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all quiet on the eastern front

Hi flog,

I’m still here! In Chicago, that is. Hilary, the volunteers, and I have been quietly and methodically catching up on lab work for the last month. An update on our progress:

  • Earlier this week, Art completed counting the last achenes from 2014! Now we have estimates of seed set for every plant harvested in 2014. He and Aldo will now count achenes from one of the inbreeding experiments, before moving on to P2, which Lois has been working on since March.
  • Anne has finished scanning qGen_a in 2015. These have been uploaded and are ready to be counted.
  • Thanks to Char, Susie, Suzanne, Shelley and Laura, we are almost done randomizing qGen_a in 2015. These guys finished randomizing the massive P2 experiment last month. I think they are randomizing so quickly I am going to have to ask some of them to switch to cleaning soon.
  • Speaking of cleaning, there are only 31 heads left from 2015 to clean. Wow! That is less than 1% of that year’s massive harvest of over 3200 heads. Soon, they will start the much smaller and more manageable harvest of 2016, which had only 1060 heads. Naomi, Allen and Susie have done a lot of the cleaning recently.
  • Leslie and Kathryn have been rechecking very efficiently and providing good, clean achene packets for scanning. They are currently rechecking qGen_b from 2015.
  • Art and Anne have picked up in assembling sheets for x-raying in the Fall. All of 2013 and 2014’s sheets have been assembled, so they are assembling sheets from P2 in 2015. Today Anne assembled over 10 sheets! In her words it was, “kinda meditative”.

Echinacea is only starting to flower in Minnesota, but it has been flowering here at the Botanic Garden for a few weeks now. I’ve taken some pictures of some of the pollinators I’ve seen!

Just a reminder that it’s not just bees that feed on pollen! Here is a fly I saw sitting directly on an anther . Interestingly, I didn’t see it move around the head — I wonder how much pollen it was actually transferring.

 

This bumblebee was going to down on this Echinacea pallida outside the Rice building! This surprised me because Stuart said he has only once ever seen any type of bumblebee pollinating angustifolia.

In other exciting news, today we had a power outage at CBG due to construction! This meant that I worked for part of the day in the dark. Anne and Shelley came in later to keep me company and we moved to a room with big windows to enjoy the ambient light. We were so inspired by this day without electricity that Shelley took me to Stuart and Gretel’s house, where I harvested some of the lettuce from their garden. I was happy for the lettuce, but sad because today was my last day of working with both Shelley and Anne. Hopefully I will see them again some day.

Me living off of that rich Highland Park soil! Thanks Stuart and Gretel!

Team Potluck

We had a great time at our annual lab potluck on Tuesday. We celebrated all the people in the lab, including all of the undergraduate interns. Scott told us about the smoke experiment. Then Amy explained the pollinator study from 2016. Lea talked about her projects on flowering phenology. We reviewed some of our many accomplishments in the lab, including: 1) cleaning and randomizing all 1233 heads from exPt2 in 2015, 2) counting 478,069 achenes from 3078 heads, 3) scanning 1710 images, 4) assembling 198 xray sheets. This year Lois, our reigning “achene queen,” counted her 800,000th achene and Sam counted his 250,000th! This summer we have ambitious plans for the field and lab. It was a lot of fun and the food was great–an incredibly diverse spread of tasty dishes.

We took a group photo:

First row (L to R): Lois, Art, Leslie, Amy, Laura; Second row: Susie, Char, Gretel, Anne, Stuart, Allen, Mike, Ivy, Lea, Scott, Shelley. Not pictured: Aldo, Susan, Michele, Marty, Naomi, Sam, Kathryn, Lou, Suzanne, Nicolette, Sarah.

Thanks for a great year!

Team Echinacea Lab Potluck

We had a great turnout for our annual lab potluck yesterday. Good times were had by all as we heard updates about what the lab accomplished this past year. Here are some highlights:

  • This year, Bob and Aldo counted their 250,000th achenes. Anne counted her 400,000th, and Bill counted his 500,000th. Just yesterday morning, Lois, our reigning “achene queen,” counted her 700,000th!
  • We finished doing all the hands-on work for 2014 and have already made great progress on cleaning and randomizing heads from the 2015 harvest.
  • Stuart summarized progress and preliminary analyses of the qGen_a experiment, which tests for the heritability of fitness traits in Echinacea.
  • The lab interns, Rachael, Gordon, Danny, and I, talked about our independent projects, all of which push the frontiers of science!
  • We talked about plans for this summer. While Stuart, Gretel, and I head back to Minnesota, Danny and our citizen scientists will be busy in the lab cleaning last year’s (huge) harvest from Experimental Plot 2 and counting experiments from 2015. They’ll be joined by Chris, a MS student at Northwestern who will help get our (many) achenes organized for storage in the seed bank.
  • There were too many tasty dishes to name all of the ones I enjoyed here. However, as a sampling, there was homemade spinach dip, mashed sweet potatoes, several broccoli dishes, iced tea, and a rhubarb crisp, which we polished off.

We took a group photo:

First row (L to R): Aldo, Gretel, Lois, Shelley, Char, Stuart; Second row: Art, Amy, Susie; Third row: Danny, Sarah, Kathryn, Susan; Fourth row: Rachael, Gordon, Bill, Suzanne

First row (L to R): Aldo, Gretel, Lois, Shelley, Char, Stuart; Second row: Art, Amy, Susie; Third row: Danny, Sarah, Kathryn, Susan; Fourth row: Rachael, Gordon, Bill, Suzanne; Not pictured: Anne, Bob, Laura, Leslie, Marty, Sam, and interns Mackenzie, Keke, and Nina

Thanks for coming, those of you who could make it, and for a great year!

Citizen Scientists Day with our Team

On this day inaugural National Citizen Scientists’ Day, we acknowledge the hard-work and dedication of our team of Citizen Scientists in the Echinacea Project’s lab the Chicago Botanic Garden. Some of the citizen scientist members of our Team have been working on the project almost 15 years!

Read profiles of our fabulous citizen scientist Team members:

Aldo — — Anne — — — Art — — — Bill
Bob — — Char — — — Kathryn — — Laura
Leslie — — Lois — — — Lou — — — Marty
Naomi — — Shelley — — Suzanne — — Susan
Two humble volunteers declined to have profiles posted. We respect their privacy.

Read about some of the ways in which they contribute.

Read about what some of the activities from this past week.

Read many flog posts about our volunteer citizen scientists as written by members of Team Echinacea.

 

Citizen Scientist Week

This Saturday is National Citizen Science Day and in honor of our wonderful, hard-working citizen scientists (and interns), we’d like to show you all the fun science that occurred in the Echinacea Lab this past week. We also created an official page telling you more about our volunteers that can be found here.

 

Tuesday

Tuesday is quite a busy day for us and we had many people in the lab throughout the day. In the morning we had Susie, Char, Lois, Susan, Sarah, and Rachael working on a variety of projects.

Susie randomizing

Susie randomizing heads and Char cleaning heads from P1 – our main experimental plot.

Lois "The Achene Queen" - our most decorated counter with more than half a million achenes counted to date!

Lois “The Achene Queen” – our most decorated counter with more than half a million achenes counted to date!

Sarah scanning heads from the remnant populations while Susan focuses hard on cleaning.

Sarah scanning heads from the remnant populations while Susan focuses on cleaning.

In the afternoon we had a large crew that worked on cleaning, scanning, and randomizing. Unfortunately, we forgot to pull out our cameras and didn’t get any pictures of them in action! Expect a follow up post next week to see them doing vital work for the Echinacea Project. Our afternoon citizen scientists were Marty, Naomi, Laura, Anne (usually a Friday person), and Shelley and you can read more about them at our permanent volunteer page.

Wednesday

Wednesday morning we had two volunteers and two interns. One of them wishes to remain anonymous, but the other three were enthused by their prospective internet fame.

Katherine works on rechecking cleaned heads. We like efficiency here, but never at the sake of bad data so we have many checks throughout the process to ensure high quality data.

Katherine works on rechecking cleaned heads. We like efficiency here, but never at the sake of bad data so we have many checks throughout the process to ensure high quality data.

Keke works on her report about the parents of our newly planted (as of last fall) experiment. Contributions like Keke's allow us to continue to expand the field of Evolutionary Ecology.

Keke works on her report about the parents of our newly planted (as of last fall) quantitative genetics experiment. Contributions like Keke’s allow us to continue to expand the field of Evolutionary Ecology.

Nina works on her final poster for her competition experiment. It was her last day as an intern with us and we're sad to see her go but excited to play a part in the early career of an up and coming scientist.

Nina works on her final poster for her competition experiment. It was her last day as an intern with us and we’re sad to see her go but excited to play a part in the early career of an up and coming scientist.

Thursday

We had a busy morning on Thursday followed by a quiet afternoon. Our fearless leader (Stuart) left to brave the intense heat of Minnesota (82 F) and spread some native prairie seed around our experimental plots.

Suzanne works on randomizing achenes from the remnant populations for X-ray.

Suzanne works on randomizing achenes from the remnant populations for X-ray.

Bill counting achenes. Bill is an expert counter who has been known to count as many as 31 heads in a single sitting!

Bill counting achenes. Bill is an expert counter who has been known to count as many as 31 heads in a single sitting!

Char and Susie back again! Suzanne was certainly focused on randomizing.

Char and Susie, back again! Suzanne was certainly focused on randomizing.

Friday

Friday normally has two volunteers and two interns but because Anne came in on Tuesday we had two interns and only one volunteer in the afternoon.

Gordon ponders the meaning of many years of data at Staffanson Prairie Preserve.

Gordon ponders the meaning of many years of data at Staffanson Prairie Preserve.

Mackenzie scans heads from our remnant populations.

Mackenzie scans heads from our remnant populations.

Leslie works on rechecking cleaned heads. Over the years, Leslie's dedication to accuracy has led to her being our main rechecker.

Leslie works on rechecking cleaned heads. Over the years, Leslie’s dedication to accuracy has led to her being our main rechecker.

 

As we wrap up the week, we want to make sure that our many citizen scientists, who help keep our lab running, are greatly appreciated. Though Saturday is National Citizen Science Day, in the Echinacea Project lab, every day is Citizen Science Day.

Luncheon for volunteer citizen scientists

We had a great luncheon for our volunteer citizen scientists today. We are grateful to the incredible amount of high-quality work they do for the project. Stuart gave a presentation about our accomplishments during the past year (many) and plans for the summer (focused). Jared presented some results about the effects of fire on reproduction at Staffanson (strong). A fun time was had by all.

At the luncheon we wished Jared well in his future endeavors. Friday is Jared’s last day. I has been great to work with him for the past year. We welcomed Taylor Harris to the Team. She is from Fisk University and will work in Minnesota this summer.

You can read more about the citizen scientists who work on Team Echinacea in our series of profiles recognizing their hard work and dedication volunteering for the Echinacea Project at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Two volunteers declined to have profiles posted due to modesty or to hide their identities as international spies–we won’t blow your cover. Read profiles here.

Stuart forgot to take photos during the event. Fortunately Robin took a group photo, which we will post as soon as we get it.

Team Echinacea at the volunteer citizen scientist luncheon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Team Echinacea at the volunteer citizen scientist luncheon at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Back row: Shelley, Art, Char, Anne, Leslie, Jessica, Taylor, Stuart
Front row: Gretel, Suzanne, Aldo, Laura, Kathryn, Jared
Not pictured: Bob, Lois, Susie, Susan, Naomi, Marty, Sam, Lou, Bill

Citizen scientist profile: Laura

 

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Laura joined began volunteering at the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2014 after retiring from a career at Abbott Laboratories. Though she has only been with the Echinacea Project a short time, Laura’s background in quality assurance and her lifelong interest in plant biology have already proved valuable in the lab. She has helped clean Echinacea heads, count achenes, and enter data among many other tasks. Apart from her work with the Echinacea Project, Laura volunteers with a charitable organization devoted to helping children in Lake County.

This is one in a series of profiles recognizing the hard work and dedication of citizen scientists volunteering for the Echinacea Project at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Citizen scientist profile: Shelley

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Shelley joined the Echinacea Project in 2015 making her the newest addition to our team of citizen scientists. During her brief time with the Echinacea Project, she has helped clean Echinacea heads and randomize achenes. Shelley has long been fascinated with prairies. She planted her very own prairie restoration and volunteers as a land steward at Wadsworth Prairie Nature Preserve. In her spare time, Shelley enjoys spending time outdoors restoring the native habitats on her property and exploring local natural areas.

This is one in a series of profiles recognizing the hard work and dedication of citizen scientists volunteering for the Echinacea Project at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Citizen scientist profile: Aldo

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After retiring from a career as an industrial chemist, Aldo began volunteering at the Chicago Botanic Garden where he worked to restore and manage the Garden’s native habitats. Aldo joined our team of citizen scientists in 2001. While working with the Echinacea Project, he has cleaned Echinacea heads and counted many achenes. In fact, Aldo has counted nearly 200,000 Echinacea achenes! During his research career, Aldo helped develop numerous products used in the agriculture and horticulture industries. He holds more than 40 U.S. Patents!

This is one in a series of profiles recognizing the hard work and dedication of citizen scientists volunteering for the Echinacea Project at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Citizen scientist profile: Susan

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After Susan retired from her career as a nurse practitioner, she joined her sister and began volunteering at the Chicago Botanic Garden in 2011. Though she spends spring and summer working in the rose garden, Susan volunteers her time to the Echinacea Project during the winter months. She contributes to our research by cleaning Echinacea heads and counting achenes (she has counted 30,000 achenes!). Outside of her work at the Garden, Susan enjoys spending time biking, golfing, and spending time outdoors.

This is one in a series of profiles recognizing the hard work and dedication of citizen scientists volunteering for the Echinacea Project at the Chicago Botanic Garden.