The Great Corn Disaster of 2022

This week, the weather looked promising in Minnesota, so Stuart, Jared, and I drove up to Minnesota on Wednesday to prepare sites for burning. On Thursday morning, Jared and I mowed burn breaks at the Andropogon pilot plot and remnants waa, mapp, and nwlf. After lunch, we were loading up the vehicle with more supplies at Hjelm when we heard a loud crash in the direction of Highway 27. We wondered what it was, and when we drove down the road, we discovered that a semi-truck full of corn had tipped over just south of p8! Three people had stopped to help, but the driver was still trapped inside the cab. Fortunately, he had been wearing his seatbelt. Stuart and Jared stayed to help while I drove back to Hjelm to find a ladder. By the time I returned, they had broken the front window and helped the driver out. Soon, lots of emergency vehicles arrived, so we continued on our way to Landfill.

The spilled corn was no ordinary cargo – it was worth $8 a bushel! The truck had dumped several thousand bushels, so a clean-up crew was sent to salvage the wreckage with a corn vacuum. They sucked up the corn and transferred it to new semi-truck. By the end of the day, they retrieved most of the corn, but there is still a glimmer of yellow in the grass.

On a brighter note, the pasqueflowers are blooming at Loeffler’s West. We ended the day on Thursday by mowing breaks and cutting brush at South of Golf Course. There is about an hour of work left at that site. Overall, it was an eventful day – and we hadn’t even started burning yet!

It’s spring at the Garden!

Are more words necessary?

Staffanson demap update

For the remnants, I finished data reconciliation for all the plants at Staffanson Prairie Preserve (spp) through 2021 in demap, our repository for data from the remnants. Each summer, we use the GPS to record the positions of every flowering Echinacea angustifolia plant within the transect at Staffanson, and we also revisit plants that flowered previously to check whether they are still alive, a process called total demo. This winter, I connected records between years so we can track the life of individual plants across the years.

Last week, I completed demo.out for Staffanson in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Demo.out makes one record for each plant that we visited each year and records whether it was living or dead, whether it flowered, and how many heads it had. This is the dataset that we can use to do longitudinal data analysis and study the demography of Echinacea plants over time. In 2020, both sides of Staffanson burned, and it had the highest flowering rate in the past 5 years – 275 plants! Of those plants, 33 flowered for the first time. In 2021, there was just one new flowering plant.

The Echinacea Project is now the Lilium Project!

As much as we love Echinacea angustifolia, we’ve decided it is time to move on. After 25 years of data collection, we have more than enough data to answer all of our long-term research questions. We’re still planning to analyze and publish the data we have, but we won’t be collecting any new data on Echinacea. Instead, we’re excited to announce that we are starting fresh as the Lilium Project! We’re looking forward to answering our burning questions about the reproductive biology of Lilium philadelphicum and the impacts of habitat fragmentation on this gorgeous prairie species.

Here’s our new logo!

Editor’s note: this was posted on April 1

Cleaning 2018 is done!

On Friday, volunteers Marty and Mike finished cleaning the last batch of heads from the 2018 common garden experiment. Huzzah! The volunteers had been working on the 2018 heads back before the pandemic started, and after a long break, 2018 is finally done. Many thanks to all the volunteers who made this possible, especially the 2021-2022 crew: Allen, Char, Elif, Laura, Luk, Marty, Mike, and Suzanne! Now, we have a lot of rechecking to do.

Pollinator fidelity at MEEC

On March 5, 2022, Maris Woldin presented a poster titled “Pollinator fidelity in burned and unburned remnant prairies” at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC). See the poster below!

Aphids at MEEC

On March 5, 2022, Allie and Wyatt presented about aphids and prescribed fire at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC). See the poster below!

Roadside pollinators at MEEC

On March 5, 2022, Mia and Alex presented the Pollinators on Roadsides project at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC). They focused on the bee abundance results since the specimens had not been fully identified to species yet.

Amy visits CBG!

On Friday, grad student Amy W. paid a visit to the lab at the Chicago Botanic Garden to x-ray Echinacea achenes for several of her projects including the Dust Project, interremnant crosses, and gene flow experiments. We’re thrilled to have a functional x-ray machine once again. Amy noticed lots of variation in her samples, so we’re excited to learn about seed set for these experiments!

Team Echinacea at TPE

On 18 February 2022, Amy, Jared, Mia, and Alex presented at the online Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) conference. Posters were available online during the conference (February 15-19, 2022), and conference attendees could ask questions via the chat on the 18th. Check out the posters below!