The Return of a Legend

Woah! This week I decided to write a normal flog instead of continuing along the path of my patented Flvlog (video flogs). My Youtube channel was exploding with popularity and I just couldn’t handle the stress of posting a video this week, so I decided to record a tale of the return of a legend in pen and ink (well digital ink, technically). Anywho, here we are:

Today, on the 12th day of the 8th month in 2019, a Team Echinacea legend returned to the Hjelm house after a journey through the harrowing Rocky Mountains. If you are unaware of this individual, it is Will Reed, a 5-year Team Echinacea veteran. Will spent his last year in graduate school at University of Colorado Boulder working in the Rockies. He is currently studying soil moisture and plant phenotypic plasticity. We hope to hear more updates from Will on the flog soon!

With William in our arsenal, we started today off with some phenology (p1, p2, and remnant phenology; Will did #RemPhen today!). After we took phenology data, we took a hiatus from field work because it was raining. During this time, we got work done! A lot of us did some coding in R to process and set up data. Drake and I also met with Stuart to discuss our projects going forward! Will even got a chance to discuss Team Echinacea data things with Stuart. It was a productive rainy time! In the afternoon, we measured experimental plot 1. Will was very happy to measure again, even though many of the positions we found in p1 were staples. We did, however, finish measuring a lot of the inbreeding 2 experiment (which I am excited about, as it is the experiment I am doing my independent project on). At the end of the day, it was tough to see Will go. He will always be in my heart, but I truly just hope he can enjoy his research and continue down a successful career path.

Thanks for visiting, Will! I hope to see you soon 🙂

Will enjoyed reminiscing on his Team Echinacea days today. A great candid photo!

Skeleton (endo) Crew

The Echin Team members divided and conquered today with some of the crew (Julie, Stuart, Gretel, Riley and Drake) migrating to northern MN to access the reproduction of the Prairie Orchid. A biannual trip the team makes with Gretel leading the way.

ThePrairie Orchid

The leftovers consisted of Erin, Shea and John working out of headquarters. Shea and I did phenology at P2, while Erin did phenology in the remnants and P1. The aphid addition/exclusion experiment then proceeded at P2. After lunch, we began measuring P2 and finished a whopping 3% of the total area.

Erin and Shea measuring P2 and fighting off pesky chiggers.
Erin (Chipmunk Whisperer) charms a rodent to feed from her hand.

Cycle of Life at the Echinacea Project

With about a month left for many of the participants on the Echinacea Team, the flowers keep on flowering, the weeds keep on growing and seed collecting ramps up for many of the prairie species. And for the animals on the Echinacea Team: Shea soon starts her senior year of HS; Riley, Drake and Erin make arrangements to move to Chicago; Julie and Jay begin their senior year of college; and John prepares for his 31st year of teaching. And Amy continues her research on bees with the University of Minnesota, spending much of her time on the praire in midwest Minnesota.

Stuart looks for seeds in Douglas County to be collected for Drake as the a cumulonimbus cloud begins to build behind him.
Amy W (pictured left – Echin Team Member 2015-2019) wins her 4th consecutive Flekkefest 5K. Amy pictured here with Echin Team Member Alum Abby VK (2015 -2016) and the previous two time winner of Flekke 5K. The Echinacea Project Women have created a dynasty of 5K winners.

Scott at Botany, 2019

Hi everyone!

Long time no see! I am a grad student at the University of Colorado now, but thankfully I have still had plenty of time to work on some Echinacea work. Last week I got to present at Botany in beautiful Tucson, Arizona 🌵.

First I presented a poster about fire and Echinacea demography. This is something we started in Chicago and Stuart, Amy Dykstra and I have been working on since. We used demap, the seedling search dataset, and the seedling recruitment experiment dataset to estimate vital rates (survival, flowering, and recruitment) within several Echinacea populations. We then estimated how these vital rates varied with fire. To see how these changes in vital rates affected actual population dynamics, we then constructed matrix models to estimate the average growth rates of several remnant populations under various fire frequencies. Finally, to see which demographic pathway was primarily responsible for changes in population growth, we decomposed the changes in population growth rates under different fire regimes into contributions from each vital rate’s response to fire. We used Bayesian modeling to estimate the vital rates. Stuart, Amy D. and I are putting the finishing touches on a manuscript for this project, so keep your eyes open!

Click for poster!

I got some good questions from people at the conference. One is: would seed addition help bolster growth rates? Very interesting question – I think it probably would in populations with high juvenile survival, given that under these circumstances higher recruitment has the largest contribution to population growth. Another person asked about climate change and whether I thought the Echinacea range was likely to move north with warmer temperatures. I can’t answer that question but we did use climate data in our models; climate was warmer and wetter in our observation period than they were in the 100 years prior, and these covariates were featured in some of our models. It would be fun to incorporate climate change into estimates of vital rates and population growth.

I also gave a three-minute lightning talk to briefly present an idea I have had since I was in Chicago in 2017. Amy, Jennifer, Gretel, and Stuart have done some prior work looking at synchrony, mating opportunity, and mating success in Echinacea. I have been curious about whether populations exhibit nested structure in their flowering schedules, i.e., whether or not individuals which flower less often flower in the same years as plants which flower most often. There are some interesting potential consequences of deviation from non-nested structure. Hopefully I have time to study this in Colorado.

Also of note: Jennifer gave an awesome talk synthesizing a lot of the pollinator work done in the Echinacea system the last several years. It was great to see so many facets of Echinacea pollination discussed together. One of the most interesting parts of this talk was Mia’s poster, looking at the diversity of male pollen donors on bees, and how they varied by pollinator species. I remember when Laura was collecting this data in 2016. She was so good at wiping! Very cool to see final results for this project!

Otherwise, there were some great talks and posters. A couple of good ones: Joseph Braasch from Katrina Dluglosch’s lab at the University of Arizona talking about community shift with climate change and Jessa Finch (from CBG) talking about how gene flow affects early life stages of milkweeds. Maybe the best talk I saw came from a student in Julie Etterson’s lab at UM Duluth talking about how seed collections for restorations is artificially selecting for traits. Very cool question!

I’m glad I was able to make it out to the conference. Huge thanks to my advisors Brett Melbourne and Kendi Davies for allowing me to work on this project for the last two years. Also thanks to the BioFrontiers Institute at CU Boulder for providing me funding while I worked on this project, the United Government of Grad Students at CU Boulder for funding my trip to the conference, and friends at CU Boulder and Colorado State who allowed me to drive down with them and crash in their hotel rooms in Tucson. Hope to see everybody at ESA in Louisville, KY later this month, where I will have a poster about some of the non-Echinacea work I am doing in Colorado.

Dining in Tucson: Mexican food, no, waffles, yes!
Ipomopsis longiflora I spotted on the drive back outside Taos, NM. The CO crew identified this plant with a key while I tried to find a gas station.


Hello again, flog!

Today started off on a slightly less than auspicious footing, as the team’s morning plans of pollinating were largely rained out, as anthers don’t present transferable pollen until they dry. When the morning storms and damp stretched into the early afternoon, we began to realized that our hopes of performing the day’s pollen collection for our pulse/steady pollination experiment were likely to be dashed. Instead, we waited wistfully at the Hjelm House for the stormy weather to pass, working on indoor tasks like data frame cleaning or surv file arranging until the rain subsided enough for phenology data collection.

Over lunch, our discussion naturally turned to the age-old question of how a worm would wear a shirt, if shirts were made with worms in mind. Would they have small, empty sleeves, or would they disavow superfluous appendage coverings in their garments altogether? To aid us in our visualization, Erin handily mustered up her artistic skills and demonstrated exactly how a worm ought to properly attire itself with a tasteful tube top. To properly illustrate her point, she began composing perfect likenesses of the team members’ field outfits, like Jay’s signature flannels and JEGS hat, once adapted to the annelid form.

Lumbricus terrestris Jayicus in its conventional garb
Even Darwin, our handy GPS point shooting unit, got in on the wormy fun!

Finally, the rain cleared! We scampered out to P2 to do phenology, and though our pollinating fears from the morning came true when pollen refused to present, the team kept up the momentum by remeasuring and rechecking some of P2’s most interesting and bizarre plants. We circled back to basal plants with leaves half a meter long, flowering plants with four heads on one stalk, and plants with more than 10 rosettes and 50 basal leaves (a rarity when most plants have only two or three rosettes with less than 10 leaves total). With half of P2’s 80 rows triple-checked, we shifted gears to remnant population demography, as Erin and Shea trained Jay and me in the system of PBORY flag ordering and surv file code naming. As we identified and recorded flowering plants, we started adapting the lyrics of AC/DC’s T.N.T. on the fly to fit our demography PBORY protocol (pronounced P-Bor-Ee). Our chorus went something like the following:

Cuz it’s PBORY Gotta stake it right
PBORY Then flag the flowers in white
PBORY Count rosettes and heads
PBORY See how a population spreads!

Friday Fun

Hello flog!

Today was a fun and productive day. This morning, I went to the NW remnant sites to monitor phenology. I also collected leaf tissue from some sneaky flowering plants that I’ve found since the last time I collected tissue in June. Meanwhile, Julie, Jay, Riley, Erin, and John headed out to P2 to monitor phenology, crosses for the pulse/steady experiment, assess crosses from Julie’s heterospecific crossing experiment, and measure the final rows of P2. Stuart joined them later in the morning and they completed measuring the plot! Wow!

Does Ratibida pollen induce style shriveling in Echinacea? Julie is finding out!

This afternoon the team split up into three teams: Jay and Julie formed Team “Kick Ash” for Jay’s experiment looking at different management treatments on ash. They described the experience as “walking on a treadmill of trees,” but made great progress in metaphorically kicking back the advance of ash in ExPt 8 by applying herbicide treatments to leaves of plants. Team “Smoking Plants” consisted of Riley and me. We went to a spot that is north of landfill, south of around landfill, and south-southeast of north of northwest of landfill to identify plants for an experiment looking at the effects of liquid smoke on flowering. We found 100 plants that were flowering this year, counted each plant’s number of rosettes, and shot a point at each plant so that we can revisit them later. This fall or spring we’ll apply different liquid smoke and mowing treatments to assess just what it is about fire that induces flowering in Echinacea. Stay tuned for when we actually smoke the plants this fall! Finally, Team “Seed Collection” collected seeds for Drake while he is away at a family reunion.

Riley gazes at south-southeast of north of northwest of landfill

We wrapped up the day with watermelon and very impressive, definitely NBA/WNBA-worthy tosses of watermelon rinds into a five gallon bucket. That’s all for now!



Making Due with a Skeleton Crew

This is our stand in team member George H.W. Bush who helped us with phenology today.

Team Echinacea was feeling a little small today with 7 people, but we took advantage of the beautiful weather and got a lot done! In the morning we took phenolgy data and worked on a pollination experiment. In the afternoon, Julie and I worked on our personal projects and the rest of the team went out to take demography data in the remnant plots.

Farewell to Minnesota from Team Echinacea East

Hello flog!

Today’s flog is a bittersweet one, as it marks Team Echinacea East’s last update from here in Minnesota. After what has been a wonderful field experience with some truly amazing people, Miyauna, Ren, and I begin our journey home to the great state of Ohio tomorrow. Though we are sad to be leaving, we have had some great times while we’ve been out here, including times from our last day of field work!

We started the day off by making the drive out to P2 to tackle some more measuring and make some more progress on the pulse/steady experiment. Though we had been making steady progress through the measuring, the team really surged ahead today, and now are over halfway done!

All smiles for P2 measuring!!

After wrapping up with the morning tasks, the team trekked back to Hjelm House for lunch, where we were joined with a few special guests – Stuart’s parents and Steve Ellis (a local beekeeper) and his wife, Karen. Steve gave a talk about his experience raising honeybees, how his bees have been affected by neonicotinoids, and his experiences going up against the state and federal governments to get them to restrict/ban the use of these harmful chemicals. Though we usually focus on our own native solitary bees here at the Echinacea Project, I think we all found it well worthwhile to take this short break to discuss the nonnative honeybee and the plight of pollinators all across the world.

We love bees! (and Stuart’s world-famous cake!)

After the conclusion of Steve’s talk and a brief flossing tutorial by Ren, the team prepped to head back out for the afternoon. This mostly included people working on their independent projects – Julie checking her crossed plants, Jay killing some more ash, and Riley and Erin honing their computer wizardry skills a bit more. Miyauna, Ren, Amy, and I were in for a special treat though, as we got to ride with John in the famous Bombus Mobile to go water the baby plants in John’s restoration plots at the school.

Bombus Mobile selfies!

And that was it! Our final day of field work concluded. It’s been a terrific two and a half weeks, and we wish the team all the luck in the world with the rest of their field season – we will miss you all!

Thanks for an awesome field experience 🙂


Mad Snail Disease Runs Rampant

Hello readers,

Today’s flog will address a serious illness taking over the occupants of Town Hall. Mad Snail Disease (MSD) has been introduced to members of the Echinacea Project through direct contact with Avery Pearson, who carried the disease to Minnesota from her home in Ohio.

Those infected by the debilitating disease appear to be unable to make rational decisions and have been seen getting up to all kinds of shenanigans.

We hope for the speedy recovery of these individuals who have been infected. Sadly, there is no treatment for Mad Snail Disease; prevention is the only cure. If you are experiencing MSD-like symptoms, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor.

This has been a public health report by Ren Johnson.

International Pollinator Conference

Good evening Flogland!

I’m writing from Sacramento, CA, where I am staying for the 2019 International Pollinator Conference at UC Davis. Today I heard talks about new quantitative methods for studying pollinator ecology and I also learned a whole bunch about pollinator disease ecology. Tomorrow will be full of more pollinator-themed talks and I will present my poster in the afternoon. I’ll post a copy of my poster below. I’m looking forward to learning more tomorrow! That’s all for now,


Image result for international pollinator conference