Recently in Pollination Competition/Aerial Photography 2008 Category

Project pollinator competition is going well, although it has had its issues, mostly involving my camera/pole/counterweight apparatus. I have chosen my plants and four sites, all roadside: Nessman, Railroad Cross, East Elk Lake Road, and Northwest of Landfill. I am surveying plants that have flowered synchronously except for Nessman where I can survey the entire population. In total, I will record data for about 26 plants and 33 heads.

It was very difficult to get my camera high enough to get a 3 m radius around the plants. Hence, I will be taking multiple pictures of each plant to try to get the distances from the potential competitors to the Echinacea. I've done some test shots in the field, and using 1m white "x"s made previously by the kite team has helped a lot to orient myself in the photos and to see how many pixels (not "pickles" like I said to a friend on the phone) are in a meter in each picture. I shot pictures for one of my study plants at Railroad Crossing and also took field measurements for distances from one plant to the other. I repeated the measurements with ImageJ and found that there is only a 2-6% difference in the methods, so I can use them interchangeably! I'm super pumped! This makes much more sense for sites that have few surrounding plants.


A couple plants at East Elk Lake Road. Each of the Xs are uniquely marked, and the cardboard next to the plant is its tag number.

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For my independent research project, I want to assess if plants in homogeneous Echinacea populations fare better with pollinators than plants in populations mixed with introduced sweet clover, introduced thistle, and native prairie rose. To accomplish this, I will apply several methods. First, I will randomly choose flowering Echinacea plants in several of the remnant populations to study. Then, I will record the number of introduced potential competitors as well as other native plants within a certain radius of the plant by using aerial photography. To get the camera high enough above the plant, I will stand on a ladder and hold a ~4m pole with the camera on one end and a counterweight (two wooden blocks nailed together) on the other. I will take two rounds of photos for each plant- once before peak flowering and once after. I will be able to determine distances from plant to plant by placing markers at one meter and calculating the number of pixels per meter when I review the photos.

cookies and pole apparatus 013.jpg
my giant pole and me.

After classifying the surrounding populations to the flowering plant, I will determine the pollination success by observing the styles of the flower. When a flower receives compatible pollen, within 24 hours the style will shrivel, indicating successful pollination. I can count the number of shriveled style rows in each flower head to determine its success as a pollen receiver. I hypothesize that the flowers in closer proximity to other flowering plants will receive less successful pollen visits than Echinacea in more homogeneous populations. Hopefully, I will collect data from more than twenty plants. The plants are finally flowering, so this week I will be choosing my plants of study and start counting styles when they emerge.

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