341 samples later

After processing soil samples for two weeks (341 to be exact!) I was able to analyze some of the results and, along with the trusty functions of R (and of course T-Swift music) graph my data. I have included my poster down below and a pdf link.

The results provide evidence that shows soil in western Minnesota contains large percentages of sand and silt, with little clay. Between each of the 8 locations, some variation was present in the amount of sand, but not with clay. The results also showed that sand and silt may have no influence on the nesting locations of native bees. When compared, the graphs of sand and silt percentages from where a bee was found and not found were quite similar. So the question remains- What are the factors that influence where bees build their nests?

Throughout my entire time working on Team Echinacea and this soil project,  I have gained valuable knowledge and experience about data collection, project development, and different research methods. And not to mention the amazing lab group and individuals I have gotten to work/collaborate with! Since my college career is just beginning, the future has a lot in store for me- I can’t wait to see what happens in the next couple of years.

But one thing is for sure, I can officially cross “eat deep dish pizza in Chicago” off my bucket list!





R You Ready For It?

Hello flog!


Unfortunately for all you T-Swift fans out there, I will not actually be devoting much of this blog to her… Instead, I am going to talk about the fascinating world of R, a statistical analysis coding program that allows you to organize and graph your data.

Since my time at the garden is coming to an end this week, I have begun to learn how to analyze my data within R. R can be a little complicated because often times even a Blank Space can mess up an entire line of code. However, with lots of help (like lots, from R genius Michael) I was able to organize and even plot some of my results! An important lesson- if your code doesn’t work the first time, Shake It Off and try again!

For my project, I am aiming to create two different graphs, a series of histograms and soil texture triangles. A histogram will show the amount of sand, silt, and clay within each of the 8 sites. Then to understand the texture differences, a soil triangle will plot the percentages of sand, silt, and clay in what type of soil they correlate to. For example, 45% sand, 40% silt, and 10% clay might fall at the bottom of the triangle in the sandy loam portion.  Who knows maybe I’ll have Fifteen graphs by Friday!

A preview of my graphs!

Even though R can be a pretty Delicate program, it is extremely helpful! But being able to efficiently code has always been one of my Wildest Dreams. So, for now, there’s no Bad Blood between R and myself.


T-Swift out, till next time!

How to Make Soil Pies

Hi Flog!

So, remember the micro- pipette method I mentioned a couple days ago? Well, as the name implies, everything is micro- the sample size, the vials, the pans, and the numbers.  The process begins by weighing out 2 grams of each soil sample. Each sample is put in individual “tornado tubes” AKA vials filled with 20 ml of both water and sodium hexametaphosphate (try saying that ten times!). Vials are then shaken for approximately 30 minutes to create a uniform solution. Then, drum roll please…., comes the macro part of the process, the settling time. A 1 hour and 45 minute settling time… But this wait means I have time to write to all of you!

After the wait, comes the final part of the micro-pipette process that involves separating the clay and sand components of each sample into two different miniature pie pans. That means that 10 samples = 20 pans, 20 samples =40 pans, and 25 samples = 50 pans, etc etc etc… Guess how many samples I did today??!! 50! That’s 100 mini soil pies! Sometimes I feel like a professional baker making this many pies!


Anyway, as my first week at the garden comes to an end, I’ve developed more efficient methods and routines to help me be as productive as possible .I might even get close to finishing all 300 samples by the end of next week.  I’ve also been introduced to an amazing community of scientists and can’t wait to learn more about their research!

Till next week!

The Adventure Begins!

Hey hey hey! My name is Anna and I was a summer intern on the Echinacea Project in high school. Now, as a college freshman, I am currently exploring another side of the project at the Chicago Botanic Garden lab! For my two weeks in Chicago, I will be working on the soil component of Kristen Manion’s project. Her study considers numerous elements of native bees’ habitat in hopes to determine their nesting preferences.

Over the summer, soil samples from 8 sites were collected and each site had three different land uses: old field, native prairie, or restoration. In total there are 328 samples to be analyzed through the micropipette soil texture method! The micropipette method involves separating the soil into its clay and sand components and then calculating the percentage of sand, silt, and clay for each 2-gram sample. By the end, I am aiming to create two soil triangles and answer these questions :

  1. Does the soil type differ between bee presence/absence?
  2. Does the soil type differ between land use types (remnant and prairies and old fields)?


My other goal is to simply gain experience in a lab by being exposed to a variety of techniques through Kristen’s and the Echinacea Project’s methods. However, I also have a couple of personal goals… like eating deep dish pizza, taking my picture in front of the bean, figuring out public transportation, and did I mention deep dish pizza?!

My adventure here in Chicago is just beginning and I can’t wait! 


The Sweetener Flog

“When life deals us cards

Make everything taste like it is salt

Then you come through like the sweetener you are

To bring the bitter taste to a halt”

Ariana Grande, in the song “Sweetener” off of her latest album Sweetener (2018).

Greetings from the College of Wooster, or Team Echinacea East

This summer I helped conduct research about the differences in pollen removal and deposition (a measure of pollinator efficiency) across different taxa of solitary bees that visited Echinacea flowers, out at P2 (with Evan, Mia, and Jennifer Ison). In order to quantify pollen removal we collected anthers (the male part of the flower that presents pollen) before a bee visited and again after the visit; we suspended the anthers in water. In order to quantify the number of pollen grains in each sample. But what to do with these samples?

Here are all the sweet anther samples!

In order to quantify the number of pollen grains present in each sample I first break apart and shake up the anthers, to try to get the pollen evenly distributed in the solution; then I count a small amount of this pollen solution on a hemocytometer under a microscope (a hemocytometer is a sort of microscope slide with a grid that is used to count red blood cells in blood; I use it to count pollen particles in water).

Here’s the hemocytometer all loaded up with sweet pollen to count!

Now that the summer field season is over I’ve been able to spend quite a bit of time counting pollen. While I’ve been counting pollen I’ve been listening to music on my roommate’s portable speaker. Mostly I’ve been listening to Ariana Grande’s new album Sweetener. The title track which opens this flog post speaks directly to the relationship that I have developed with the act of counting pollen. It is the sweetener to my life. I struggle to leave the lab each night; wanting to get just a little more of that sweet taste of pollen counting. It brings the bitter taste of college life to a halt. I don’t know what it is about pollen counting that I like so much. Is it the repetitiveness of it? The simplicity? The repetition? It’s impossible to say. All that I know for sure is that I really hope that everyone can experience the sweetness that counting pollen brings to my life.

P.S. I really hope I find something to fill the void that will be left in my existence once I run out of pollen to count (I only have 340 samples or so, and I’m more than half way through them).


Wrap-up in the rain

Today is a rainy day at the Hjelm house. Kristen left early in the morning and Michael and I are cleaning and organizing everything from seeds, to g3, to data sheets. We’ve wrapped up most of the field work and plan to leave Andes after some harvest tomorrow morning! Stay tuned for more progress updates in the fall as we bring everything back to the lab and get started processing all of the data from summer 2018!






Your photo-blog-flog fix.

sling attack at eri this morning

Artemisia frigida at Loeffler’s Corner West!

late bloomin’ liatris at lce

Serendipity! Nessman sling!

Before and after: I harvested a 13 + 1 headed plant at p2 today!

The beautiful late-season walk to p2!

Sorry the daily flogging has been irregular these last few days. Since our last entry, we’ve been harvesting Echinacea from p1 and p2, sling-ing, p8 rechecks, and field checks. Lea has been working on demo, phenology, and surveying nearest neighbors along her spp transect, and Kristen has been moving traps and measuring soil and vegetation. We’ve been busy!


Back in the prairie

I’m so happy to be back in MN as our fieldwork for 2018 finishes up! There has been plenty to do, especially with harvest gearing up. We started out the morning finishing flagging p8 so that it will be easy to avoid Echinacea when we want to spray the Ash trees. Then, after a couple rows of harvesting p1, we had an early lunch so we could go help Kristen take down her emergence tents. We finished the day off with a long session of harvesting p2. A majority of the heads are ready for harvest, and a lot of them have lost achenes/entire heads, likely due to predation or the storm on Monday.

View of P8 from row 19, with Andy harvesting in the distance.

I haven’t been here since burning in early spring and I’ve really missed it. Muscle memory has kicked in and I am getting into the rhythm of fieldwork again. Excited to be back and experiencing the late season prairie again!

The Weekend

On Friday it was Riley’s last day so we knew going into the weekend that it was going to be rough. Luckily we have a few new roommates around to help us deal with the loss of the majority of the team.

It’s okay that everyone has left us because we get to  enjoy time with the famous Bellamy Salami Odysseus and Huxley Leopold. Furry roommates are the best!

On Saturday, the weather was nice. Michael came with me in the afternoon to help move traps at my sites near 55 highway. It was hot and humid, but it went about twice as fast with some assistance.

The tents on the hill at a remnant prairie along highway 55.

Saturday night we relaxed at Andes and watched a few movies: The Florida Project and Children of Men. Both fantastic films to round out our evening!

On Sunday, the morning was hazy and cloudy so I decided not to move traps. I spent most of the day inputing data in order to compare data frames and realized I have a lot of data entry to catch up on! But with the help of a handy function (written by Will) it’s all much easier on all of us. We also got to talk to a few of our favorite Wooster students (Mia, Zeke, and Evan). Mia virtually showed us around the new lab digs at Wooster. I also got a number of critical updates on their exciting first week back to school –  new roommates, sneaking onto roofs, and class schedules. I suggested we Facetime every Sunday for the rest of the year. I am not sure if they felt as willing to commit to this plan as I am. Regardless, it is no surprise that CoWBee was already working hard in the lab on their first weekend back in class.

Sunday evening we relaxed at Andes and watched The Glass Castle, which is the movie depiction of an autobiography of the life of Jeannette Walls. It’s a great book and would highly recommend (although be prepared because it’s a tear jerker!)

We are sad to lose Andy this week but are so excited because Tracie will be here on Wednesday! Stay tuned for more exciting updates this week as things roll on with Team Echinacea 2018.

A Farewell to Aphids

This morning the much-diminished Team Echinacea (Stuart, Kristen, Lea, Michael, and I) gathered at the Hjelm house to start the day. Lea went to Staffenson Prairie Preserve to measure the flowering phenology of Liatris and Solidago plants. Michael and Kristen began to prepare experimental plot 8 for management in the coming year. The team will treat rogue Ashe trees and collect and broadcast the seeds of several prairie plant species in this plot. This is part of an ongoing effort to ensure that the plant community within the plot is consistent throughout.

Meanwhile, I assessed the leaf damage and senescence of plants in the aphid addition/exclusion experiment in p1. This was the final component of the fieldwork involved in this experiment for the season, and the last step in my independent project before I begin statistical analysis. The next step is to gauge fitness differences between plants in the aphid addition and exclusion treatments by constructing an aster model. While it was exciting to finish this aspect of the project, I will miss spending time with my Aphis echinaceae friends.

Over lunch the team prepared for inclement weather by sharing our experiences of intense weather events. After that, Kristen presented an update on her master’s project. She shared some intriguing preliminary results about the nesting preferences of native ground-nesting bees. We are all looking forward to the results of her study! Due to the rainy weather, the team was ready to call it a day after Kristen’s presentation. We held a short meeting to plan next week’s schedule and then headed home for the weekend.