Recently in Seedling Searches, Recruitment, and Demography Category

We started out the day doing what we do best: searching for seedlings in Experimental Plot 8 (a.k.a. Q2). Having braved formidable winds to plant them late last October, Stuart, Gretel, and Ruth were visibly relieved to see them pop up this spring. Since last week Team Echinacea has been diligently tracking down each seedling and "naming" them with colored toothpicks and row location coordinates, accurate to one centimeter.

In the afternoon we located and counted Echinacea in the recruitment experiment, a continuation of the project described in this paper. The procedure is really fun: we find the boundaries of the plots with metal detectors, triangulate points, then search within an area exactly the size of a regulation 175-gram Disc-craft Ultra Star disc (a.k.a. frisbee). Go CUT!

The best part of the day was tagging my first Echinacea. Maybe it just lost its old tag, but I like to think this is the first time this plant has ever born the silver badge. Sometime 10-12 years ago, this seed was planted. Now that it is finally about to flower, it has the honor of going down in history in the databases of the Echinacea Project, living out the rest of its life in the service of science. This 23rd of June, 3.65 m from the southwest corner and 0.79 m from the southeast corner of the northeast plot in Recruit 9, I named a flowerstalk "19061." Isn't it beautiful?


Doesn't the flower head look ripe? Stuart says we may start to see flowering as early as the end of this week!


Eventually the time came to leave my new friend and join the rest of the team. This is where they were:


(Can you spot the team?)

A nice day is Douglas County is a very nice day.

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The second week of the 2013 field season for Team Echinacea was excellent. We finished searching for seedlings and found a grand total of 102 seedlings in 13 remnant populations. We laid out the main common garden experiment with over a thousand orange, blue, and lime flags to guide our walking and to enable us to identify individual plants. We also began assessing survival in the recruitment experiment. On Wednesday Ilse presented results to the team on her aster analysis of 17-year fitness records for about 600 Echinacea plants in our main common garden experiment--details to follow. Pam took out her big new photosynthesis machine for its first trial run. Storms and wetness rained us out all day Thursday and we were without power for two hours on Thursday and about 18 hours on Friday. Team members are refining their ideas for independent projects and soon will be able to make their own posts. (IT folks at the UMN said they fixed the access problems-we'll see.) Stay tuned to read about their awesome experimental plans!

You can read about some of our team-members on our their Echinacea Project webpages...
Pamela Kittelson
Ilse Renner
Dayvis Blasini
Kory Kolis
Sarah Baker
Marie Schaedel
Reina Nielsen
What a great team!

Next week we aim to finish assessing survival, flag another experimental plot, measure more plants, work on independent projects, and purchase/make/organize equipment and supplies for our experiments. We are also looking forward to Amy Dykstra's visit. She will talk about her dissertation research.

We are making updates via twitter and facebook. These media have proved to be more reliable than this flog, but we hope that changes soon. See links on the Echinacea Project's main web page. We hope to set up a venue for sharing more of our photos--stay tuned for that, but here are a few photos from this past week...


Searching for seedlings at LF (the landfill site).


An orchid (Cypripedium calceolus)
flowering at the KJ site.


The team on the porch of the Hjelm house.


First trial of the new phtosynthesis machine.


Sorting flags to reuse & recycle.
We estimated 2600 flags here to reuse.

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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

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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:




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Flowering of Echinacea angustifolia in almost all prairie remnants was down this year. Overall, approximately half as many plants flowered this year as last. Two areas distinctly bucked the trend: flowering was high at Hegg Lake WMA, which was burned this spring, and at our main experimental plot, which was burned this spring. Burning really encourages flowering!

We finished our first round of mapping all flowering plants in nearby remnants and a summary of the raw dataset is shown below. Each line lists the name of a site and the count of demo records and survey records at the site--also the difference in counts. We call our visits to remnants to find and refind plants "demography," or demo for short. We call mapping the plants surveying because we used to use a survey station. Now we use a survey-grade RTK GPS (a Topcon GRS-1).

      site demo surv diff
1        x    1    0    1
2       aa  131  103   28
3      alf   79   52   27
4      btg    8    3    5
5       cg   20    5   15
6      dog    4    2    2
7     eelr   60   44   16
8      eri  153  122   31
9      eth    9    3    6
10      gc    7    1    6
11      kj   61   44   17
12    krus   69   21   48
13      lc    0    0    0
14     lce   58   45   13
15     lcw   48   31   17
16      lf    0    0    0
17     lfe   77  117  -40
18     lfw   65    0   65
19     lih    2    0    2
20    mapp    5    3    2
21    ness    7    3    4
22     ngc   28   12   16
23   nnwlf   20    7   13
24    nrrx   42   27   15
25    nwlf   27   10   17
26    on27   71   85  -14
27      ri  241  210   31
28     rlr    0    0    0
29    rndt   10    2    8
30     rrx   70   51   19
31   rrxdc    4    0    4
32     sap   80   38   42
33     sgc   10    4    6
34    sign    0    0    0
35     spp  126   78   48
36      th   19   12    7
37   tower   10    3    7
38 unknown    8    0    8
39     waa   10    6    4
40    wood   33   21   12
41     yoh   23    8   15

Notice that most sites have more demo records than survey records. This is because each data recorder enters an empty record at the beginning and end of demoing a site. Also, in certain circumstances we do demo on non-flowering plants.

Something strange is going on with the on27 site. I think someone may have entered the incorrect site name when doing demo. Also, lf looks strange, but is easily explained: lf is divided into two hills (lfe and lfw). We distinguished the two when doing demo, but not when surveying. Our next field activity is to verify the demo and survey dataset and make sure everything makes sense. Being people, we sometimes make mistakes in data entry. Because we know we make mistakes, we generate two separate datasets of flowering records (demo and surv) and compare them. When records don't match, we go back and check.

We assess survival and reproduction of Echinacea plants in remnants to understand the population dynamics of these remnant populations. We want to know if the populations are growing, holding their own, or shrinking. To figure this out will take a few years because plants live a long time. Estimating a population's growth trajectory based on just a couple of years of flowering records probably won't be that informative.

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I wrote this up last week, but neglected to post it on the flog. Here is a detailed protocol for the 2011 recruitment searches. See Wagenius et al. 2011* for a description of the seedling recruitment study.


*Wagenius, S., A.B. Dykstra, C.E. Ridley, and R.G. Shaw. 2011. Seedling recruitment in the long-lived perennial, Echinacea angustifolia: A 10-year experiment. Restoration Ecology.

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This afternoon, Amber E. and I (others joined in later) started organizing the data sheets from the seedling searches we have completed so far this season. We are sorting the new maps and other data sheets for each site by focal plant number, and adding the new pages to the end of each site's notebook. As we organize data sheets for each site, we are also reconciling the maps with the master data sheet for each site.

The data we have recorded on the frame data sheets will need to be entered into a spreadsheet, so that we can use the measurements to generate maps and distance matrices for those focal plants.

Here's an Excel file we can use to do the data entry. For each frame data sheet, 2 people should enter the data. The first person will enter data in the DE_1 worksheet, and the second person will enter data in the DE_2 worksheet. The check columns in DE_1 will then allow us to check for data entry errors. The file should be saved as "slingDataEntry2011Page[page number]".

I'll put together a master list with all the frame data sheet page numbers. The frame data sheets will be in the seedling notebooks. People will enter their initials when they have completed data entry for a page number.

Let me know if you have suggestions to make the data entry work better.

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Today we started the seedling search at Steven's Approach (SAP). The wind was strong and air temperature was chilly. We searched 3 circles; in one of the circles we found 6 seedlings! We drew a map and filled in a matrix, as we have done in previous years. We also tried out the new coordinate frame.
I (Amy) have revised the protocol. Please read it and feel free to suggest ways it can be improved.
Seedling Search Protocol 2011.doc

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Here's the protocol for re-finds in the remnants. Please look it over, and critique!
Protocol for seedling refinds 2010.docx

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Last week I assessed Echinacea flowering phenology at Grand River National Grassland south of Lemmon, SD, Samuel H. Ordway Prairie west of Leola, SD and Staffanson Prairie near Kensington, MN. Here are a couple of figures I generated to compare phenology at the 3 sites.
First, I made pie charts to show the relative proportions of flowering plants.

Next, to show more quantitative information, I used a stacked bar graph.

These figures illustrate that the flowering phenology is most advanced at Staffanson and least advanced at S. H. Ordway Prairie. Nevertheless, I am encouraged that there are lots of flowering plants at all 3 sites, suggesting that a long-distance cross involving plants from these 3 locations would be possible. I am considering tackling that project next summer, to assess whether there would be lower seedling recruitment from between-population crosses compared to within-population crosses at these 3 sites.

Here's a picture of some flowering Echinacea at Perch Lake, which is near the S. H. Ordway prairie.

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Here is a picture of 2 of the 3 surviving plants in my experimental plot at Perch Lake Waterfowl Production Area, southwest of Leola, SD.
P7081761forFlog.jpgEach of the 2 Echinacea seedlings is marked with a red party toothpick. We (Shelby, Janelle and I) found them in May when we censused my 2 SoDak plots. We found a total of 10 new seedlings at the Perch Lake site, all of which had 2 cotyledons but no true leaves. I returned to Perch Lake last Thursday, July 8. Sadly, 7 of the seedlings were gone, but I was able to verify that the 3 survivors are, indeed, Echinacea angustifolia.

The Perch Lake site is 1 of 3 experimental plots I (and my assistants) sowed in November 2008, to ask whether Echinacea from western South Dakota, central South Dakota and Minnesota exhibit local adaptation in seedling recruitment. More background and results from the 1st 2009 census are displayed in a poster that you can find in the September 2009 archives of the FLOG.

Unfortunately, the Perch Lake site was sprayed with a combination of herbicides (Tordon and Telar) in August 2009. The treatment was lethal to ALL the Echinacea seedlings that emerged in 2009. Thus, the 3 surviving seedlings from this year are the only living Echinacea in this plot! Fortunately, I was able to census the plot shortly after it was sprayed, and I am confident that I found the survivors up to that point.

I plan to present a talk about my local adaptation experiment at the North American Prairie conference in August.

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Today Josh and I searched the last two circles at Staffanson Prairie (SPP). Our last search centered on this focal plant:
We found 23 seedlings in the circles at SPP, bringing our grand total for this year to 74. In comparison, we found 29 seedlings in 2006, 135 in 2007, 239 in 2008, and 93 in 2009. That's quite a lot of year-to-year variation!

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Exciting news! Amy and Hillary found some seedlings at a Hegg Lake plot, the one thats on a hill (the hill with all the phlox on the side) near that blind corner. Anyway, there were nearby flowering plants so its great their reproducing! There were also a couple seedlings found outside the frisbee sized circle area.

here are the pics:

staffanson and recruitment (44).JPG

This one is a close up of the shriveled cots (with an achene next to it), can you see it!?!
staffansen and recruitment (45).JPG

The seedling finders, working hard!
staffansen and recruitment (47).JPG

This was in the morning, getting ready for work:
staffansen and recruitment (4).JPG

This is just a prairie lilly (Lilium philadelphicum) that I spotted at Staffenson. First time ever seeing one and I think their beautiful!
staffansen and recruitment (22).JPG

Lastly, this is a reminder for me to show Stuart my preliminary data collection sheet:
data table for project.pdf



Yesterday, Janelle G. and Shelby F. helped me do the May census on the Hegg Lake plot of my local adaptation experiment. There were some surprises, including 3 or 4 NEW seedlings!
Another surprise was a visit from this fawn.

Another interesting discovery was a cluster of egg sacs. Anybody know what critter would leave these?
Today and tomorrow we plan to census the two South Dakota plots that are part of this experiment.

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With the early spring we've been having in Minnesota, I was curious about whether the Echinacea plants were sprouting. My husband and I made a day-trip out to Douglas County last Saturday (May 1). I did a quick check of my crossing experiment plot at Hegg Lake. I found some of the toothpicks we used to mark seedlings last summer, along with some of the plants--which are now a year old. I plan to do a complete census in another couple of weeks.

We also stopped by the common garden. Here's one of the plants--already quite a bit of growth on the first of May.

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Here's a poster I presented at the Evolution 2009 symposium at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, September 2-4, 2009. The poster describes my local adaptation experiment, and results of the early summer seedling searches at my three experimental sites.

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We searched for seedlings in Caroline's Hegg Lake plot today. Old and new seedlings were found. Here are the data:
Nextgenresc-19 Aug 09data.xls

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Here is a draft version of a protocol for seedling re-finds in the prairie remnants. Please read and critique. Protocol for seedling refinds 2009.docx

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Today I found some healthy-looking Echinacea seedlings at my experimental plot in Perch Lake WPA near Leola, SD.
Thumbnail image for P8091480.JPGView image
The DNR sprayed this area (including my plot) last week, in an effort to eradicate yellow toadflax. It seems that my seedlings were shielded by the tall grass. It's also likely that the seedlings are not in a rapidly growing stage, so they may have been less vulnerable than other broad-leaf plants.

Here's another picture:


I was glad to participate in assessing floral phenology Wed morning and, with Amy, checking to resolve uncertainties remaining from this year's monitoring of the first recruitment experiment (not to mention a very fun lunch with the team!). We sampled tissue from closely neighboring rosettes, where it isn't clear whether they are the same or different plants, for eventual molecular analysis in Chicago by Jennifer and her team. Resolution of those plant identities should certainly help reduce the problem of counts of survivors *increasing* between censuses. But, in retrospect, I wondered whether the info we recorded was crystal-clear in terms of how this year's counts should be adjusted, depending on the outcome of the IDing, particularly for the zones where many seedlings were recorded. When the remaining double-checking is done, it would be good to keep this in mind...

Of the many, many other terrific things that I'm excited are being accomplished, I'll just comment that I'm happy to see Megan's post that she has sampled pollen and stored it in different conditions to check its long-term viability. Finding a way to keep pollen viable for a month to a year would pave the way for experiments I thought up while observing pollinators out at LF on July 7. I see that Megan noted the amount of pollen available for that sample wasn't large, so it would be great if another set of samples could be taken, also so other plants are represented.

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Apparently there is some question about what I have been doing lately. Daniel was partly right--data entry has been on my list. Remember checking the recruitment zones earlier this summer? And being rewarded with all those six packs? Well, there were some ambiguities in the data. I compiled a list 2009 zones to check.xls of all the things we need to check in the recruitment zones. Some of these (checking burn status) can be taken care of with a visit to the plot; other ambiguities may be cleared up by taking some tissue samples and sending them to Chicago for microsatellite analysis.

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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.

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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?

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Three engineering students from Northwestern's Engineering Design and Communication class built a specialized camera stand for the Echinacea project. Michelle Pineda, Christopher Moran, and HengJie Tan designed and built a giant tripod which we will use to improve our protocol for relocating Echinacea seedlings.

I told them about the paper maps we made by hand and how last summer Ben & Christine worked out a method to flag seedlings and make maps from digital images. To avoid issues with parallax they determined that photos had to be taken from fairly high up (at least 2.9 m from the ground).

Then the main problem was taking photos straight down from such a height. The hang-a-camera-from-a-pole method wasn't stable enough (or safe). Michelle, Chris & Heng designed several scaled-down prototypes for their class project. Christine and I looked them over and then, based on our feedback and class feedback, they built this stand...


They presented the stand to their class and me on Saturday, along with a detailed report. I can't wait to try it out! We will try it out this summer. We hope to avoid making paper maps altogether. We'll see if it works!

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I flagged 20 spots at the landfill site last Saturday. 18 are centered on Echinacea plants that flowered last year (blue flags). 2 are random locations (orange flags). Amy and Caroline are going there tomorrow to search for seedlings.

I noted other plants that were flowering on the east hill:
Zizia aurea
Lithospermum canescens
Sisyrinchium (1 pla)
Viola pedatifida
Astragalus sp.
Pediomelum esculentum - just about to start
Geum triflorum - done
Commandra umbellata - mostly done

On the west hill I noted these:
Senecio (1 pla)
Taraxacum officinale
Antennaria neglecta - done

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We searched for Echinacea seedlings in six prairie remnants last week. We found some! Over 2+ days eight of us found 57 seedlings.

Ruth and Georgiana found 5 seedlings in this circle (41 cm radius) centered on plant 12034 at Steven's approach.

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The classic seedling search position.

Young Echinacea seedling--cotyledons only.

Larger seedling with a true leaf.

We marked seedlings with colored toothpicks, so we can re-find them in August, and again next summer. I hope to be able to learn about initial seedling establishment as well as seedling survival through the first two seasons.

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Amy and I have been out at Hegg Lake since Tuesday afternoon, searching low and lower for Echinacea seedlings in my small "next generation genetic rescue" experiment and Amy's crossing and local adaptation experiments. We're finding quite a few seedlings- they're mostly just cotyledons (some amazingly with their little seed coats still attached) and about a quarter have put out their first true, very fuzzy leaf. Without the true leaves, the seedlings can be tricky to tell apart from the seedlings of one or two other species, but we've developed a fairly good search image and are making notes of questionable identifications.
Mode number of seedlings for each "position," that is a batch of 5-40 achenes sown: 0
Maximum seedlings found in a position in my experiment: 12
Maximum seedlings found in a position in Amy's experiment: 10
I'll also brag and mention that today I found the seedling with the longest true leaf so far at 42 mm. Looked to me like the plucky guy was flipping the bird. Ah, Amy and I certainly do succeed at keeping ourselves and each other entertained.
We completed searches for my experiment on Tuesday, made it through the crossing experiment Wednesday and today and plan to finish up with the local adaptation experiment tomorrow. Photos are forthcoming.

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This is the last week with Team Echinacea this summer. We still have some plants to measure in the common garden experiment and there are still some plants flowering. We'll get this done! Our main plan this week is to visit plants in the prairie remnants to see if they are alive. Last week we made a good start, but got rained out on Friday and the previous Monday (over 3" of rain).

We've been to 4 remnant Echinacea populations and refound the seedlings that we identified & mapped in May or June. We have 8 remnants to visit this week. Our maps have worked quite well--we have found almost all of the locations and the majority of seedlings were still alive.

We also have to map the new flowering plants in our remnants and note which old plants are flowering this year. That's a big job and we are making progress. We won't finish all the sites, so we'll have to come back this fall. But I hope we can finish up all of the big sites.

Assessing the survival and reproduction of Echinacea plants is important for understanding the population dynamics of these remnant populations. We want to know if the populations are growing (and perhaps expanding), holding their own, or shrinking (and perhaps heading toward local extinction).

We call our visits to remnants to find and refind plants "demography," or demo for short. We call mapping the plants surveying because we use a survey station.

Click here to read our equipment list:

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I'm working on improving our seedling search protocol, using perhaps photography, a physical grid, or some combination of things. Here's a couple photos I took to test out a locating device: toothpick plus coffee stirrer plus thumbtack. The first photo is in easier short foliage conditions and has two red markers and a blue marker somewhere in the 1m diameter circle marked by the meter sticks. The second photo is in more difficult high foliage and has two red, a blue, and a white. All are visible in both pictures, but perhaps not immediately apparent. Happy hunting!





This photo by Christine shows fours seedlings near Echinacea plant 2044 at StApp on 17 June 2008. The seedlings are mapped & uniquely identified on pages 56 & 56 of "Seedling search 2008." The ruler is marked with 16th of inches on the top and millimeters on the bottom.

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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.

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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.

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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

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