Recently in Stipa spartea 2009-2011 Category

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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Attached is the "weather-tested" search protocol. While my partner found more than a dozen out of 75 or so, I found two out of 100. Maybe I am not the right person to write a protocol about finding these plants.?!

It is very neat to think about these things being seedlings a year or two ago and now they are 20+ cm tall? plants that will produce seed.......sometime.
Hesperostipa spartea Search Protocol.docx

This is the 3rd summer in a row that I have taken part of the Echinacea project! I teach 9-12 sciences (10th grade Biology)at Great Plains Lutheran High in Watertown, SD. Conducting summer research is the best way to incorporate real science into my classroom! While I was a pollen collector and image maker the first summer and a pollen crosser last summer; this summer I am going to collect insects that may or may not be moving pollen. Following the floral neighborhood study of 2009, I will collect and categorize insects from different sites to make an inventory of insect life. I hope it will shed some light on exactly which insects can be found and relate it to the diversity of the plants at sites. It will also be a useful collection for my students in the future.

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I've been working with the Stipa germination data we collected from the common garden over the summer for Stuart's R class and, among other things, have come up with a little plot of the common garden. Filled-in blue circles are where we found Stipa alive, empty circles had no seedlings. A neat thing would be some kind of heat map for longest leaf or number of leaves, but I'll try that later.

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Tag #1028 was just found in the ground near the SW corner of Hjelm house porch.

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2010 Stipa Draft Protocol.pdf. The Google Docs wasn't really working out... Comment with your thoughts and changes.

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



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So I think I have my basic setup for the time-lapse photography for checking out those stipa awns. Using one of Greg's aquariums, a camera, tripod, computer and such. I'll be able to change the humidity soon enough and really start the experiment.

Some of the stipa, just as a test

And here's my setup. Off to the left of the aquarium is the 500W halogen light. The seeds and black felt are inside the aquarium. In front of that is the camera with a blind on the front to help knock down some glare from the front glass. Attached is the computer, which is what I'm using to control the time-lapse.

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So these are the Stipa that have been collected so far. I've labeled a couple of the places on the map.

I was having trouble projecting the data exported from GPS Pathfinder Office (trimble) and noticed that no coordinate system was defined (same issue with the DOQ maps Stuart gave me; the GeoTIFFs didn't have a spatial definition). The GPS data should be North American 1983 in the Geographic Coordinate System folder (right click on the data in ArcCatalog, hit the XY Coordinate System tab and hit the Select button). The DOQ maps ought to be using the NAD_1983_UTM_Zone_15N from the Projected Coordinate System folder. Dumping all of these files into ArcMap (and a little fiddling) gave me this nice map.

Next plan of attack is to make it work in GPS Pathfinder Office, as it's much less complicated than ArcGIS.

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Here's a picture of a Stipa seedling in the Common Garden. I'm about to create a form for entering data on our seedlings. We are debating if we should count and measure each leaf or count leaves and measure the length of just the longest leaf. Most of our time will be spent finding the plants and/or the toothpicks that we put in to mark them. So, taking the measurements of each leaf shouldn't add that much time. Any thoughts?

Stuart and I did an initial investigation of about 30 locations where Stipa was planted. We found plants at 40-50% of the locations! Caroline, what was your estimate for germination of these seeds?


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Josh, Gretel, Hillary, and Ian are also trained on the TopScan to collect the GPS data. The ideal is that the radio signal is at 100% and the designation of the location is described as Fixed - (Float will do and Auto works if you are unable to connect to a radio signal)
Josh and I plan to collect from Hegg Lake and the road adjacent on Monday. In the quest to collect from 300 parent plants, we are likely onto roadsides - where we are trying to stay at least a meter off the road and using plants about 5m apart from each other. Generally, as the black color appears and as the capsule opens around the pointy head, the seeds are ripe and will pop off as you gently pull up the stem containing the seeds.
I plan to be around Sun afternoon and Mon. to finish the collection before starting to cross some plants.

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Stipa collection is going pretty well, aside from the Topcon being flaky and not connecting to the data network for improved accuracy (it should be good enough for refinding tags along with the metal detector). We've collected from 85 out of the desired 300 so far, with different averages of seeds collected depending on the site. Landfill and Staffenson both had rather high averages, somewhere around 9 or 10 (no math here, just guessing based on what I was entering in the data fields) while some of the scattered remnants were closer to 5 or 6.

As for today, I'll be out with someone to go search at other sites, hopefully, but the weather is looking a bit questionable today. We'll see!

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This afternoon I spent some time with Terrasync, getting a data dictionary together for Hesperostipa seed collection. What does this mean?

This means I can take the GPS out, throw down a tag, collect some seed, then, while taking GPS points, put the various bits of information about the seed that I want directly into the Trimble. Geospatially referenced data with little effort!

Making sure that the GPS Pathfinder Office's transfer utility is pointed at the right device (GPS Logger on Windows CE, in this case), you click "Send", "Add" a data dictionary and browse to the file and Transfer All. You did create your data dictionary, right? No?

Well, take a step back and click on Data Dictionary Editor in the Utilities menu. From here, it's pretty straightforward to create your very own data dictionary. Add the Features you want (features being the kinds of points you want. I added one for Stipa individual). From there, you add Attributes. These are the fields you want to take data on: whatever would be on your paper data sheet. Annoyingly, text fields are limited to a mere 100 characters, so keep that in mind for your comments fields (always have one; you never know!). Useful ones for me were Numeric (tip! if you want to widen the number entry field from the measly default of 2 characters wide, put some large number as your maximum value; you won't be able to go above that, but that's not a problem for my tag and envelope number fields. Certainly nothing will be above 1000000), Text, and Date. After getting your dictionary squared away, save it somewhere and transfer it to the Trimble.

At this point you should take the new data dictionary for a test run. Restart the Terrasync software on the Trimble and start anew. Create a new file and start taking a point. See if the dictionary suits your needs. If not, go back, fix your dictionary and retransfer, overwriting the old one. Now you're collecting with style!

For the collection dictionary, I selected the following fields:
Tag Number (text)
Envelope Number (text)
# Seeds Collected (numeric)
Location (text)
Notes (text)
Notes2 (text; text is limited to 100 characters which may not be quite enough)
Current Date (date; autogenerated)
Collected By (text)

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

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

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

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






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Just a quick note to say that Stipa planting was completed by lunch on Wednesday. We were able to plant the vast majority of seeds where they were randomly assigned in the CG, 10 cm north of existing Echinacea positions on the whole meter throughout the garden. I think only two seeds were not planted at all; one was lost off the board and one was missing its awn and ID sticker. About a dozen seeds had to be assigned new locations, either because there was a hole or a rock in the way or because the plant/staple/can't find flag that we were measuring from could not be located. Not bad! To assign new random positions, I simply grabbed an ID sticker from the sheet of leftover, unused positions, removed the old sticker, stuck the new and marched around the garden planting the last of my legacy to the Echinacea project. The final task will be to replace the can't find flags that are associated with a Stipa seed with short pins. Hopefully, this will up the chances of finding seedlings next summer. To this end, we also put a toothpick 1 cm north of every seed. Best of luck to the crew put to this test!
Also, sadly, my time with Team Echinacea is coming to a close. I have accepted an offer for an AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship to work at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, DC starting September 1st (gasp, so soon!). I will be working in their environmental risk assessment group, spending MUCH more time at a desk and much less time running around in the field. I hope that my knowledge and skills as a scientist can do some good in the policy world. Thanks for a wonderful year, and a particularly wonderful summer. Stay in touch.


Here are two spreadsheets with information to be made into visor forms.
The first is a list of Echinacea positions we will measure from, in order to plant Stipa seeds. The relevant worksheet is the first one. In the visor form, I would like to be able to see row, position, Echinacea plant status and a column for notes. Breaking this list into multiple forms would be fine.

Complete list of Stipa positions81409.xls

The second is information for the "Next generation rescue" August seedling refind. I would like block, row, position and number of seedlings in May visible and would like number toothpicks, number toothpicks with no seedling, number new seedlings, longest leaf lengths and notes as editable fields.

Nextgenresc-For Aug 09 visor form.xlsx

And finally, Stuart, could you check out some Stipa bunches in Staffenson and decide how close we could comfortably plant seeds next to the Echinacea in the garden?

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In response to Caroline's request for more locations to plant Stipa in the common garden, I have selected 208 new locations at random. This map shows the new locations in green. (Blue dots are the previously selected locations.) mapOfStipaInCG2newsHighlighted.pngClick this thumbnail to see a full-sized image.

Here's a file listing all 208 location. It's suitable for making 208 labels for 208 seeds! stipaSeedLabels2.csv

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I'm about half-way through scanning Stipa seeds and organizing them for planting, and may have underestimated how many we have! I thought we'd have approximately 6 seeds per maternal plant and, if we collected from 400 maternal plants in the field, that's 2400 seeds. Stuart picked ~2600 positions to plant in. Plenty, right? Well, after assigning positions to seeds from 208 plants, I have 214 to go. That means I underestimated the number of plants we collected from. Also, we're averaging more like 6.4 seeds per maternal plant. Another underestimation. I think we need another 200 positions to comfortably assign all seeds to their new homes the garden. What do you think?

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I am slowly moving up from the basement to rejoin the world at ground level. Thanks to Caroline for the labels - three sets of slides of co-flowering plants of E. ang. are complete. The pictures are waiting to appear online. Meanwhile, succession of the Hjelm house basement table (door) occurs. As a flowering plant replaces another on the prairie, Stipa spartea seeds have replaced the slides.
Can you see a difference between the pictures?
Wouldn't you like to peg some Stipa and populate the board?
I think Someone (codename: drone or riddler) may offer a 6-pack to the person who fills the last seed in each hole of each styrofoam "board". It would be more fun than chasing a chipmunk out of the Hjelm house.

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I attached a map of locations in the CG where we will plant Stipa seeds. Black dots are Echinacea locations, red circles are potential Stipa locations, and blue dots are locations we will plant this year. We will plant each Stipa seed relative to an Echinacea location, maybe 10 cm South or 20 cm North. Any thoughts?


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Below is one of the scans of Stipa seeds collected from Douglas County. This particular set of seeds was collected from a plant at Staffenson Prairie Preserve. The seeds themselves are pointed towards the left side of the image, and extending from them are the long awns that give Stipa it's common name (porcupine grass). At this stage, they look less like quills, though, because they have dried and started to coil (click on the picture to see it full resolution and you can actually observe the coils and lots of other neat features of the seed, like hair and a dagger tip!). Out in nature, the coiling action would allow the seeds to attach to a disperser or to drill themselves into the ground in preparation for overwintering and germinating the next spring. We'll be scanning all of the seeds we collected (an estimated 3,000+ seeds from 431 plants), making digital measurements of seed length and width, and planting around 2,500 of them interspersed with Echinacea in the common garden.


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We are going to plant Stipa spartea seeds into the common garden. Here is a
file with target locations for ~2600 seeds. The seeds will be planting in ~269 batches. Here's a list of the batches: allStipaStarts.csv Sometime before we plant, Caroline will share a photo of one of those Stipa seeds.

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So, for those of you who were wondering what Team Echinacea will be doing tomorrow, here is the field protocol for the transect searches that we will be using.

Field Protocol.doc

Any questions, please let us know!

Also, we were searching for Stipa today (a prairie grass that Dr. Ridley is planning to add to the common garden), and this is the setup we used to mark the sites with the GPS:


The antenna allowed us to get about a 9 cm margin of error when using the Trimble. And yes, that is yours truly manning the antenna, ensuring that the carrier lock is not lost. We were all ready to tell the next person who asked us what it was that we were searching for nuclear waste.


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For some time, the powers that be on the Echinacea project have thought, "Wouldn't it be nice to compare all we've learned from coneflower with another important native component of the prairie?" Well, this summer, study of habitat fragmentation and its ecological and evolutionary impacts broadens to include an additional species. And the winner is ... Stipa spartea aka porcupine grass! The time is right now to collect the seed, which will be sown into the common garden later this summer.

Thumbnail image for stipa spartea.jpg

Here's a link to a page from the Bell Museum of Natural History about Stipa spartea.

Below, you will find the sampling protocol that Greg and I used to collect seeds from Staffenson Prairie this afternoon. Stuart may have thoughts to add and the strategy might change a bit as we run into the reality of different Stipa remnant populations. In addition to remnants, we will also be collecting seeds from roadside transects. Expect that challenge to be met later next week.

Protocol for sampling Stipa spartea in prairie remnants.doc

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