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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!

Welcome Priti!

Hi Flog!

As I’ve said before, here at the Echinacea Project we rely pretty heavily on the work done by our volunteers. That is why I am so excited to introduce you to the newest member of Team Echinacea: Priti!

Priti has been working in the seed bank here at the Plant Conservation Science Center, but has just started working our lab today. Priti will be joining us on Fridays to clean heads — the first step to processing echinacea heads, and one of the most important.

Priti cleaning a head

We’re thrilled to have Priti as part of the team!

Allen hits the 250,000 achene landmark

Here on the flog, we like to talk about how much of the important work around the lab is done by our volunteers. Last week Allen, one of our long-term volunteers, hit a huge milestone and showed us just how much he does for the project.

Allen has officially counted a quarter of a million achenes.

Allen reached this number faster than usual, counting up to his quarter million in just a bit over two years. We’re super thankful for all of the work Allen has done for the project. And of course, what better way to show our thanks than a big check?

Allen, Stuart, and a big check

In the future, Allen will continue to count achenes and hopefully hit many more large milestones in his counting.

Thank you Allen!

A Full Lab

Hi Flog,

It’s business as usual here at CBG, and we’re hard at work trying to finish counting the achenes from heads that were harvested in 2015. It may sound like we’re a little behind on counting, but that’s only because there’s simply so many achenes to count! In 2018, volunteers at the project counted over 800,000 achenes, and we’re certainly striving to beat that in 2019.

Tuesdays are particularly fun in the lab because it is far and away the most full time. Marty and Allen count achenes while Laura classifies. Shelley is randomizing and Naomi is cleaning. All in the name of progress! Hopefully as some of our volunteers return from their winter getaways we’ll start grinding through some of the 2016 counting, and we’ll certainly start cleaning all the heads from 2018 within the month.

Our full lab!

Look for more updates soon on how our counting and cleaning is going!

Michael

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