Recently in Projects Category

We spent the morning working on our personal projects. Elizabeth assessed style shriveling on her crossed flowers at Yellow Orchid Hill, where, she reports, flowering has recently passed its peak. Meanwhile, Claire and Jared performed crosses on the focal plants on the west unit of Staffanson. In P1, Will worked on his pollen preservation experiment and the Pollinator Posse (Keaton, Maureen, and Jennifer) surveyed P1 phenology. Further afield, Alli continued her flowering community analysis.

But the real action was at Hegg Lake, where I finished my first round of aphid additions to Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, and their hybrids in P7. I have almost doubled my efficiency since starting the additions, performing 20 additions in a little over an hour. I also surveyed the phenology of the 18 E. pallida flowering in the restoration nearby. Aphid survival and flowering phenology may seem pretty disparate topics--and they are--but they both inform our understanding of the consequences of introducing a non-native but closely related Echinacea species. Do they support the same aphids? How about their hybrids? How likely are they to hybridize? How much does their flowering phenology overlap? It's hard to stick to just one question.

Doubtless inspired by my example, the rest of the team came to Hegg in the afternoon, where we measured plants in P2. Many of us we were able to increase our efficiency by working alone instead of in pairs, and row by row we progressed eastward. Less than an afternoon's work remains.

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Today marked the first weekday of the peak week of flowering for Echinacea. We are working on phenology at all the remnants as will as P1. Several flowers are already on their last day of flowering. Despite the cold and blustery conditions of today the team did crosses for the compatibility project at Loeffler's Corner and set up the project at East Elk Lake Road. Cam and I worked on my exhaustive crossing project at Yellow Orchid Hill. We weren't able to collect pollen and cross until after lunch, but fortunately the pollen was not blown away by the wind! Tomorrow will be more phenology and compatibility!

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Here is the latest draft of my proposal to investigate the survival rates of Aphis echinaceae on Echinacea hybrids and the impact they have on host fitness:


I'm excited to get started. In addition to my main project, I will be conducting and coordinating a variety of side projects related to aphids and Echinacea hybrids:

1. Katherine Muller and Lydia English's aphid addition/exclusion experiment in P1.
2. Assessing fitness of the two Echinacea species and their hybrids in P6 (Josh's Garden) and P7 (at Hegg Lake).
3. Recording flowering phenology of Echinacea pallida at Hegg Lake, where they were planted in a prairie restoration.

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Flowering phenology data from summer 2013. This version contains data collected from 7 July, 2013 to 26 August, 2013. PhenDataMASTERcsv_28-Aug-2013.csv

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I defended my thesis on May 16th, presenting the results of my research on the hygroscopic motion of big bluestem and indian grass. I've attached the presentation to this post, though the presentation is a bit light on text. I'm putting together a section on my website with more text, which I'll link when it's ready.


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Now that the vast majority of Echinacea are finished flowering (except for the populations at Staffanson and one lonely plant at Northwest of Landfill), I've started piecing together a master datasheet with the first and last day of flowering for every Echinacea head that I have been studying. Please let me know if you have any comments or recommendations for statistical analysis, possible comparisons to other data sets, or better organizational methods!


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Here is a link to a csv of my data sheet!

And also, here's the script that I used in R.
Compatibility script.r.txt

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I couldn't make the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference, but I made a poster. It describes preliminary results from an aphid addition/exclusion experiment I conducted in the summer of 2011. Specifically, it examines the question of whether aphid infestation influences the presence of leaf damage by other herbivores.


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Look at them go! For the first few seconds of the video, anway,

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My first goal of the crossing attempt was to determine the rate of floret emergence. The second major challenge was to isolate individual florets so that I could control pollination. I first found suitable plants without any emerged florets, then covered the terminal spike with a mesh bag that was secured to the stem using a twist-tie. Stems were supported by tying them loosely to a pin-flag. Then, I marked the pin-flag with labeled fluorescent orange flagging. I followed this procedure for each of ten haphazardly selected plants at the Nice Island remnant.

To examine the rate of floret emergence, I visited plants every two to three days. The first burst of flowering occurred during hot days in mid-July. Following the first 2-3 rows of opened florets, I secured a length of embroidery floss around the spike to demarcate emerged florets from the still closed floral buds. I then immediately replaced the mesh bags following belt application. I determined that florets opened at the rate of one to two rows per day, progressing from the bottom to the top of the spike.

This species is primarily outcrossing. Pollination was attempted using haphazardly collected pollen at the same site with fresh toothpicks. Pollen was stored into new microfuge tubes in the freezer. I later applied this random donor pollen to floret stigmas at ten plants.

This crossing protocol had some challenges. First, the close organization of florets on the inflorescence made individual crosses impractical. Second, a relatively delicate stem did not allow for snug closure of the mesh bag and twist-tie, resulting in insects inside the mesh. Third, the size of the mesh (aperture size) was such that most stamens poked out through the mesh. It was concluded that crosses of this species will require a different approach.

For pictures, visit the Dalea page at The Echinacea Project

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

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

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

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

Here are a few photos of our projects.

1. Callin's Compatibility Project:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We're off to a great start this season. We've made good progress on our ongoing projects and folks are well on their way with their independent projects. We had better keep moving because the earliest plant in the Common Garden started flowering on the 21st!

Here's a list of independent projects for Summer 2010:

  • Laura: Phenology of midsummer prairie plants
  • Josh: Movement of Stipa spartea seeds
  • Lauren & Hillary: Performance of aphids on Echinacea and other plants
  • Katie: Efficiency of common Echincaea pollinators
  • Ian: Flowering phenology and mating compatibility
  • Greg: Breeding systems in the Asteraceae
  • Gretel: Reciprocal pollen interference between Heliopsis and Echinacea

I attached a pdf file of our ongoing projects.

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Lots of plans for this week! Here are some highlights.

This week we will start systematic observations of Echinacea flowering phenology in the CG experiment. We want to know the first and last day of flowering for every head of every Echinacea plant in the CG. The main event early in the week will be to put a twist tie on every head that looks like it will flower. We will also put a flag near every flowering plant with its location on the flag. We have to get the locations (plant ids) correct and get it into a database. As of Sunday, four plants in the CG had started to flower, how many left to go? We will also record flowering phenology at Staffanson Prairie Preserve. We will observe many fewer plants, but it's a long walk.

Under the supervision of DR, we will spend ~1h looking for more spittle masses on Ea in the CG.

Jennifer and Diedre are coming from IL this Sunday and will stay for the week. They will help set up the phenology flags. They also plan to collect tissue from plants in several remnants to do a population genetic study using microsatellites (DNA markers).

Daniel and Amy will make a plan for searching for aphids and juvenile plants in remnants.

Caroline will fill us in on her plans.

The competition of pollinators crew (M "floral neighborhoods" J, A "bee's knees" G, K "style" G, A "the experimenter" H, and G "pollen from the source" D) will plan and practice for their project. Here are some things they will do...
Mimi: characterize floral neighborhoods
Amanda: catch bees, get pollen on slide
Kate: catch styles, get pollen on slide
Allegra: choose plants for experiment
Greg: order digital microscope cam & collect pollen (from the source)

GPS (maybe): Daniel & Amy.

What are we going to do about that tripod?

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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!

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Here's a list of ideas for independent or group projects that we discussed today.

1. Improve procedure for mapping seedlings in remnants.

2. Investigate new aphid biology: distribution, behavior, ant associates, et cetera.

3. Investigate biology and behavior of native bees:
flight distances in CG
find nests
pollination behavior Echinacea in CG
distribution with next boxes
bumblebee species

4. Do "Time lapse" photography of Echinacea heads to visualize floral development.

5. Pollen collection from plants to develop identification key (with pollen collection from bees to assess generalization/specialization.

6. Quantify plant species richness in remnants, experimental plots, local preserves.

7. Map distribution of Echinacea's co flowering species (Thistles, sweet clover, Coreopsis)
Kite or pole aerial photography

8. Collect seed of Stipa spartea or Dalea purpurea for common garden study.

9. There are many more possibilities...

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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!

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Download file

This is a link to a sample survey sheet that is used for my research. It includes a list of some of the most common plants found in the prairie fragments.


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