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Busy time in the lab at CBG!

Since Stuart and Team Echinacea have started summer field work in Minnesota, you might guess the lab at CBG slowed down- but you would be wrong! Last week we finished cleaning another bag of Echinacea heads, and this week we’ve gone through over half of the next bag! People counting achenes and classifying x-rays have also been super productive, and some of the newer volunteers finally got their official CBG badges. So even though there’s a lot going on in Minnesota, we’re still busy back in Chicago. Stay tuned for more lab updates throughout the summer.

From right to left, Char is cleaning, Aldo and Alan are counting, Tessa is cleaning, and Art is chatting because he was actually working outside this morning!

Lois counted her 800,000th achene today

Lois Jackim, citizen scientist working on Team Echinacea since 2009, counted her 800,000th Echinacea achene this morning around 9:30 AM. Scientists from the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University were present as Lois was presented with a giant check thanking her for her dedication to plant science and conservation. Lois wore her “Achene Queen” crown, which she earned in 2015 after surpassing the half-million mark. Lois was not aware she was so close to the 800,000 milestone.

Counting fruits, also known as achenes in Echinacea, is a critical activity for scientists measuring reproductive fitness of plants. The Echinacea Project conducts experiments to assess environmental and genetic factors that influence plant fitness. Echinacea Project research contributes to basic ecological and evolutionary science in addition to informing conservation of perennial plants and prairies.

Other citizen scientists present this morning were cleaning and preparing seedheads and making digital images for counting. Each year the Echinacea project harvests heads from experimental plots and volunteer citizen scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden count all achenes from each head. Citizen scientists also x-ray samples of achenes from each head to count how many of the achenes were pollinated.

Team Echinacea celebrates Lois counting 800,000 achenes

Stuart presents Lois with a giant check to thank her for counting over 800,000 achenes.

In memoriam Bill Wallin

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Team Echinacea lost one of our longtime members, Bill Wallin. Last week Bill went to the hospital for pain associated with cancer and his health deteriorated quickly. He died on Monday surrounded by his family.

We will miss Bill a lot. He volunteered on Thursday mornings and has been an integral part of our team for over a decade. He was a hard working and dedicated citizen scientist and a great person to have in the lab. He was thoughtful and considerate and contributed to the ongoing discussions in the lab on wide-ranging topics. Bill was usually soft spoken and quick to smile. He would share stories of his adventures with pianos and more recently of his cancer. Through thick and thin, we could count on Bill to be a positive influence on the Team.

Bill contributed to all aspects of lab work with the Echinacea Project. In the past several years, Bill focused on counting achenes. We appreciated Bill for his speed and accuracy when counting. Since we moved to our online seed counting system in 2011, Bill has counted over 413,430 Echinacea achenes. Before joining the Echinacea project, Bill pulled weeds in natural areas at the Garden and monitored threatened plants for the Plants of Concern Program.

We will miss Bill, but we are grateful that we got to work with him and enjoy camaraderie while making contributions to plant science and conservation. We will forever have great memories.

Here is Bill’s profile from 2015 and some more posts with photos of the team and of Bill.