10 Sept 2015: A photo-journey


Smiles to begin the day!


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See ya!



Recruitment plot, ahoy!


Danny and Ali visible in distance


Captain K$ at the helm of USS Echinacea

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~*~ If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail ~*~ Katherine prepares to harvest!


Sub-optimal path to P2




“Make a face describing how you feel right now”




Musings from the field: “Do you think that the Vikings colors are purple and yellow because those are common prairie flower colors?”


“I like the clouds today! They’re very cloud-like!”- KGS




After yesterday, we thought we were going to need all of the mini-gBags!


Ali and Danny or Team Pallida in disguise?


Yessir yessir three bags full!


Yippee done before lunch!


The Pouch-Scarf: the field-fashion trend that’s sweeping the nation!


It’s like the cover of abbey road except that there’s only two of them, it’s close up, and they’re in the prairie



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“It’s the summer of mini-wheats and I’ve never been happier” – KGS

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Today several of us learned that “LetNo” is short for “letter-number”


Teamwork making the dream work!


Paper data sheets lost today: 0!


Don’t ask Ali how she feels about the Olympics


“Wow!! Look at the subtle gradation of color in this grass! It’s so beautiful!”


Hard times


Loyal follower


K$ saves the day


Danny “Banana” Hanson drives the tractor back to Town Hall at the end of the day

7 September 2015: Labor Day fun

Happy Labor Day from Team Echinacea! We made the most of the long weekend by doing lots of traveling. Danny went to Evanston to move things in before he moves there in a few weeks. He brought lots of the heads we harvested last week in an effort to keep up with the volunteer’s fast-paced processing of our harvest thus far! Meanwhile, Katherine, Ali, and I went up to Ely, MN to visit a friend of mine who works at a camp up there. The camp was hosting a music festival this weekend with artists like Lucy Michelle, Jeremy Messersmith, and The Pines. We were very excited to see the rocks, trees, and varied topography of the region which were all very different from what we’ve been experiencing in Douglas County. On Saturday morning we went mushroom hunting with Jeremy Messersmith, who happens to be a big mushroom enthusiast. Who knew! Later that day we went paddle-boarding and kayaking on the lake, which was really fun. Then we watched the concert! Super good. We capped off the day with some square-dancing with our fellow concert-goers. A great day. Sunday was similar, with more awesome music in the afternoon. We drove back today taking a scenic route through some good Minnesota towns I hadn’t been to before like Hibbing, Grand Rapids, and Akeley, which is the birthplace of Paul Bunyan. Danny is still on his way back from Chicago now. Stuart will be working at the Garden for the week, so it’s just us kids here in charge of getting everything done this week. There’ll be lots of harvesting to do in the experimental plots as well as plenty of refinding the seedlings that Team Echinacea has kept track of over the past 6 years in the remnants.

Us and Paul

Us and Paul

August 21: Last day on the Job

Today was my last day of work for this summer. It was also Hattie and Per’s last days. They go back to school next week! It’s crazy how much this summer has flown by! To inaugurate my last day we started with rechecking demography records. We then had our last lunch with the Wagenius’ as a whole. They are headed off towards Chicago where Gretel, Hattie, and Per will be staying for the fall (Gretel will be back and forth). The afternoon became warmer and the sky cleared up. The rest of the team got trained in on how to harvest Echinacea heads in P1. I stayed behind to finish up some work on my independent project. At the end of the day Abby and Will left without saying goodbye (I wish you both good luck in the new school year and hope that excellent times come your way). But out biggest trouble was figuring out what to do with Ricarda/Ricardo/Erica/Rica/Ric/Rick/Richard/Ricky. We debated whether to let him go on the grape vine outside the Hjelm house or to bring him back to town hall. We ultimately decided to let Ricarda/Ricardo/Erica/Rica/Ric/Rick/Richard/Ricky go on the grape vine outside of the Hjelm house.

We then headed home for our usual Friday night pizza making session! We made wonderful veggie, sausage and green pepper, and pineapple pizzas! We then went outside to watch the sunset through the smoke from the wildfires in Montana and Washington. The sun was a beautiful orb of orange as it set over the soybean fields to the west of K-town. Then someone put Kent in the shower.

Well hello there Kent!

Well hello there Kent!

Grand Water Bottle Clip 3000

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*TODAY ONLY* BUY ONE, GET ONE 50% OFF GWBC3000! Call today and to order your very own Grand Water Bottle Clip 3000 & get the second 50% off (buyer pays separate shipping & handling) (no money back guarantee) (may not work if you are not a member of Team Echinacea) (bottle clips are not meant, for 10 bottles, please don’t try at home) (may not enhance phenology data recording or ability to cross Echinacea plants).


Prairie Peeping

Nancy Braker and Marie Schaedel came to visit today! Nancy is the director of the Cowling Arboretum at Carleton College and Mary was a member of Team Echinacea 2013. They are also good friends of Jared’s and mine and prairie enthusiasts–so there was no disagreement about how we should spend our time.

We spent the day on a grand tour of three of the area’s largest and most diverse prairie remnants: Staffanson Prairie (right here in southwest Douglas County), Seven Sisters Prairie (near Ashby in Otter Tail County), and Strandness Prairie (Pope County). All are owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy. Every few steps we would find a new wildflower, grass, or insect to inspect, identify, and appreciate. It was a nice reminder of why we spend our days toiling in experimental plots and roadside ditches: to preserve the vibrant beauty of the healthy prairie.

Here are a few photos from our journey:

The sumac forest at Seven Sisters swallowed all but Jared’s binoculars.

In western Minnesota, a little elevation goes a long way (on top of Seven Sisters, 190 feet above Lake Christina).

Echinacea at Strandness Prairie. They look a little weird without flags and tags.

Prairie peeping makes for happy campers. (Strandness Prairie.)

Flowering Echinacea!


Seedlings in Q2, recruitment experiment, and my first tag!

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.

spring cleaning

Something about springtime makes you more aware of the layers of grime covering every surface of your life. Thankfully, volunteers Leslie and Anne agreed to help us battle the accumulated dust throughout lab. Believe it or not, this is a vacuum cleaner, not a ghost-busting device.


Now that the lab is sparkling, clean, and free of ghosts, we can continue our scientific endeavors in a grime-free environment.

ants and plants

We have two interns pursuing independent projects in the lab. Jill Pastick, a junior at Lakeforest College, is testing out different methods of germinating Echinacea achenes and helping us prepare the germination phase of two ongoing experiments.


Gia Hallaman, a junior at Northwestern, is helping out with several projects, including counting achenes in x-ray images from Jill’s germination experiment (you can see them on the computer screen below). She is also learning how to identify ants to morphospecies. That means distinguishing different species based on morphology and making our best guess on which species they are. It takes time to develop an eye for the different traits that distinguish closely related species; often the most obvious traits, like color and size, are not informative for differentiating species. Jill is learning to use a combination of tools, including online dichotomous keys and photo databases (, to identify ants to species or morphospecies. With her help, we should be able to make a dent in identifying the ants we collected from Minnesota prairie remnants in the summer of 2012.


fall in review

This week we said goodbye to many of the students and volunteers who are traveling for the holiday season. Maria Wang left behind her dicanthelium to travel to visit with family in the UK. One of our volunteers, Bill W., is preparing for a trip to Panama. While a few people will be coming in next week, we won’t see most of our volunteers until next year. We’ve made a lot of progress in the past few months. Here is a brief summary of what we’ve accomplished since September:

1. New faces
We hosted several new interns this fall. Five students from Lakeforest College completed a four week internship on various projects (you can read about some of their work on the flog) . Marie (Carleton College) has been doing great work for an ongoing study on flowering phenology in prairie remnants. We will miss her when she goes back to school.

2. Lots and lots of counting
We have made a big dent in counting the achenes harvested in 2011 from the main experimental plot. We finished all counting for the 1999 experiment (4000s batch) and have begun counting for the rest of the 2011 harvest. And of course, no counting endeavor would be complete without a motivational whiteboard graphic.


3. New protocols

Because there are relatively few Echinacea heads to process from this year, we have an opportunity to try out different protocols and improve our methods. Our new protocol for selecting a random sample of seeds will improve our ability to assess pollination based on seed weight. We are also trying out new techniques for extracting seed heads and separating the dust.


That about sums it up. These details (protocols, cleaning, etc.) may seem minor, but they are important for creating reliable data.