exclusion cages, collecting pollen & hand crossing. The fun doesn't end there. We are tiling and plumbing the Hjelm House, photographing floral development on Echinacea heads, measuring plants at the Hegg Lake CG and the main CG, taking ladder-high aerial photography of flowering plants in the prairie remnants, and chasing bee pollinators in the CG. And that's just tomorrow!

| No Comments

As is probably apparent in this recent explosion of posting, we've now got the Internet on the inside of the condos. Neither rain nor mosquitoes nor legions of caterpillars can keep us from our e-mail.

To demonstrate our unsurpassed powers of data transfer, I present to you.... a picture that is truly huge.

This is the most developed Echinacea head in the common garden* which is remarkable because this time of year is usually the peak of flowering, or so they say. In any case, I'll be taking pictures of it and some of its developmentally challenged comrades every day or so. The result ought to be a number of sequences that chronicle this awkward phase in their lives, followed by their blossoming and wild reproductive successes (or lack thereof). Yes, much like the reality TV stars that they are, these plants will have no secrets!

* except maybe for the 99 garden, where I did not dare venture

| 1 Comment

So about a week ago, Team Echinacea was counting and mapping tiny little seedlings. I was working with Gretel, and we had found a plant that apparently knew how to reproduce 47 times in one season. Yes, we mapped out 47 seedlings but not before a spray truck came along.
Because of the strong winds, we could not hear and were quite surprised when a large truck spraying chemicals on a nearby farm rode by us, emitting a putrid scent. Not wanting to breathe in chemicals, Stuart and Gretel began to yell at the spraying perpetrator: "Stop! What are you doing?!��?
The driver stopped, and we all moved upwind, away from the chemical mist. Stuart argued some with the driver who was standing close to the sprayers. Eventually, the driver realized that he was losing the argument (you are not supposed to spray people with chemicals) and drove away.
We decided to move to another spot, and on the way we saw a Bobcat (farm machine, not the animal) on fire. A bunch of cows stood around looking confused. Strange afternoon.

| 1 Comment


Here's a photo of the crew from the first day of the summer (Julie, Christine, Megan, Ben, Lecia & Gretel). Echinacea hasn't started flowering in our Common Garden yet, but it will soon. We are ready! Reinforcements from Illinois will start work tomorrow.

| No Comments

Andes, farm, remnants 051_1.jpg

| 1 Comment

Here's an update on the main research activities this spring. The cool spring with a late snow (~15 inches -38 cm- at the end of April) delayed burning weather somewhat and we think seedling recruitment may be later than in the past few years.

Recruitment/Establishment Experiment

On May 9 I mowed burn breaks so the DNR burn crew could burn the plots. They burned the middle unit at Hegg Lake WMA on May 28. Two plots were in this unit. Here's a photo of one plot just after the burn. Nice work! There are 3 plots to be burned at Hegg Lake WMA, two at Kensington Duck Refuge, and one a Eng Lake WMA. At the duck refuge I saw 2 Sandhill cranes and a Red-necked grebe (among the regular, awesome array of water birds).

Common Garden

Dwight, Jean, and I burned the common garden on May 22, starting just after noon. The weather was within prescription, but the wind was a bit strong and the fire jumped the gravel road and started some corn stubble. The fire worked its way to some reed canary grass and we managed to put it out there. If it had gone a little longer it would have torched the cattails and burned the whole slough west of the common garden. Whew!

The running fire was great in the 99S garden, but there were quite a few unburned spots in the main garden. We burn the CG every other year and we mow paths annually, so we don't have quite enough fuel for really complete burns. Maybe in 2010 we should augment the fuel load with some prairie hay.

A big tree just east of the CG caught on fire. It was hollow, but quite strong. It finally broke and fell over around 7 pm. To put it out we scraped all the embers and coal from the trunk with an axe and shovel. We couldn't reach a spot of punky wood 8 - 9 feet (2.5 m) off the ground. So I climbed up the trunk and used a 5 lb. pick mattock to scrape out the embers and punky wood. Then Dwight lifted the smith Indian backpack sprayer over his head and I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed. We put it out by around 10 pm. Exciting! We need to cut up the part of the tree that fell on the CG.

An adult bald eagle flew over the CG just as we started to burn and then again around 8 pm -- great!

On 24 May, Gretel and I broadcast seed over the CG. We seeded Galium boreale, Bouteloua curtipendula, and Schizacharium scoparium. Gretel, Per, and I seeded the ditch with many species of seed, including Stipa spartea and Spartina pectinata. We forgot to seed the 99S garden.

Seedling Search

On 27 & 28 May Ruth, Amy, Julie, and I searched for Echinacea seedlings in five remnant prairies. We searched about 75 circles with 41 or 50 cm radius and found 17 seedlings. Several had only cotyledons and the tallest first leaf was 24 mm. We got rained out yesterday (29 May). It was also cold and windy.

Hjelm house

Last weekend Pete, Dwight, Gretel, and Stuart cleaned out all the sheetrock and insulation (yuck) in the house. That was a job. We got the house all ready to have the floors sanded. We have a lot left to do to get the house ready for the main field season. The highest priorities are bathroom and computer network.

| No Comments

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


| No Comments

Well, thought I'd just say that I am safely back in Washington after a nice long drive. We were slowed down by a flat from a nail and a screw stuck in my tire, at least one of which was probably picked up in Minnesota. Other than that, thanks for the great summer and good luck in school or whatever else you may be doing. Jennifer and I finally got to talk to one of the naked Finnish men on Lake Isaac and we obtained a few words of wisdom. The most important piece, which I think I ought to share, is that "taking a sauna with a swimsuit on is like kissing through a screen door." That explains so much.

| 1 Comment

Per requests, here's the recipe:

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

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

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

| No Comments

Today was the last day of a great field season. We finished the the demography census of flowering plants. We surveyed all sites that needed it. We refound the last of the seedlings that we mapped this spring. And we organized our gear and put it away.

Here's a photo of Ian, Rachel, and Amy sorting flags...

| No Comments

Georgiana May and I had a great day working with Amy M., Gretel, Ian, Jennifer, Julie, Rachel and Stuart. Though we had specially chosen Thursday as having the most promising weather, it was raining when we arrived at 9, but that didn't stop us from piling into the truck for the trip out to the beautiful prairie remnant at Krusemark's where we relocated previous flowering plants and collected demographic data on them. The water resistant paper kept the maps from thoroughly shredding, and we finished the job - but not before 1. Back at the farmhouse, water had been restored (after a break the night before) AND there were 3! batches of cookies - great reward!! After lunch, Gretel and Jennifer visited several remnants to relocate seedlings we marked in May. Amy, Rachel, Georgiana and I did the same at E. Riley - it was satisfying to see even just a few survivors! Stuart, Julie and Ian surveyed at Riley and E. Riley. All this, under beautiful, warm sunshine - what a difference a few hours makes! Georgiana and I enjoyed a look at Staffanson and Hegg Lake on our way out back to the TC's. It was a great summer working with all of you!! My best wishes to all of you. Ruth

| No Comments

Hi Team,
I am safely installed back at home. The unpacking and laundry is done, and Costa Rica prep is in full swing. To those of you still in the field, I wish you steady hands on the surveying poles and expeditious dispatching of the demo maps. And to everybody, I wish happiness and good luck in life. It's been fun.
Take care, Amy

| 1 Comment

Despite delays on the runway in Chicago due to rain and a well planned air show I did make it home. I apologize for the delay in posting, I've had a busy few days. Unpacking, doing laundry then immediately repacking takes it out of me. I hope that your final week(s) are as fun as the previous 9. I will continue to either blog or mass email about things that may or may not concern Echinacea.

A note: After looking at my mom's purpurea I'm very glad that we study angustifolia. There are about six billion rosettes and heads on each plant.

| 1 Comment

KAP: KAP has not gone so well this summer. We went out to Staffenson last week, in an attempt to at least get a pretty picture to show for our troubles. The idea was also to get before/after photos of the liatris (liatrises? liatri?) blooming. We set up a 10m x 10m square near the boundary between East and West. Alas, due to unstable winds and our failure to bring more than one memory card, we weren't able to take too many pics. And, of those we did take, we only had one (ONE!) with three groundmarkers included and none (NONE!) with all four groundmarkers.

Today we went out again and, despite promising wind predictions, failed to get the camera up.

Team Bee: Amy is analyzing data

Team Video: Due to an encouraging article on BBC about time travel, Colin has decided to wait for this invention rather than watch the 1000 hours right now. He plans on sending back his future self to do the grunt work. Thus, when all video is reviewed, we will know that time travel has been perfected.

Team FA: Leaves and heads, done.

Demography: Going well. Gaining in speed and efficiency. However, many, many sites are left to do. Getting nervous about the end of the summer coming so soon.

Common Garden: FINISHED! Well, just harvesting left.

Hegg Lake
: Rechecks c. 1/3 done

Rachel's Sites: Almost done!

| No Comments

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

Echinacea garden 002.jpg

Purple variety, head status: indented

View image

Yellow variety

View image

| No Comments

Now you can get gallons of organic milk in Alexandria. I thought some of you would be interested

Ian and the blonde children

| No Comments

It is one of my greatest failures that after four summers in a part of Minnesota where there are more lakes than people I still do not know how to fish. Therefore, this summer when I am not measuring Echinacea I can often be found on a lake trying to learn how to fish. I have been only somewhat successful in this endeavor (as you can see by the picture below). However, with the help of Ian, my dad, and my Kensington friend Clint, I am completely confident that by the end of the summer I will be a mediocre fishing woman.

| 1 Comment

We were enjoying a delicious supper of curried chick peas and green beans in the RAJ mahal, relaxing in spite of the raucous shrieking of a gaggle of pre-adolescents in our usually peaceful backyard (e.g. the alpine glory that is Andes Ski Hill). We heard the tweens erupt into rapturous cheering and looked out the window in time to see Ian emerge over the crest of the mountain on his bike, reminiscent of Gandalf, back lit by the morning sun, boldly perched atop Shadowfax. After bombing down the black diamond, Ian cruised back to the mando with a hoard of teenyboppers hot in pursuit. In the throes ecstasy, celebrating their newfound hero, the aggregation of blond children called out eager questions to this mysterious stranger: 'Where are you from?' 'What's your name?' and yes, even, 'can I have your autograph?'

002.jpgView image

| No Comments

With the influx of work related postings, I thought I would shed some light on the day to day goings-on of the Andes' condos.

| No Comments

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:

| No Comments

Here's a photo of the measurers and datatakers at the Hegg Lake common Garden on July 26th.
(L to R) Kneeling: Amy, Amy, Jennifer. Standing: Gretel, Ian, Andy, Ruth, Julie, Josh, Rachel, Colin, Jameson. Photo by Stuart--he measured too.

| 1 Comment

At last, after car trouble aborted my trip last week, I made it back out to Douglas County to join in field work with Team Echinacea. What a difference from the 2 days in late May, when Stuart, Jennifer, Andrea, Amy Mueller, and I were there searching for seedlings in the remnants! On Wed, the team numbered 12, and we made great headway measuring plants in the common garden. We were undaunted by the heat and humidity, though we did welcome every breeze. Today, we had the benefit of clouds all morning, and 13 of us measured quite a few plants at the Hegg Lake experimental site before rain, which we'd been seeing in the distance all morning, chased us in for lunch. The weather canceled field work for the afternoon, but we received instruction from Rachel about the upcoming work to evaluate species composition at her research sites, and I conferred with Stuart on analysis of pollinator visitation data before I headed back to the Twin Cities. I enjoyed the opportunity to meet the new members of the crew and working with them and look forward to the next time.

| No Comments

Hi all,
So I arrived up at the field site about a week and half ago to finish up monitoring flowering and help out with measuring and demo. Except for the recent death of my computer's hard drive it has been an excellent start to my field season. As you may know flowering was about a week earlier this year with many more flowering heads than expected. I would have estimated around 800 (max) flowering heads but we had over 1,100 flowering in the common garden. Last year was also a huge flowering year (over 1,300 heads) because it was a burn year. I am excited to now have two years of flowering data on a large of plants in the common garden.

We have spent a large part of the last week I have been here measuring both in the common garden and at the hegg lake common garden. The hegg lake common garden was established back in May of 2006 to as part of my graduate research. It is about 6 miles from the main common garden on Minnesota DNR land. It has around 4,000 plants planted on a 1m X 1m grid. Today we had the entire field crew out at hegg lake measuring for a total of 13 people and measured nearly half of the entire plot just was great!

Besides the field work I have been keeping myself busy in rural Minnesota by fishing (Ian has promised that I will actually know how to fish by the end of the summer), playing poker, and going to a dirt track race. In the near future I plan on flogging all non-Echinacea related activities that can be done in rural Minnesota....however now I'm tired so it will have to wait until the weekend.

| No Comments

For my most recent blog entry I've made a video. It is what I believe to be a Bembix wasp digging a nest. I filmed it on the backside of the Andes hill in a really dry and sandy area. I edited it down a lot. Originally there were about 24 minutes of video, but I cut a lot of the digging out as well as time in which the bee was not visible. The link for the video is . Make sure to have speakers on for it, but if the music isn't your thing and you simply want to bask in the quiet glory of the wasp, watch it without sound.

| No Comments

After a brief retreat, during which I completed the seventh installment of Harry Potter, I'm returning to the world of field work, flogging and fun. [The book, by the way, was excellent, and I'm excited and willing to discuss it with anyone who has also read it, or who wishes the ending to be spoiled. Also, I want to give props to my younger sister, who predicted the ending with remarkable accuracy.]

This week we've been battling some classic Minnesota summer weather. The whole week has been extremely hot, and exceptionally muggy. To the consternation of some and relief of others, we switched our working hours to be an hour earlier so as to avoid some of the afternoon heat. Driving into work one day, we heard the MPR weathercaster announce that there were going to be "sauna-like conditions" and recommended that people stay inside and avoid strenuous activity. The hardy members of Team Echinacea persevered undaunted however, and we made good progress in the monitoring of the Common Garden and at Jennifer's plots at Hegg Lake. We welcomed back team members Rachel and Amy Mueller, and also received a visit from Ruth Shaw, who was valuable addition during this hot week, and who also came to Kensington bearing delicious lemon poppy seed cake.

| No Comments
| 1 Comment

On July 9th Team Echinacea temporarily became Team Platanthera. That is to say, we journeyed c. 170 miles northwest of our usual study area, around Kensington, to the Nature Conservancy's Pembina Trail Preserve near Fertile, MN. Here we searched for Platanthera praeclara, the elusive Western Prairie Fringed Orchid. The WPF orchid is a midwestern prairie wildflower that has been listed as federally threatened since 1989. For more information about the WPF, where it persists, and why it is threatened, check out this link .

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

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.


Kite Aerial Photography is not going well. Friday the 13th was a particularly bad day.

MORNING: In the morning Josh, Julie & I drove to NNWLF. We set out ground markers and got the kite up. After we got the camera up we realized that the remote control wasn't going to gain us much with the canon S70 because it take about 10 seconds between shots in the RAW mode. The interval on the timer is about 15 seconds. Then the camera battery ran out ARG. So, we went back to lunch.

AFTERNOON: Armed with fresh batteries we went back to NWLF and set out the ground markers, got the camera up, and took a lot of shots. Or so we thought. When we returned I found that there were no photos on the card. We're not sure what happened. Perhaps the LED didn't trigger the sensor. The problem was we didn't check. ARG.

EVENING: Julie & Josh painted the kite line at 10 meter interval, so we could gauge the height of the camera. When the paint dried, I went out the roll up the string and found it was in four pieces. Some animal had chew through the line in several places. ARG.

Well, we are learning a lot. We have a long way to go before we are a well-oiled KAP machine.

Of course there was a fine finish to the day. I was working on the computer and got distracted for a few minutes. Then I heard thunder in the distance and the power went off for a few seconds. I lost the first version of this lament. I then pulled the plug on all computers and went to bed.

| No Comments

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


| 1 Comment

It was Friday the 13th, the kind of day the superstitious worry about and the kind that I figure is just another day. The wind was pretty good, enough to pick up our Flowform 16 kite with our camera rig. We went out to North by Northwest of Landfill and set out our ground markers [images when our internet gets back up]. With a pretty good wind from the west, we got the kite up and the camera rig above the roadside population. We took two runs along the road, once south and once north (higher and lower). Overall, it was a good run.


| No Comments

Here are some notes including completed management and what's left to do...

| No Comments

the internet is down at Andes! and it has been for a week. Hopefully it will be fixed soon. Hopefully today

| No Comments

The Federal Highway Administration is seeking input about how to prioritize research on highway corridors and the environment (e.g vegetation, wildlife, wetlands, endangered species, brown fields, and water quality).

If you have any ideas, send them a comment.

They are interested in comments on big ideas, not proposals, before AUGUST 24, 2007.

I think we need to know more about how corridors of native plants along highways affects bees and other pollinators, including threatened insects. Also, does planting hardy native plants save money by reducing mowing and weeding costs? Do native plantings make driving a more pleasurable experience?

I'm also curious about the effect of planting native plants in highway corridors near native remnant prairies. On one hand, larger plant populations might improve the survival of plants and animal in the remnants by increasing the habitat area and expanding pollinator populations. On the other hand, planting non-local seed sources next to a prairie remnant might introduce genes into the local remnants that might reduce plant performance (growth, disease resistance, etc) and possibly hasten the demise of a plant population in the native remnant.

| No Comments

We haven't been blogging for quite a few days now because the internet has been down at Andes. Apparently the technician from Gardonville Cooperative Telephone Association couldn't figure out what's wrong, so he went home.

Here at research central, we've been luckier. No visits necessary from Runestone (but no time to blog either). When service is back up, we'll have lots to write about, including:

1. Our trip to Pembina to monitor Gretel's orchid management experiment. (We saw a prairie chicken and sandhill cranes, but no moose).

2. Failed attempts at kite aerial photography on Friday the 13th. (Plus details about what we learned in the process.)

3. Reports from the Bee team on their successful tracking endeavors.

4. A recap, or three, of BSA meeting.

5. Weeding & other adventures in the common garden.

| No Comments

I arrived in Chicago and am getting my presentation ready for the Botany meeting.

I heard that weeding went well today. Gretel said you all got a lot done. I know it's hard work. Did the 30-40 mph winds help? I miss being there.

| No Comments

... are boring.

I took about 118 photos this afternoon and the > 100 straight-down shots are not interesting. Straight-down shot will provide good data when we have the ground markers and get enough shots in the right places. But for visual appeal & interest, the photos are boring.

Flying the kite was fun. It was cloudy with 10 - 15 mph winds from the N - NNW. It was a challenge to get the FF16 kite up--a 15 minute ordeal. But when it got up, it stayed. It was tiring to take it down and then it easily went right back up again. I took shots of the CG and then went to Staffanson.

Here's one of the few shots with the camera tilted. I like it.


This is a view of part of the common garden from the West. The rows are 1 m apart and those things are tripods for the video cameras. The tripods weren't in use today and have plastics bags over them. Flags are more visible than the Echinacea plants. But If you click on the thumbnail, you'll be able to see some flowering plants in the larger image.

| No Comments

The toilet has again been modified. With the addition of the spider plant, the toilet is no longer a seat. It was uncomfortable anyway. The "maximum loading..." sticker came from the $10 hammock I bought from a garage sale. Not sure where to put it, but the trees near the pond seem to be the best bet. All I need is something to attach to the trees to attach to the hammock's chains.

Jameson has barricaded his garden in an effort to keep the enemy at bay. The enemy includes the likes of deer, bunnies, and probably ground squirrels.

Colin shot off some "fireworks" last night. A few of the pictures turned out well.

| No Comments

As the crew posts profiles of themselves, certain aspects of people's personalities are inevitably left out. Our complex identities are unable to be fully described in a few short paragraphs. In an attempt to fill some of these holes, I present Julie Nicol.

Julie displays her talent.

Who would have known there are such wonderful animal impersonation talents in Team Echinacea. It appears that Jameson can do a killer cat impression too; we'll work on getting it on camera.

| No Comments

Andy came back to the Mando today and he inspired us to create this
DSCF0683.JPG complete with swans
What is it you may ask? It's a revolutionary multi-functional piece of living room furniture. The full implications of this exciting new gadget are not yet realized. As a chair it has two or possibly three settings. It's great for playing guitar. It can be used as a planter. It also has ample storage space in the tank and in the bowl if desired.

| 1 Comment

The Bee team has been busy (I'm avoiding including a bad pun here) lately. We have implemented and perfected our tracking protocol in the past couple of mornings, and have gotten some good data looking at the flights between flowering heads in the Common Garden. Yesterday morning we successfully tracked the flight of one bee to 57 consecutive heads! For the most part, we have been faithful to the original protocol, although we have found that working in groups larger than two is more successful.

We discovered yesterday that the bee we have been identifying as Halictus rubicundus is actually neither that genus nor species. Stuart brought up a reference collection from the U of M, and our best guess is now that our bee is Melissodes cf. subillata.

| No Comments

Overall, today went pretty well. We managed to get the camera up on the small kite. CRW_3830.jpg

The wind gave us a few problems, though. The camera came down a few times and we had to run to grab it. CRW_3839.jpg

The big kite, however, had issues. After letting it out around 80 meters, the kite took a dive to the right... into a building. WHAM. This isn't a sound you want to hear. A few tears on the front, but not horrible. The problem came when Stuart was moving the kite. A gust of wind caught the kite around him. SNAP. Another bad sound. The carbon-fiber sticks were fine; an aluminum connector was not.

| No Comments

We had a great picnic at Elk Lake Beach on the fourth. The wind off the lake was refreshing & would have been great for kite flying. Instead we ate great food, sat on the dock, swam, kicked the soccer ball, tossed a disk, and ate great food. The company was marvelous: Amy, Colin, Dwight, Gretel, Hattie, Ian, Jameson, Jean, Josh, Julie, Per, Pete, Rachel, Sarah, & Stuart. Folks stayed for about four hours and some got a little too much sun. The water was pleasantly warm, but a little greener than usual. I didn't take any photos.

| No Comments

Here are some key resources:

Kensington general forecast and 48-hour surface wind forecast (from NWS in Minneapolis).

Hoffman general forecast and 48-hour surface wind forecast (from NWS in Grand Forks).

Current conditions at nearby weather stations.

| No Comments

We forgot our list of what specific heads to video for each plant, so I decided, in the field, to just video the one with a twist tie color that comes first in the alphabet. I think we'll use this method from now on as it is at least haphazard and it's easy to remember.

Also, three of our rigged batteries failed immediately. I hope my big batteries from B and H come soon!

Video Andy

| No Comments

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

| No Comments

This morning, due to a revolutionary development in our marking protocol, the Bee team members caught and marked 6 Halictus rubicundus in a relatively short amount of time. The secret to our success was capturing the bees and cooling them before any painting was attempted, instead of trying to mark them while they worked the Echinacea heads. Tomorrow we will spend a good portion of the morning marking bees in the common garden, and then hopefully be able to train the rest of the crew in, so that we can begin taking data in earnest later in the week. Read on for new and revised protocols...


| No Comments

Here's a list of our objectives for the week. Our goal is to gain greater understanding of the ecology and evolution of plants and their associated insects in fragmented prairie habitat. This week will be a peak flowering week for Echinacea this year (1 - 2 weeks earlier that most years). We will spend most of our time observing things related to reproduction. Get down, Echinacea!

| No Comments

We have finished two weeks of the summer field season and I feel like we haven't settled into a routine because we have been doing something new and different each day. It's exciting.

Here's a recap of accomplishments this past week...

| No Comments

Well, I got to the farmhouse early to get ready for videorecording. Put the tripods in the big blue tubs for easy transport to the common garden, and then worked on getting random assignments of plants, which were kindly printed out by Stuart.

After assigning plants to different cameras, Colin and I walked briskly to the CG to set up everything. It took much longer than expected, partly because it was the first time and partly because I am really slow. I'm not sure why -- I like to be careful and I have always been the slow one in the field, oh well.

One camera did not work after plugging in the doctored battery, so we pondered over it for quite a while. What was more alarming was that even the Sony-supplied battery stopped working in that particular recorder! I was worried at that point, so we tried another Sony battery and camcorder along with the doctored battery and the same horrible thing happened again -- no recording and the original battery stopped working! So, we hightailed it back to the farmhouse to figure things out.

After trying different combos of batteries, doctored connectors, and such, we determined that one of the doctored batteries was to blame. Either it wasn't charged enough, or maybe too much -- I will have to check with the voltmeter to find out for sure. It was a relief to know that nothing was permanently damaged -- I am nervous about this whole enterprise as it has been quite expensive! But, I am hoping that the data will be worth it.


| No Comments

With a contraption built to take accurate pictures of flowering Echinacea heads, I assumed that fluctuating asymmetry (FA) measurements were just around the corner. Boy howdy was I wrong. It turns out, as Stuart has informed me, there are many ways in which to measure FA, each as viable as the next. The most apparent idea, though potentially most flawed, was to simply measure the length of each ray floret and compare that to its complementary floret directly across the disk. Measuring 2 pairs of florets per head seemed simple enough, though it was soon found that there are many problems with such a simple procedure. For example, this idea doesn't take into account any herbivory/senescence that has occurred, though most methods don't. Also, any difference in widths between the florets was ignored. This plan obviously had to go. The quick fix solution to this was to measure the width of each floret as well, and compare these numbers separately. This again causes problems, since it doesn't take into account the varying shapes of individual florets, but rather the similarity of a total area. The florets can have a similar area and yet certainly be very much asymmetric.
The ultimate solution to these problems is to measure asymmetry with an all encompassing measurement rather than one that attempts to isolate single florets. Stuart suggested creating 2 circles of best fit; one around the ray florets and one of the disk itself (either the outer edge or the flowering anthers, both may present their own difficulties). These circles would each have its own center point, the disk circle would represent the "true" center of the head, while the ray center point would be altered by any asymmetry of the florets. The ray floret center point would be calculated based on the area of color, therefore taking into account the area of the floret without making any assumptions as to the shapes of individual florets. The difference between these two points would give a numeric value of asymmetry. It seems to be the best solution so far, but I'm open to any other suggestions. This plan, like the rest, definitely has its own problems.
In non-Echinacea related news, the chiggers continue to molest my legs, but have also (oh, so fortunately) moved onto the rest of my body. I now have a collection of bites that range from that spot between my shoulder blades that I can never reach, to inside my belly button, to the tops of my feet. Sure glad those suckers are small enough so I can't see them sneak into all of my clothing, yet large enough to cause so much damage. I'll keep you posted on how my itching develops.

| 1 Comment

Turns out, our camera wasn't saving settings properly. That's lame. I got it to work and have some slightly modified settings from Julie's post. Here's the rundown.

| No Comments

I seem to have been shanghaid into this team, at least in a supporting role. Andy bought some sort of super-batteries, which seem to have a different connector than the Sony Handycam cameras he has. So he calls on me to solder connectors for them. Turns out, our hack job only works on the newer models of Handycam, though we're working on getting the older ones to not throw up an error.

To get the newer ones working, we plug in the original battery, plug our hacked battery into the external power port, then remove the original battery. Doing it any other way makes the camera throw an error and not turn on fully.

| No Comments

The team formally called "Team Binocular" has now been christened "Bee Team" because of our apparent lack of need for binoculars. We found after some preliminary observations that watching bees with binoculars is pretty much impossible. There is simply too much swaying of brome to be able to track a small darkly covered bee. The wind also picks up too quickly in the morning, making the bees' flights very erratic and difficult to follow. We tried to follow the bees as they flew off the Echinacea heads, but they would usually catch in the wind and then disappear from our field of view. We also used a step ladder to see if increased height above the garden would help us, but it did not. This stage of the project was a tad disheartening and we began to doubt the feasibility of our project.
We did make some positive progress however, and found that we could often follow the bees with the naked eye. Many times we could actually follow the bee with our eyes as it flew to the next flower, although these flights were typically very short, often just to one of the closest flowers a few meters away or to another flower head on the same plant. The uncertainty of whether that bee is actually the same one led us to devise strategies for distinguishing this fact. People mark honeybees, so we figured that marking our bees the same way with a bit of paint on the thorax would be a feasible option. To determine the feasibility, I "pet" the bee with a bit of brome grass to see if we could mark the bees while they were on the flower heads. In most cases, as long as you moved slowly, the bees were not in the least bit disturbed and continued to explore the flower heads. We put small paint dots on several small non-metallic halictids that we figured we were not going to track due to the difficulty in identifying them on the fly. What was amazing was that we saw some of these bees again as we walked around the common garden not only about 5 minutes after we had marked them, but also almost an hour later when we returned to the common garden.
The most common bee species we saw was Agapostemon virescens, which is a Halictid with a metallic green head and thorax. This bee is fairly large and is also readily identifiable. We also saw another bee fairly fre quently, another halictid Halictis rubicundus. While this bee is also large and even easier to track as it flies because it is slower moving, it would also be harder to paint because it is somewhat more skittish and moves quicker and more erratically on the flower heads. Because of this, we have chosen to focus on Agapostemon virescens first and then maybe expand to other species.
Anyways, that is enough observations for now, but the opportunities for this project are exciting and seem very promising. Several things seem possible with this project (according to Stuart), including determination of home ranges, estimation of population size, and flight patterns.

| No Comments

Hello all,
So this is my very first blog entry so it will be lacking all the neat links to pictures et al in that are in other people's entries but it will talk about Echinacea.

Since this is my first blog I should probably spend a little time introducing myself. My name is Jennifer I am a in an inter-disciplinary PhD program, called LEAP, at the University of Illinois at Chicago in conjunction with the Chicago Botanic Garden. LEAP stands for Landscape Ecological and Anthropogenic Processes, it is an NSF funded IGERT program aimed at increasing biodiversity in human altered landscapes. For a much better description of LEAP see As for the Echinacea Project I have been involved with the project first as an intern back in 2003-2004 then as a graduate student (since summer 2005). My research mainly focuses on understanding how flowering phenology (when a plant flowers) shapes seed set, pollen movement, and ultimately genetic structure in a population. For more see my website at

To understand how flowering phenology shapes population structure we use a variety of methods. First we collect phenology data in the common garden. The current protocol has us counting anthers shedding pollen every other day. We then collect the seed heads in the fall and individually weigh a subset of the seeds to get an estimate of seed set. Why individually weigh seeds? Well it is the only non-destructive method of determining if an achene (the technical term for fruits in the Asteraceae) actually has a viable embryo. We know that 97% or seeds weighing greater than 2 mg will germinate and 91% of less weighing less than 2 mg will not germinate. As of this spring we have individually weighed (with the help of an amazing volunteer named Art) weighed 30,211 seeds. This June Art has embarked on weighing another 3,000 seeds from the 2006 flowering plants. So far we know that late flowering plants set much less seed than early or peak flowering plants. To get at the hereditability of flowering phenology we planted a second common garden (yes there is another common garden) on a site called Hegg Lake owned by the DNR. The site was planted with just about 4,000 seedlings in May 2006 and the plants will hopefully flower before I finish my PhD.

Finally, to understand how flowering phenology influences pollen movement we are using molecular genetic techniques, specifically microsatellites markers. Microsatellites are a molecular genetic marker that consist of repeating non-coding regions in the genome (eg GATGATGATGAT). Since they are repeating non-coding regions they mutate relatively rapidly so there are different number of repeats for the same microsatellite in a population--alleles. With these microsatellites we will be able to, eventually, take a seed from a known maternal plant and find out who the dad is. I developed microsatellites specifically for Echinacea last fall at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. I now need to determine of these microsatellites I found do they actually have enough alleles to conduct paternity analysis. While everyone else has been up in Minnesota flying kites I have been spending time in the genetics lab trying to get the microsatellites to work. After spending too long figuring out the optimal number of cycles and temperature in the PCR, plus how much, if any, Mg to add I finally have been having success with about 5 microsatellites.

Today I ran four out of the five primers on 16 plants (8 from the preserve and 8 from Steven's approach) and had multiple alleles!!! I had between 4 to 6 alleles just in these 16 plants. It was very exciting after spending so long playing with PCR conditions. It was very rewarding to run samples that actually worked and even better that all the microsatellites were at least moderately variable. My goal is to get 8 primers with all with around 6 alleles, which should be enough to do figure out who the dad is. For my next blog entry I'll see if I can figure out how to add pictures and I'll insert some images of my microsatellite alleles.

I think that is more than enough for my first entry. I will hopefully have more exciting news regarding the microsatellites before I come up to Minnesota (which is on July 15th).

Notes to self:
Equipment for MN
-2 meter sticks
-data logger (?)--talk to JF
Finish up at CBG
-put seeds into freezer--talk to AS?
-data entry for Theresa
-get tissue samples into fresh silica gel
-molecular work for John and Eric

| 1 Comment

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.

| No Comments

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.

| 1 Comment

Trying to make sense of the batteries!

For the camcorders, the batteries themselves carry a charge of 7.2V and 4.9 Wh. But, the AC adapter's output is 8.4V and 1.7A. Which to use? Perhaps the adapter is higher because there is some resistance in the cord going to the camcorder, but maybe I am just making that up.

Here is a link to a promising product, a 8.4V NiMh battery with a charger included! 40 bucks, though, so it would be $400 for all 10 cameras. Well, this may be worth it...would love your thoughts on this, SW.

There is a nice primer on choosing batteries here.

For our purposes, we can calculate battery capacity using the formula:

Ah = Watts x Time (h) you want to run the camera / voltage needed for the camera


Ah = 3W x 8h / 7.2 V = roughly 3.3 Ah or 3300 mAh

Here's a nice closeup of styles waving in the breeze and some shameless anthers shedding pollen:


| 1 Comment

Major initiatives for this week:

Flowering phenology in the CG: get the visors ready for data collection on Tuesday & Thursday AM.

Herbivory of rays in CG: get the visors ready for data collection. This data we could collect in the afternoon. We'll probably get better quality data if we do it separately from the phenology data collection.

Style persistence in CG: This data is best collected in the morning. Probably better to collect separately from phenology, but they could go together.

FA: Make bracket for camera and design sampling scheme to take digital images of heads (esp. rays) to quantify symmetry.

Pollinator observations in CG
1. Use video cameras to quantify visitation. The power source is an issue. Batteries would be much easier to use than electric cords. 12V DC sources are cheap & readily available. Andy, what is the voltage output from the transformers on the AC plugins?
2. Use binoculars to estimate flight distances.

Set up computer infrastructure: set up computer network (printer, visor sync station), set up hard drives (is 2.5 GB enough?), get software for raw digital images (UFRaw or irfanview), determine how to back up video footage efficiently.

Aerial photos. This can be an afternoon activity. We need to figure out camera settings, ground markers, and practice.

Style persistence in SPP. Collect data every 3rd day.

Move mowed duff in CG.

Discuss projects & teams with everyone.

These could wait:
Finish data collection in last 3 recruitment experiment plots.
Collect CG tissue.

| No Comments

For the past 12 years I've been studying Echinacea angustifolia on this little part of the prairie and I thought I knew a few things about the timing of its flowering. Every year, I've started the field season before flowering begins, so that we have time to get settled in and trained before we start taking data. Just after solstice has been our typical time to start. This year, I had originally planned the first day of work to be 24 June. Ruth & I thought we would want a week to search for seedlings, so we decided 18 June. That start date fit in with Dennison's summer schedule too. But we were a little worried that we may not have enough to do before flowering started.

Echinacea in the common garden started flowering a lot earlier than normal this year. Arg. We are behind in the sense that our equipment hasn't all arrived, we don't have all of out data collection protocols, the crew isn't a well-oiled machine yet, we missed the first days of flowering phenology data for a few plants, our computers aren't set up, reinforcements from Illinois (Gretel, Per & Hattie) arrived only hours ago, etc.

On one hand, I am bummed to feel behind and know that we need to catch up. This unanticipated stress, frantic rushing about, and sleeplessness is unpleasant. However, we will do the best we can, problem solving and thinking on the feet are the name of the game in field biology!

On the other hand I am exhilarated. The unknown is the raw material of science. Research is learning about things we don't understand, gaining new knowledge, making discoveries! We have learned so much about Echinacea and from that new knowledge, we have gained insight into basic biological processes common to other species. But, there is still much to learn, even very basic things, such as what causes variation in flowering time.

Well, when I feel like a headless chicken running about, then I know it's time to make a list. Hmm, a bummed, sleepless, exhilarated, headless chicken. I'll write the list tomorrow.

| No Comments

We ladies of the Raj (Rachel, Amy, Julie) Mahal are officially joining the flogging scene. In an effort to increase our cyber space visibility, and also repudiate rumors started elsewhere in this blog about potential negative characteristics of ours, we have decided to take Jung-Meyers-Briggs personality tests and offer to you, the readers of this field journal, the results. Amy was a iNTj, also known as a mastermind rationalist.... now aren't you glad we have her Stuart. Rachel was a eStJ, also known as a supervisor guardian...hurray she can lead the team and make good food later that night. Julie was a eNFj, also known as a teacher idealist.... so she can explain the significance of the project and keep us motivated with her random facts as we sweat and toil in the field.

Also, we have just been graced with the arrival of our fourth roommate, Amy Mueller.

This morning we kicked off the flowering phenology experiment in the common garden. It was a successful and efficient morning, despite a couple of small errors with our hard data sheets. Hopefully switching to data taking on our Visors on Tuesdays will take care of this. After we finished up in the field, we headed to the local berry farm, where each condo quickly picked themselves a large flat of delicious strawberries. Ian and Josh took pictures; maybe they'll post them at some later date.

Something not to forget this coming week is to get to Stuart our banking info, so that our labors do not go un-payed.

If any future summer residents of the Ande's Condos are T-Mobile users, be warned: the service here is non-existent. All phone business must be conducted 12 miles east of here, which although inconvenient, is quite a nice bike ride.

| No Comments

I am sitting here feeling the pain of many mosquito bites on several different parts of my body. I want to scratch them but I know that will only make them feel worse. The mosquitos are terrible here and at dusk you have to go indoors to avoid being eaten alive. I stayed outside to finish planting my garden. After I put on long pants and a long sleeve shirt I thought I could brave the outdoors, but after putting 4 plants in the ground I was forced inside by the relentless attacking horde. I'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Today we went into Alexandria. Alexandria in the only town around with more than 1,000 people. I don't know if that number is exactly right but it gives you an idea. Kensington is the closest town and it has a population of 286. Alexandria is a big deal around here. It's right off of I-94. It's motto is Easy to get to. Hard to leave. We went there to go to the grocery store and the laundromat. It's about 30 mi away. The grocery store is pretty cool -you can go to the website They even have a link to a live webcam of Alexandria there, which you can control yourself with the click of your mouse. To get there click on the bell at the top of the page in the banner. I bought some tomato plants at K-mart today while we were in Alexandria too. I asked in the grocery store if they had seeds but he thought I meant seeds for eating and directed me to the produce department. I asked where i might be able to get seeds to plant a vegetable garden and he directed me towards Wal-mart. He said, and I paraphrase, 'If you're looking for anything, Wal-mart's probably the best place to go'. I have a nice vegetable garden here now at Andes Tower Hills. Andes is a winter wonderland, except that the downhill skiing is a bit lacking. Now thought is hot and stuffy and mosquito infested. There are some beautiful lakes on the property as well as some cool forests that the cross country trails go around and through. I'll put some pictures up later.
Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes. It certainly seems so when driving around here. We probably go by 10 lakes on the 8 mi drive to work everyday and we see many more went we're out collecting data at the prairie remnants. Nearly every remnant has a lake next to it or in it or at least in sight of it. There are lots of wetlands and wetland birds. Everyday while working we see groups of pelicans floating in the sky or cooperatively chasing fish in one of the lakes. But enough of that, this place is also infested with mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, non-native cool-season grasses, and it's freaking hot. The temperature has been approaching 90 for the last two days and will for the next two. it's not supposed to be so hot in Minnesota. It is? As I sit here scratching my mosquito bites. It's 22:44 and I have to be at Stuart's by 8 tomorrow. The Echinacea are flowering early this year. There is a lot of data to collect. I really need to get to bed.

| No Comments

Dearest floggers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

;) Andy

| 1 Comment

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













| No Comments

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)

| 1 Comment

Dear Blog-stars,

Well, we are done for the week and it was pretty tiring, but we are doing well! Julie has nothing positive to say, only that our experience thus far has been 'buggy'. Indeed.

We are now kicking back in the mando and the Raj Mahal on an exciting Friday night. So exciting that I am bloggin'. We survived the 99 garden with its crazy rows and snippiness by all. I did have to eat a little crow because of some mis-lableing of rows on my part and the shocking rightness of Julie and Rachel. Needless to say, we consulted them in the inbreeding garden when Colin screwed up (again). He can, however, add much better than me.

Here are some pictures:

Big clouds at Hague Lake

Jameson planting his garden

Sweet sweet clouds and boring corn

Bee and loads of pollen this morning


| 1 Comment


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

| 1 Comment

Mowing went well today. The crew did a good job. I have some notes:

Rows 10 - 33 got blasted from the east by the grass clipping etc from the mower.
Rows 35 - 56 got blasted from the west.
Row 34 didn't get blasted. Row 34 was chosen at random, row 38 was chosen last year. Each year before 2006 I blasted the whole garden from either the east or the west. That was too inefficient.

Here's the schedule of not-to-be-blasted rows for the next few years:

year row
2008 31
2009 39
2010 36
2011 28
2012 34
2013 27
2014 32
2015 29
2016 35
2017 37
2018 30

I ran over 4 flags (loose or bent) and didn't hit any rocks. There aren't very many new gopher mounds. Look for new mounds far N, Row ~ 35, Pos ~925, and Row 56. I don't think I ran over any Echinacea plants. I was running blind in R~40-42, up to P935, and P865 in R10-12. Also, I had to add flags in R 10 far N. The brome is flowering super thick this year. The CG looks so different from last year because of the brome. Some brome infl are eye-level W of the garden in pos <910! Those fence posts in R 13.5 and ~38.5 are annoying and must go. The cottonwoods need to go to too--too much shade. Deal with trefoil & phalaris.

I can think of some things I will do differently next year. I'll only do them next year if I remember. Next year I'll have to look at this flog to find the unblasted row. Here's the plan.

in fall, leave flags in the 98 garden or put in staples
get flags delivered in plenty of time (consider color coordination)
30" are much better in non-burn years
sharpen blade, buy gas
mow entry paths & set up stairs
flag perimeter & unblasted row
mow perimeter
mow aisle on both sides of unblasted row

Orientation (print maps beforehand):
wear safety glasses, ear protection optional
place flags 10cm N of each plant
search for plants or staples
emphasize that plants can be difficult to find, but the goal isn't to find every one (measure if necessary to get good coverage in thick areas)
walk E & W in unmowed areas & anywhere on mowed areas
lift legs over rows
pull pins & collect plastic
start flagging in positions 860, 935, 960, 983, then flag on either side of unblasted row
coordinate so rows are flagged before mowing
after a few rows, get folks working rows 50 - 56 & 10 - 16. Don't bother flagging cg96.

Remove duff from all plants in an organized fashion.

flag bags
meter sticks (we need more, we only have six)
safety glasses
ear protection
mower sharp blade
gloves for all & gloves for SW. Get the XL; L is too small.

Plan to spread mowing over two days to avoid exhaustion. Sharpen blade in between.
After duff is removed weed thistles, sweet clover, trim shrubs & trap gophers.

To do--cut cottonwoods, ashes in ditch, trees E of CG.


well I just took a shower. Showers are a big event for me because recently at least they are very infrequent. I suppose I should start taking showers more frequently because my current living situation is more civilized than when I am at school and everyone else takes showers more or less everyday so ... well there are many reasons why i should take more than one shower a week here but if you want to know more i think that you should ask me. or maybe you should ask why I think it is reasonable to only take one shower a week. Anyway my hair and beard should be different now because the last time I bathed was last friday at a indoor water park in Ohio in heavily chlorinated water. My beard and hair is naturally curly/wavy but the chlorine straightened it out a bit. Let me tell you: It takes a long time to clean several weeks of oil, grease,and dirt off of you. I don't know if anyone is still reading this but as you might be able to tell this blog is not about Echinacea at all; up until now that is. But none of our lives are completely consumed by Echinacae, except possibly stuart's, so you should not be surprised by the varied content of this blog, and/or field log
and now for something completely different
I'm trying to stay until $13 a week for food this summer because at least I heard that that is the amount that we can get reimbursed. I calculated today that that is less than $1 per meal -in fact it is less than 62 cents per meal. I've spent a large chunk of it already (this being the latter portion of the first week) so if limit my spending to $5 next week and $10 for the remaining weeks i should come close to my goal
I've started to keep a running tally of all the ticks that i've found crawling on me or embedded in me. So far after the 5th day here and the 4th day of work i've found 15 ticks on me -3 of which were attached. I just realized that i'm missing a day so those numbers are approximate. Still that's a lot of ticks and several more than other people have gotten. i seem to be a tick magnet. Also a mosquito magnet but not as to as an unusual extant. I guess that it's not really worse than if i were back at the Homestead, where I perpetually had a mild case of poison ivy and was continually scratching myself and getting caught on the multiflora rose that has taken over there.
I just got a notice that i'm getting paid for the Alumni Reunion Weekend that I was part of staff for back at Denison tomorrow. i thought that I had already gotten paid for that so now i'll actually have some spending money, but i don't think i'll be needing it very soon anyway.
i bought a bag of cherries at the grocery store the other day. They were in a cart and all in bags that prominently said 99 cents apparently because they were very ripe. Anyway the cashier rang them as $3.99 a pound so i ended up paying more than $10 for the bag, which i didn't realize until 2 days afterward when most of the cherries were already gone. i'm going to go in with the receipt next time i go to the grocery store to try to get my money back. That might not be for a while though. Oh well I have to go to bed. Work is at 8 tomorrow because the Echinacae already. There are lots of things to do.
i didn't get to the completely different stuff. too bad
maybe tomorrow

| No Comments

I just finished mowing paths between rows in the common garden. I was so pooped by the time I pushed the mower to the truck, it took me 15 minutes to psych myself up to lift it into the truck (it didn't help that I laid down to psych myself up). I would've fallen asleep listening to the chipping sparrows and a N. oriole, but a mosquito told me she was hungry.

Now I am getting psyched to go back to the CG to look at the flowering plants for our phenology observations. I am shocked how early they are flowering this year. I peeked at the CG on Monday and thought we'd have a good week before they'd start to flower. I don't think they've ever started flowering by solstice before. Recently, the field season has started after the solstice.

These long days are a double-edged sword. We get all this daylight, but that means we can do field work for many more hours. I should clarify. The crew finished before 4:30 and went home--I can work for many more hours.

> (983 - 860 + 4) * (56-10)
[1] 5842

That's how many meters I mowed today. Well, I have to subtract

> (960 - 935) * 8
[1] 200

I carried the mower 200 meters around the 99 garden (in 8 trips). Next mower I get should be lighter than what we have now, a snapper 21" steel deck, self-propelled "M" model with a Tecumseh 6.0 hp engine.

Gosh, I was about to say something cliché about getting old & tired, because this seems like such a big job. But back when I was younger (e.g. last year) the garden was smaller!

OK, all this thinking is making my shoulders and back sorer--back to the common garden!

PS: Stuart, remember to bring the gas can back!

| 1 Comment

Today was a day of firsts, realizations and first realizations. It was our first unexpected change in schedule due to weather, and realization that the early flowering of many plants will mess with pollination experiments. It was also our first day in the Common Garden and possibly first experience with chiggers, as we have many unexplainable itchy red bites. I think that we all realized that it's going to be rough work out there. Mosquitoes swarm all over at all times, the sun/heat is unrelenting and there are thistle plants the size of Christmas trees to deal with. I realized that there is nothing better than a ridiculously long shower after a day in the field. It even seems to make sunburns hurt less, mosquito bites (of which I have many) itch less, and will always be the one place that ticks and chiggers can't get me.

Day 4 of the Echinacea project and still no blog postings from the ladies of the group. Not to pass judgment on the fairer sex, but they seem to lack general motivation. Hopefully their negative attitudes improve with time.

| 1 Comment

The field season is off to a great start. We've spent time collecting data on two experiments and we are getting new equipment & gear organized. Not everything is roses though.

We have determined survival of plants in our experimental "recruitment plots." Seeds were planted during fall 2000, 2001 & 2002 in plots with different prescribed burn treatments. We have kept track of survival every spring. Five plots down, four to go! We will write down our equipment list & the protocol for this experiment later this week.

We searched for and found seedlings in three remnants (sap, nwlf & kjs). The goal is to find plants of the 2007 seedling cohort and determine their survival this summer & in future years. We want to compare seedling recruitment & juvenile survival from year to year and among remnants. This project will offer insight into the differences in population dynamics in small & large remnants. We'll also be able to gauge masting in Echinacea.

Distinguishing between seedlings and small plants is difficult. Some plants were obviously seedlings because we could see green cotyledons or brown shriveled up cotyledons. Other plants were the same size as seedlings, but were obviously not seedlings because we could see remains of a dried up leaf from last year. Then there were some that we just weren't sure about: small plants with no leaves from last year and no cotyledons.

Some problems are impossible to solve right now (distinguishing seedlings). Other problems are solvable--and we have a lot of them. We have many new gadgets to get working this summer: kites, digital cameras, video cameras, high-precision GPS, etc. We will push some of our equipment to the limits (like using binoculars to follow flying bees). We're feeling a bit overwhelmed and worried that we won't have everything figured out before flowering starts. And flowering will start soon--one plant at kjs (#1919) looks like it could start flowering tomorrow.

Fortunately, field biologists are a resourceful lot. It is no surprise that Andy & Josh surmounted the problem that we had with downloading large video files.

We will face many challenges in our pursuit of efficient data collection in demanding, harsh field conditions far away from civilization with pressing time constraints. But science must move forward! New discoveries await! We are up to the challenge! Stay tuned to the Echinacea field log to read about new adventures of the Echinacea team...

| No Comments

It was a good day around Andes Tower Hill and the study sites. I think one of the top experiences was when Colin assembled the shower caddy the kind folks from the Andes gave to us and I am guessing that it will vastly improve our showering experience. We also got wireless after some skillful negoitiating by Andy. Working was good today, although it appeared that Echinacea was avoiding our study plots today and we only found two plants on one entire side of the whole plot and also found very few seedlings when doing the seedling counts. There were plenty of seedlings at the other group's sites however. Once back at Andes, Jameson broke ground on his garden and proceeded to work the dirt into something that would be palatable to his plants. We debated tilling the bunny hill and turning it into a large garden, but then decided it was too much work. I chased butterflies around the condos, and Jameson promptly laughed at me when I took a spill in my quest to capture the flitting, defenseless insects. Six of us went looking for some poor, orphaned furry creatures, namely baby raccoons, that Amy had found, but we were unable to locate them and instead picked up roadkill dragonflies. It wasn't quite the excitement we were looking for, but it was still good. Jameson's tick count for today was 5 and currently I do not have the expertise to comment on whether this is above or below his average.

| 1 Comment

Andy’s problems for the summer:

1. How to transfer large (> 2.0 Gb) of video from the cameras to the hard drives. Right now, it is taking 70 minutes per 2.0 Gb, which is really too long. I am hoping that if I can switch to Josh’s USB 2.0 computer the transfer rate will be much higher. This is probably the biggest problem I need to solve this summer, but there is not much time!

Breaking News!: I just used the USB 2.0 on Josh’s laptop, and the transfer speed is about 30 times faster – yahoooo! Now, I just have to figure out how to keep track of all the videos and how to switch them in the common garden without getting totally confused.

2. Deciding which variables to measure for the path analyses. Some we have thought of so far: population identity, inbreeding status, number of leaves, number of flowering heads, # of pollinators visiting per unit time, style persistence, distance to nearest flowering neighbor, distance from edge in the common garden. The final variables of interest would be # seeds produced and perhaps pollen viability.

3. I need to figure out how to test the viability of Echinacea pollen.

4. How to measure FA in the plants. Leaves and inflorescences should be measured in some manner. The disk itself could be measured for radial symmetry, too. On the inflorescences, the petals themselves can be measured, as well as petals on opposite sides of the head, or across the entire head, as it should be radially symmetric.

Some wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) webworm damage. Wild parsnip is an exotic weed found throughout the midwest. It's chemical ecology has been well studied by May Berenbaum and Art Zangerl at U of Illinois.


| 1 Comment

Whilst strolling around Andes Tower- being eaten alive by mosquitoes- I found myself well beyond familiar territory. The black-diamond slope "Warmgear" had betrayed my trust and led me to a farm field much further south than I had expected. In the treck through the soybeans, I saw 2 white tailed deer in the distance. Distracted by their graceful loping, I was startled by an explosion of feathers from a cluster of brush nearby. The most tremendously obese turkey in the history of people was flapping frantically to remain airborne. As it struggled to move away from me I began to think that I could run faster than it could fly. As I continued back to the condos, I started to wonder if it would have been smarter to have attacked the turkey rather than simply watch it fly to safety in the woods nearby. Had I punched it in the head, as I suggested aloud to Jameson and Andy later, it may have helped me meet my $13 per week food budget. I suppose you live and learn.


| No Comments

19 June 2007

Andy McCall reporting here. I drove from OH to Minnesota last Friday. It was a trying commute for a number of reasons. After preparing for the summer and trying to rid myself of a strange contagion I may have contracted in Costa Rica last month I took off from Granville, OH to Chicago, where I was to meet Stuart.

All was well until I hit the hellish highway snag that is Chicagoland. I was not expecting the horrors that I encountered. I WAS however, prepared for tolls on US 90, bringing about ten dollars in change. The first toll came to a grand total of 15 cents. I didn't know that anything, even candy, cost fifteen cents anymore. I used to buy subsidized milk in elementary school for that amount. The next toll was 50 cents - OK, the next toll was 100 meters later and was $2.50. I submit this question to you, dear reader, "What is up with that?��? Why wasn't it $3.00 in the first place? - I didn't even see a darn exit in between the tolls.

OK, enough about tolls. I called Stuart telling him of the construction on I-90, suggesting that I was 40 minutes away. Three hours later I arrived in Highland Park, right across the street from the Chicago Botanic Garden. We stayed for about 30 minutes, chatting through the din of the cicadas that had emerged en masse in the Chicago area. Stuart drove my car and we talked of many things, as we had 6hrs in the car.

After arriving in MN, I went down to Northfield for my 10th College Reunion. It was grand, and saw many a familiar face. I also got to visit Carleton's own prairie restoration, where I had worked years before under the tutelage of Dr. Mark McKone. I took several pictures of prairie plants and their associated insects. From the prairie you can even see Carleton's giant windmill. St. Olaf has copied us and now has a big one right as you enter Northfield on Hwy 19. I picked up Colin Venner at the MSP airport and then we were on our way!

Heliopsis Heliopsis_small.JPG

Amorpha canescens Amorpha_small.JPG

| No Comments

It was raining first thing in the morning so we organized visors, the Trimble GeoXH, fanny packs, radios, & other supplies. We have so many batteries of so many different types!

After the rain stopped we visited two remnants: BTG, one of the smallest, and the Staffanson Prairie Preserve, our largest. Ray florets on some Echinacea plants were sticking up. That's early!

Here's a list of some of the showy flowering plants we saw at Staffanson:
Heliopsis helianthoides
Galium boreale
Phlox pilosa
Rosa arkansana
Calylophus serrulatus
Delphinium virescens
Coreopsis palmata
Zigadenas elegans
Thalictrum dasycarpum
Asclepias ovalifolia

It was quite windy, so we didn't see many pollinators. I remember one Auglochlorella striata and a few large syrphid flies.

After lunch we searched for plants in one recruitment plot (#1 Eng Lake). The winds picked up to 25-30 mph with gusts around 45 mph (43 mph was recorded at the Alex airport).

Back at the house we dealt with paperwork and practiced using the visors.

I am looking forward to a good summer!


Folks arrived Sunday afternoon & evening. They moved into the condos at Andes Tower Hill. It seems like the housing will be good, but they have only 8 beds--we'll need more. Also the wireless wasn't working.

Here's a photo of everyone who had arrived by 6 pm.

2007-jun-17-moving_in.JPG L to R: Amy, Ian, Andy, Colin, Stuart, Rachel & Julie (Jameson & Josh were on their way.)

I gave them directions to Pete's County Market for food shopping. They should be settling in--by now, they should be asleep.

I am not asleep. I just moved furniture around so I could sit down at a computer next to the new dsl modem. I figured out how to connect the computer and here I am.

Here's the recap on the trip from Illinois: Andy picked me up after an arduous drive through Chicago. We made it to my folk's house by 11:30 pm. Saturday morning at 8 we picked up equipment from Ruth at the U of MN: computer, printer, survey station accessories (the station itself is in the shop), keys, dissecting scope, etc. Then I went to Metal detectors of Minneapolis at 38th & Cedar and bought a metal detector. I drove to my cousin Kory's graduation party in St. Cloud with my mom and from there we drove to the farm.

We'll start on Monday morning at 8:30. It might rain.

| No Comments

I'm not in the field yet, so this entry might be premature for the Echinacea Field Log. But I am excited for the summer to begin, so here goes...

This is the web blog for the Echinacea Project for the summer field season of 2007. This summer a lot of folks will be working on many great field projects that further scientific knowledge about ecology and evolution of native prairie plants in fragmented habitat. Our focal species is the narrow-leaved purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia. Most folks will arrive at the field site in western Minnesota this Sunday. I just set up this blog today. Kudos to the UMN library for making this blogging software available.

We are going to maintain this blog for the summer field season. I hope the blog will serve several purposes. First, we can keep track of the things we do so that we can remember what we did. I'd like to remember all the projects that we work on during the summer, but usually there are so many things going on I can't keep track. In my experience, on any given day in the field, I can't remember whether we did phenology observations the day before or two days before. This is something we need to keep track of because our protocol is to do phenology observation every other day. I hope this blog will help. Second, we can maintain open communication about data-taking protocols. When many people are taking data, e.g. measuring leaves on a plant, it is important that everyone measures in the same way. How much do you straighten a leaf? Do you start measuring at the ground or the base of the leaf? Do you hold the ruler straight up or the direction the leaf leans, etc. If we write down our protocols in a medium that allows easy editing and discussion, then it might help us all measure the same way. Third, we'd like friends and family to know what we are doing. So this web blog will enable folks to know what we are doing. I hope we can figure out how to share images easily.

Who is "we?" If all goes well, everyone working on the Echinacea project will be able to contribute to the Echinacea Field Log web log. (Should we call this a flog?) Folks are coming from many places to work on the project this summer. Students are coming from Western Washington University, Carleton College, Dennison University, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the U of MN. Andy is a professor at Dennison U and is driving to Chicago tomorrow to pick me up. I'm at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois. There'll time for more intros later. I need to pack up equipment & supplies.

| No Comments