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What a week it has been! I arrived last Sunday to Kensington, MN and moved into the Town Hall. It's no longer used as a public building, it was converted into a residence and is holding 9 Team members this summer. My room is a newly added loft space overlooking one of the basketball nets in the main room.

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I started my first day on the project learning the ropes. I had a great introduction with "searching forStipa". What does that mean? Well, looking for a specific grass in the tallgrass prairie. It was difficult to spot at first (and still kind of is) but it is a very distinctive grass. Not much is known about the biology of this grass which is why it was planted in the experimental Common Garden so that it could be observed and recorded. Can you find the Stipa in the picture below? Follow my Twitter feed @summerofscience for the answer (posted July 2).

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I have travelled outside of the Common Garden to Hegg Lake twice, once with Marie and once with Kory. I helped Marie measure her F1 (first generation) hybrid Echinacea. I went with Kory and visiting scientist Jennifer Ison to learn how to capture and identify pollinators. I also visited Staffanson with Sarah B and Stuart. We tagged and flagged flowering Echinacea and Stuart gave us a tour of the prairie.

I am learning lots of new science and gaining valuable field experience. A typical day starts around 7 AM, I don't need to get up this early but it lets me take my time getting ready and having breakfast. We carpool to work which starts at 8:30. Stuart gives us the run down for the day and we usually start off with Stipa or Echinacea searches in the morning until lunch. After lunch, we work on our individual projects until the end of the day around 4:30. Since I do not have a project yet I spent this week learning about current projects and visiting the other field sites.

Conditions in the field are, well...different from the classroom or a lab. Mornings are nice and cool, but if it is damp the mosquitos are swarming. Since insects are of interest in this project we cannot wear repellant in the field. The skies have been clear lately, so as the day goes on it warms up quite a bit and the rays from the sun are pretty strong. We have to wear long pants because we are in a tall grass prairie with insects, snakes, and prickly plants. If we don't want to get our arms scratched or bit we should wear long sleeves. Long sleeves + long pants + sun = sweaty scientists. I've ditched the long sleeves but I have paid the price with a few scratches here and there.

Since it was a big and eventful week for I treated myself to a Saturday getaway to hike at Maplewood State Park about 70 miles away. I have never been to a forest that remote before and although I stayed on the trails I still saw a lot of wildlife. Turtles, dragonflies, birds, muskrats, and maple trees, of course. Even with a map and compass I still managed to get lost but I was able to admire the beauty of nature until I found my way back.

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After the hike I was starving and craving Thai food, something you can't get near Kensington. So I drove to Fargo, North Dakota (yes, like the movie) and is the largest city within 100 miles of Kensington. I didn't see much to do after lunch and was getting tired after hiking all day so I made the 93 mile trip back to Kensington.

Don't forget to check in for daily updates from the rest of the team on the flog and stay tuned for my next post.

-Miss Z

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Sara Zufan, aka "Miss Z," arrived from Chicago, IL (pop > 1 x 10^6 people) to Kensington Minnesota (pop = 280) this weekend and is already hard at work measuring plants and searching for the elusive Stipa grass in the sea of other grasses that is our common garden experiment. Miss Z is teacher in Chicago Public Schools at the Multicultural Academy of Scholarship. Next year she is teaching AP Biology, Regular Biology, and Earth & Space. This summer Miss Z plans to gain some hands-on cutting-edge field biology experience to enhance her professional development as a secondary school science educator. Miss Z is going to figure out how to bring her new knowledge into her classroom this coming school year.

Stay tuned! Miss Z will keep you posted via this blog and twitter on her research endeavors and experiences in the field this summer as she investigates the ecology and evolution of plants and animals in the fragmented tallgrass prairie with the Echinacea Project.


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