Categories

2021 Update: Common garden experiments

Since 1996, members of Team Echinacea have walked, crawled, and ~sometimes~ run next to rows of Echinacea angustifolia planted in common garden experiments. Although protocol varies depending on the experimental plot, every year team members record flowering phenology data, measuring data, and harvest the heads of the thousands of plants we have in common garden experiments.

Note that these experiments are not really gardens. “Common garden” refers to the experimental design. Most of our experimental plots are prairie restorations, a few are abandoned ag fields that are manged as grassland habitat. Some plots have multiple experiments within. The Echinacea Project currently has 10 established experimental plots:

exPts01-10. To avoid repetitiveness of reports on yearly phenology, measuring, and harvesting, this project status report will include updates on all experimental plots 1, 4, 5, and 8. Reports for the others will be elsewhere: Jennifer’s plot (exPt02) Amy Dykstra’s plot (exPt03), the hybrid plots (exPt06, exPt07, exPt09), and the West Central Area common garden (exPt10).

exPt01: Experimental plot 1 was first planted in 1996 (cleverly termed the 1996 cohort), and has been planted with nine other experiments in subsequent years, with the most recent planting being Amy Waananen’s inter-remnant crosses. It is the largest of the experimental plots, with over 10,000 planted positions; experiments in the plot include testing fitness differences between remnants (1996, 1997, 1999), quantifying effects of inbreeding (inb1inb2), and assessing quantitative genetic variation (qgen1). There are also a number of smaller experiments in it, including fitness of Hesperostipa sparteaaphid addition and exclusion, and pollen addition and exclusion. In 2021, we visited 6,673 of the original 10,673 planted and found 3,085 alive. Only 79 plants were classified as “flowering” in exPt01 this year. This is a drastic decrease from the 484 plants that flowered in summer 2020 – perhaps it is a testament to the benefits of controlled burning (we burned in spring 2020 but not in 2021). In summer 2021, we harvested 77 total Echinacea heads in exPt01 (we have not finished the inventory process). In the fall, we added 403 staples to positions where plants were gone for three straight years. We also converted the flaple>s (pin flags bent in half in spots where we ran out of staples) into regular old staples. There are no more flaples in p1!

exPt04: Experimental plot 4 was planted to gauge whether Echinacea from small remnant populations could be genetically rescued via an outcross to larger, more genetically diverse populations. Caroline Ridley and other members planted this plot in 2008. We did not measure exPt04 this year, but there were no flowering plants. Location: Hegg Lake WMA

exPt05: The only experimental plot planted at Staffanson Prairie Preserve (SPP), exPt05, was planted to compare progeny of maternal plants from burned and unburned sections of SPP. There were 2800 plants planted originally, but high mortality made it impractical to visit the plot row-by-row. Now, we and treat the plot like demography. We use our survey-grade GPS to find plants in exPt05 that have previously flowered and add more plants to the stake file if new plants in the plot flower. In 2021 we found 11 living plants, three of which were flowering! There was only two head to collect, one head was toppled. Location: Staffanson Prairie Preserve

exPt08: Team Echinacea established quantitative genetics experiments to quantify additive genetic variance of fitness in Echinacea, with the idea that we can estimate evolutionary potential of study populations. The maternal parents of qGen2 and qGen3 are plants in the 1996, 1997, and 1999 cohorts. These plants were crossed with pollen from plants in remnants to produce seed for qGen2 and qGen3, which now inhabit exPt08. Originally, 12,813 seeds were sown in the common garden. Seeds from the same cross (shared maternal and paternal plants) were sown in meter-long segments between nails. A total of 3,253 seedlings were originally found, but only 443 plants were found alive in 2021. There were 28 flowering plants in 2021, and 32 heads. This is the most flowering heads in p8 we have ever seen, the first year plants flowered in p8 was 2019 and in 2020 five plants flowered. Note that there were an additional 14 heads collected from transplant plot.

Plot management: To ensure that the common garden environment is as similar as possible to the prairie environment we must actively manage it. This management includes removing foreign species and supplementing with natives. One of our main management methods is through fire. We were able to burn burn p8 this spring and hope to burn p1 this spring. We also collected seed to spread after burns including Schizachyrium scoparium, Bouteloua curtipendula, along with multiple species of Solidago and quite a few Asters.

Asclepias viridiflora in p1: In 2019, plugs of an uncommon prairie milkweed, Asclepias viridiflora, were planted in Experimental plot 1. The purpose of this experiment is to assess the survival and fitness of A. viridiflora. Assessing vitality will also provide a frame of reference for species conservation across modern prairies. We did not assess the A. viridiflora plants this year.

Hesperostipa demography:  In 2009 and 2010, porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea, a.k.a. “stipa”) was planted in experimental plot 1. In total, 4417 seeds were planted, 1 m apart from each other and all 10 cm north of Echinacea plants. Between 2010 and 2013, each position was checked, and the plant status recorded. Since 2014, we have searched for flowering plants. The data from this summer can be found here cgdata/summer2021/stipaSearch & Dropbox/CGData/Stipa/225_measure/measure2021 in addition to data in these locations there may be paper data sheets that may or may not have been entered yet. These data have not been processed yet.

Inb1: The INB1 experiment investigates the relationship between inbreeding level and fitness in Echinacea angustifolia. Each plant in experiment INB1 originates from one of three cross types, depending on the relatedness of the parents: between maternal half siblings; between plants from the same remnant, but not sharing a maternal or paternal parent; and between individuals from different remnants. We continued to measure fitness and flowering phenology in these plants. In 2021, of the original 557 plants in INB1, 95 were still alive. Of the plants that were alive this year, there was only one flowering plant. All individuals were planted in 2001.

qgen: The qGen1 (quantitative genetics) experiment in p1 was designed to quantify the heritability of traits in Echinacea angustifolia. We are especially interested in Darwinian fitness. Could fitness be heritable? During the summer of 2002 we crossed plants from the 1996 & 1997 cohorts of exPt01. We harvested heads, dissected achenes, and germinated seeds over the winter. In the Spring of 2003 we planted the resulting 4468 seedlings (this great number gave rise to this experiment’s nickname “big batch”). In 2021 we assessed survival and fitness measures of the qGen1 plants. 1,519 plants in qGen1 were alive in 2021. Of those, 2.4% flowered in 2021, this is down from 17% last year. All were planted in 2003.

Team moral: Measuring experimental plot 1 is a large task for the team, it takes many days, usually hot days, with a project as large as this it is hard for the team to feel a sense of progress each day. So this year in hopes to keep the team more motivated I(Mia) took two strategies. First, we constructed a physical progress tracker, each square represented a segment in the plot A segment is a section of a row, rows are too big so we break them into sections for ease of measuring. After each day of measuring the team was able to count how many segments they completed and color in each square. The team had fun with their square decoration and got creative with it, there was various themes, fruits, names for peoples last days etc. I also made maps of the plot for each day of measuring that were color coded with what positions have been measured and which ones haven’t. Lastly, I do believe I may have bribed the team with cookies. Having multiple different forms of motivation, really kept the team motived and made the project less daunting. It was also added some excitement into measuring p1, a task that isn’t known for being too exciting.

For more information on survival in common garden experiments, see this flog post about survival in common gardens.

Start year: Various, see individual listings above. First ever planting was 1996.

Location: Various, see above

Overlaps with: Pretty much everything we do.

Data/ materials collected: Measure data for all plots. All raw measure data available in cgData repository. Processed data should eventually be available in SQL database; ask GK for status of SQL database.

  • new p79 stake file: Jared made a cleaned up stake file for p7 and p9 that can be found here
  • p2 stake file/points shot: Amy shot points in p2 this year the points can be found in these 3 jobs
    • “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/convertedXML2021/P2_20210715_DARW.xml”
    • “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/convertedXML2021/P2_20210722_DARW.xml”
    • “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/convertedXML2021/P2_20210802_COLL.xml”
  • exPt5 stake file: plants is here: “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/stakeFiles2021/exPt05stakeFile2021.csv”

Products: Many publications and independent projects.

p1 more like pDone

On Friday we finished measuring p1! This was a big push to get it done last week and on Friday it took some expert timing and carful radar studying but we got it done.

This was a massive feat for the team, and it is super exciting to have it done. There are 10,673 total positions, out of that we found 2,899 basal plants, and 81 flowering plants, we found around 3,523 staples. Thanks to Wyatt’s Time Motion Study we know that we spent 198 person hours measuring p1. Below you can see our nice completed map of p1!

I now have some coding to do to get ready for rechecks but for now the team is having a well-deserved break from measuring p1.

Measuring P1 Progress Update

I missed a day but we have made significant progress measuring in the past few days.

On Wednesday (Aug 18) we dropped the number of segments from 32 to 19 in an afternoon with 2 measuring pairs. This was Allie’s last day measuring and we very much missed her today.

Today (Aug 19) we missed Allie and John but not so much that we couldn’t get anything done. The opposite in fact we got 11 segments done with 2 pairs (5 people) in ~4 hours. We have 8 segments left (woo!), today was very much a penultimate day and tomorrow might be a very big day out in p1 check back tomorrow to find out how we did.

Measuring p1 progress update

On Friday the team made great progress measuring, with the help of Gretel (World Record holder for fastest measurer) the team completed 16 segments in ~3 hours with 3 measuring pairs. We now have finished the 99’s both north and south and are off in the Q-gen/big batch experiment. We have a total of 33 segments left out of 141 segments so we are 77% complete! This is amazing and I expect that we will be done before the end of the week.

Measuring p1 progress update

Today the team continued working in the 1999 experiments. The measuring in these experiments feels slow because the plants are so densely packed but we got a good chunk done today.

With 3 measuring pairs in ~3 hours we got 12 segments done. The map makes it seem like all of 99north is done but there are actually 3 segments in their that aren’t done. Tomorrow we will finish the 1999 experiment and start Big Batch/Q-Gen which is the big green chunk on the map.

Measuring p1 progress update-day 4&5

This is a combined update from today and Friday.

On Friday the team measured 6 segments in ~1.5 hours with 3 measuring pairs in the 96, 97, 98 experiments. Friday also was when Amy W. made her annual measuring guest appearance.

Today we measured 11 segments with 3 pairs in ~3 hours. We completed the inbreeding, 96, 97, 98, experiments and started the 99 experiments. Tomorrow we will work on completing the 99 experiments which are a bit dense but we will get through them.

Measuring p1 progress update

Today we continued our efforts in measuring p1. We finished the miscellaneous assortment of experiments (SPP, 2001, and Monica’s 2003) and we started working on the 96, 97, and 98 experiments. We had 4 measuring pairs going and in the course of ~2.5 hours we completed 21 segments.

As you can see below we have made a HUGE jump westward. The team has done an amazing job cranking through the plot. Next we will finish the 96, 97, and 98 experiments and keep working west into the inbreeding 1 experiment.

Measuring p1 progress update

Yesterday we continued our measuring progress we starting working on a miscellaneous assortment of experiments, seeds from Staffonson, and two different 2001 experiments. The team completed 23 total segments with 4 measuring pairs in ~4 hours. This brings the total segments to 41 segments.

Below you can see the updated progress map, there has been a big jump in the purple between Aug 03 to Aug 04. The team will continue to work west ward today as we start the 96, 97, 98 experiments.

Measuring p1 Progress update

One of the large tasks that the team does every year is measure the first experimental plot (p1). This is the largest of the the experimental plots with a daunting 10,673 total positions. The plot is broken up into 46 rows, some of these rows are so long that we have broken them up into segments. There are 141 total segments.

I will be posting daily (or close to daily) updates on our measuring progress right here on the flog. Yesturday (Aug 03 2021) was our first day of measuring p1. We start with one of the inbreeding experiments, the team measured a total of 18 segments over the course of 3 ish hours with 4 measuring pairs.

Below I have attached a map of the plot, it is colored with which positions have been measured and what we have yet to do. There is a lot left to do but we have made GREAT progress for just one day!

Random Fun facts with Mia

The oldest plants in our experimental plots are turning 25 years old this year. Happy almost birthday to them! I set off on a mission to determine how many of these plants are still alive so we know how much cake we need to celebrate. These plants are in the oldest portion of our oldest experimental plot (exPt01), they were planted in 1996 and every year since we have visited each plant and recorded various traits.

The first year that these plants flowered was in 1999, a total of 10 plants flowered in this first year. If we look at survival as of 2019 only 251 of the original 646 plants are still alive. Of these 251 surviving plants five of these plants have never flowered! They have been alive for 26 years and never flowered, they have only been producing basal rosettes (just leaves nothing else), all these years. On the other end of the flowering frequency spectrum, one plant has flowered during 16 of the 26 years that it has been alive, that is a 62% flowering rate. To show the high variation in flowering frequency I made the following histogram, the majority of plants have flowered a total of nine or four times.

As I continue to work through the 2020 data from our experimental plots I will be posting more “Random Fun Facts” with Mia so stay tuned to learn more about what is going on in the experimental plots!