Categories

2021 Update: Gene flow in the remnants and measuring at WCA (ExPt10)

During the summer of 2019, Team Echinacea planted over 1400 E. angustifolia seedlings into 12 plots in a prairie restoration at West Central Area High School in Barrett, MN. We planted seedlings from three sources: (1) offspring from exPt1, (2) plants from my gene flow experiment, and (3) offspring from the Big Event. In summer 2021, Drake also planted plugs of other species (pictured below).

This summer, the team measured the 2-year old seedlings from my gene flow study in exPt10, as well as a few seedlings from the other plantings within the plot. The seedlings from my gene flow experiment are the offspring of open-pollinated Echinacea in 9 populations in the study area. I am assessing the paternity of these seedlings to understand contemporary pollen movement patterns within and among the remnants. In summer 2018, I mapped and collected leaf tissue from all Echinacea individuals within 800m of the study areas and harvested seedheads from a sample of these individuals (see Reproductive Fitness in Remnants). In spring 2019, I germinated and grew up a sample of the seeds that I harvested to obtain leaf tissue for genotyping.

Then, with the team’s help, I planted these seedlings in exPt10 in June 2019. I also collected seeds and leaf tissue in summer 2019 to repeat this process, but I did not germinate the achenes in the following spring because I was not able to assess seed set due to the broken x-ray machine at the CBG and then COVID-related restrictions. I hope to germinate those this spring and plant in summer 2022. I am working on extracting the DNA from the leaf tissue samples I have, which I will use to match up the genotypes of the offspring (i.e., the seeds) with their most likely father (i.e., the pollen source).

Experimental plot ten Pedicularis planting

To experimentally test hypotheses about how much Pedicularis canadensis, a native hemiparasite, affects the demographic rates (survival, growth, and reproduction) of other species, we planted plugs of P. canadensis in the center of a circle (with a radius of 20 cm) that contains 8 species. These eight common native prairie plant species are Echinacea angustifolia, Liatris ligulistylis, Solidago speciosa, Dalea purpurea, Pediomelum argophyllum, Sporobolus heterolepis, Koeleria macrantha, and Hesperostipa spartea. For all but Echinacea, seed was collected last year from local sources. Echinacea is the focal species of other experiments and had been planted previously. Echinacea plants served as a reference point when establishing our circles and were always directly west of P.canadensis. Circles are planted in 6 rows that were randomly selected from within the existing experimental plot 10. Rows 315, 436, 443, 643, 656, and 785 were selected. Rows contain 11 circles each, starting at 1m and going to 11m, evenly distributed 1m apart.

All circles were planted on July 29th, 2021.Plants were planted as plugs. Plugs were grown by Chicago Botanic Garden production staff before being transported to Minnesota and transplanted. Pedicularis served as the treatment and had 3 factor levels (0, 1, or 2 Pedicularis plants). Treatments were randomly assigned to circles and Pedicularis were planted in the center of each circle between August 9th and 13th, 2021. Plants in the circles were measured between August 16th and 20th, 2021.Traits measured were size and reproductive status.

Start year: 2021

Location: Grant County, Minnesota; exPt 10

Overlaps with: Experimental plot management,

burning p10 (West Central Area High School)

North winds and dry conditions persisted Monday (May 10) giving us an opportunity to conduct prescribed burns at p10, our experimental plot at West Central Area High School. In addition to being a home to 1400 coneflower plants and Amy W.’s gene flow experiment, these plots serve as an excellent educational resources for John VanKempen, high school science teacher at WCA and long-time member of Team Echinacea. John established an experiment in which each of the twelve 8 x 10 m plots is burned during spring, fall, or not at all. This will help us understand how fire affects the survival of Echinacea seedlings. John also uses these plots as a teaching resource for high school students at WCA.

Because this burn was conducted within Barrett city limits, John needed to get special permission from the mayor and fire chief. Plus members of the volunteer fire department needed to be present. So we met up with Jenny and DJ (from Barrett’s volunteer fire department) as well as TJ and Braeden (from Hoffman’s volunteer fire department). Before burning, Stuart, John, and I chatted with members of the volunteer fire department (who included several of John’s former students!). It was a great opportunity for us to learn from community members about their experiences with prescribed burns and their knowledge of prairies. For example, DJ owns a parcel of prairie just a little outside Barrett that was passed down from his father. TJ works for the DNR’s roving burn crew based in Elbow Lake. Talking with members of the fire department also gave us an opportunity to share a little more about the science behind why we conduct prescribed burns. We also shared information about the Echinacea Project’s research in west central Minnesota investigating how fire benefits native prairie plants as well as the diversity of insects, birds, and other species that call Minnesota’s tallgrass prairie home.

Oh and of course we partnered up with these local firefighters to burn 8 prairie plots! With dry fuel conditions and pretty heavy fuel in spots, we laid down wet lines and ignited a backing fire that moved slowly against the wind. In plots with primarily warm-season grasses, we secured the downwind (south) break and ignited down the east and west flanks before lighting a head fires that went screaming across the dry big bluestem. For plots with few warm season grasses and lots of brome, we chose to use exclusively backing fire in hopes of setting back the brome and achieving a consistent black across the entire plot. This technique worked well to achieve the desired result.

The final burn unit encompassed 3 adjacent experimental plots. The northernmost of these plots had dense big bluestem. We expected the fuel in this plot and gentle slope would produce quite a head fire. The plot did not disappoint. Members of local volunteer fire departments and the Echinacea Project worked together to secure the downwind fire break and blacken the downwind third of the burn unit consisting of three adjacent experimental plots. Once we had sufficient black and the east and west flanks of the unit were secured, we ignited a spectacular head fire that burned through the dense stand of big bluestem in less than a minute.

Thanks to Jenny and DJ from the Barrett volunteer fire department as well as TJ and Braeden from the Hoffman fire department for helping us conduct prescribed burns at the high school and sharing their experiences about fire and prairies in western Minnesota!

Temperature: 52 F
Relative Humidity: 24%
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind Direction: NE
Ignition time: 4:50 PM
End time: 6:12 PM
Burn Crew: Jared, Stuart, John, Jenny, DJ, TJ, Braeden

2020 Update: ExPt 10 and Gene Flow in the Remnants

During the summer of 2019, Team Echinacea planted over 1400 E. angustifolia seedlings into 12 plots in a prairie restoration at West Central Area High School in Barrett, MN. We planted seedlings from three sources: (1) offspring from exPt1, (2) plants from my gene flow experiment, and (3) offspring from the Big Event. To test how different fire regimes affect fitness in Echinacea, folks from West Central Area plan to apply regular fall burn treatments to four plots, regular spring burn treatments to four other plots, and the remaining four plots will not be burned. I’m not sure if they were able to perform these burns as planned in Fall 2020 given COVID restrictions this spring and fall, but John Van Kempen would be the man to ask about that. I believe they were able to do the burns in the spring.

This summer, the team measured the 1-year old seedlings from my gene flow study in exPt10, as well as a few seedlings from the other plantings within the plot. The seedlings from my gene flow experiment are the offspring of open-pollinated Echinacea in 9 populations in the study area. I am assessing the paternity of these seedlings to understand contemporary pollen movement patterns within and among the remnants. In summer 2018, I mapped and collected leaf tissue from all Echinacea individuals within 800m of the study areas and harvested seedheads from a sample of these individuals (see Reproductive Fitness in Remnants). In spring 2019, I germinated and grew up a sample of the seeds that I harvested to obtain leaf tissue for genotyping.

Then, with the team’s help, I planted these seedlings in exPt10 in June 2019. I also collected seeds and leaf tissue in summer 2019 to repeat this process, but I did not germinate the achenes in the following spring because I was not able to assess seed set due to the broken x-ray machine at the CBG and then COVID-related restrictions. I hope to germinate those this spring and plant in summer 2021. I am working on extracting the DNA from the leaf tissue samples I have, which I will use to match up the genotypes of the offspring (i.e., the seeds) with their most likely father (i.e., the pollen source).

Here are some fun facts about the seedlings we found in exPt 10:

  • The longest leaf we saw was 19 cm! Most were much smaller (see below).
A histogram of seedling leaf lengths, ranging from 1 to 19 cm
  • The leafiest plant we saw had 4 leaves (though one had been munched)
A histogram of leaf counts per plant, which ranged from 1 to 4
  • Overall we found 424 seedlings alive of the 598 that we searched for, or 71%. The ones we didn’t find are probably dead, but we’ll look for them again next year to make sure we didn’t just miss them.

I’m looking forward to seeing these friends again next year.

Allie gives a thumbs after successfully finding a baby Echinacea plant in p10!

Start year: 2018

Location: West Central Area High School’s Environmental Learning Center, Barrett, MN, Remnant prairies in Solem Township, Minnesota

Overlaps with: Reproductive Fitness in RemnantsPhenology in the Remnants

Products: Survival data for seedlings planted in summer 2019 from Amy W’s gene flow experiment, located in the cgdata bitbucket repository.

Team members who worked on this project include: Amy Waananen, John Van Kempen

2019 Update: West Central Area Environmental Learning Center

In the fall of 2018, the Echinacea Project scientists came to West Central Area Schools (WCA) and mapped out twelve plots to transplant E. angustifolia into the following summer. The WCA Environmental Learning Center has 35 acres of restored prairie, making it a perfect place to plant experimental plot 10. During the summer of 2019, Team Echinacea planted over 1400 E. angustifolia seedlings into the 12 subplots. Three plantings were performed: the first was a planting organized by Michael and had offspring from exPt1, the second consisted of plants from Amy W’s gene flow experiment, and the third planting had offspring from the Big Event. All plants originate from Grant or Douglas County, MN. To test how different fire regimes affect fitness in Echinacea, folks from West Central Area will apply a fall burn treatment to four plots, a spring burn treatment to four other plots, and the remaining four plots will not be burned. 

The team after planting the original cohort of Echinacea in experimental plot 10. It was a long day!

During science classes with John VanKempen, WCA high school students will assess the effects of differential burning regimes on the fitness of E. angustifolia. For the first time this fall, juniors in VanKempen’s classes used data they collected on plants to answer their own scientific inquiries. Students developed hypotheses, then measured various morphological traits on surviving Echinacea in the 12 plots. The students used the data they collected to create graphs based on their data. VanKempen plans to continually integrate these Echinacea experimental plots into his classroom lessons and hopes other teachers at WCA will utilize the experimental plots for student science projects.

Start year: 2018

Location: West Central Area High School’s Environmental Learning Center, Barrett, MN.

Overlaps with: Pollinators and Echinacea male fitness, Gene flow in remnants

Data collected: Planting and survival data for seedlings planted in summer 2019. GPS points taken for plots. Planting data is available in the Echinacea Project ~Dropbox/CGData/195_plant/. Contact John VanKempen for survival data taken by his students. GPS points are available here: ~Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2019\planting2019\nailStakeWCA.csv

Products: High School Posters. Contact John VanKempen for info.

Full report on the 2019 planting at West Central Area

Hi all! If your looking for a report on planting at WCA (and you have access to the dropbox), here’s where you can find all the necessary files:

\Dropbox\CGData\185_germinate\germinate2019

\Dropbox\CGData\195_plant\plant2019

\Dropbox\geospatialDataBackup2019\planting2019

Additionally, you can read the full report here: \Dropbox\CGData\195_plant\plant2019\plantingReport.docx

Have fun!

Michael

Seedlings, ready to plant!

Hello flog!

If you’ve been reading carefully, you’ll remember that we planted some seedlings here (at Echinacea Team “West” I guess) about a month and a half ago. Now, those seedlings are growing some big ol’ true leaves, and are almost ready to go in the ground!

Happy, watered seedlings!

We have ~1400 seedlings to plant in Minnesota, and more will be coming for College of Wooster. I’m currently working on putting together the master plan for putting these all in the ground. Watch out for a flog about that, because its going to be one busy, dirty day digging in the prairie

 

Plug Planting – Day 2

Welcome back to the next installment on this series of planting seeds for our new experimental plot. If you remember from the last post, I posed the question – do you think that this second planting would have more or fewer seeds than the last one?

More. It was more.

While we planted 800 seeds on Wednesday, on Friday we planted a good 1400 seeds. As you can imagine, this took considerably more time. But luckily, we had even more help! Anne and Priti both came to help with planting. Anne even came up with an ingenious way to use toothpicks to track which head each seed in a plug came from. Now, we have 2200 planted seeds! Seeing as our original goal was 1200 – I’d say that’s not to shabby.

Cotyledons are starting to burst through in our farthest ahead seedling and they are all chugging along at a steady pace. Personally, I love watching these little guys grow and get a lot of satisfaction from knowing that they will grow up to flower some day and be used in experiments for many years to come. That being said, it’s really going to be a monumentous effort to plant all of these guys. Hopefully team echinacea 2019 will be up to the task.

Oh yeah, be on the lookout for bios from Team Echinacea 2019 coming soon!

Anne grabbing a germinated seedling with tweezers

Priti selecting seeds to be planted

Plug Planting

Welcome to germination part two! Here, I’ve got an update to what’s been happening with our seeds! Since the seeds in the petri dishes germinated so well, they have been moved in to plugs. Now, I’ve said “moved into plugs” as if it was a simple scoop and dump of seeds into soil. Wrong!

In our first session, we planted exactly 800 seeds into individual pots in a tray. These are called plugs. I stressed that there were exactly 800 because of two facts that line up perfectly:

  1. We planted every single seed that we found that had germinated, so if 801 had germinated, we would have planted 801 plugs
  2. plugs come in trays of 200

So hopefully you can now see why that was so great. No need to start that last pesky tray!

Obviously this was a huge job, and while I certainly planted a lot of the seeds (being on my feet for 5 hours was actually a bit of a relief – I much prefer it to sitting), I also had some help! Kathryn planted about 200 of the seeds in the morning, which was a big help.

We plant again in two days. Will we have more or fewer seeds to plant on that day? Stay tuned in!

A planted tray

 

Germination – Success!

So it’s been a while since there’s been an update from inside the lab, but that certainly doesn’t mean that nothing’s been happening! Over the course of the last several weeks, we’ve been germinating seeds for the West Central Area Secondary School’s new Environmental Learning Center experimental echinacea plot. And I happy to say that we have many, many seedlings to plant!

Radicals galore!

I wont spoil quite yet what ends up happening to all these lovely emerged seedlings – you’ll have to wait for a future flog post to see that. What I will say is that once these little guys get going, they can really grow! Look for more flog posts in the future tracking these guys all the way out into the field.

I have to add that after spending many months working with number regarding echinacea plants, it’s very exciting to be working with the plants themselves. Especially new baby plants! If all goes according to plan, many of the seeds you see here have a very long (and very well recorded) life ahead of them. You get to say that you’ve seen them on the day they were born (are plant’s born? That’s a question for another day)