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Externship Day 5: lab meeting, seminars and cleaning liatris!

This Friday was day 5 of our externship and we had plenty of new experiences! We started the day by learning how to cleaning a different flowering prairie plant, liatris, or rough blazing star, with Wyatt. Compared to echinacea, achenes of liatris are much easier to be separated from the chaff and the receptacle. However, the fruits of the liatris are spread by wind. So the achenes all have fluffs attached to them which is a little challenging to separate sometimes.

Then we participated in the echinacea project’s weekly lab meeting. We read the draft of a paper Lea had been working on and listened to lab members discussing it. It was really fun and inspiring to see the process of scientific writing and experience the lab as such a collaborative space. I learned a lot about the behind the scene processes in doing science such as designing experiments, deciding on certain sets of data to use for a given topic and different ways to present data.

Right after the lab meeting, we listened to speed talks given by ecologists working in different departments of the Garden including aquatics, remnant forests and some other natural areas. I learned a lot about the history of the Garden as well as challenges and successes in managing different ecosystems within the Garden. I was really surprised when I learned how much work went into maintaining the lake area and the shores of lakes – planting, reinforcing, cleaning algae and other unwanted aquatic plants and so on. It was a great experience listening to talks by ecologists doing hands-on restoration and conservation work here in the Garden.

We also learned the ABT format of presenting a project and all three of us tried to come up with one for our projects here. We also decided on what we’ll be doing for projects. Cassie would be looking at density and seed set in liatris, Caitlin fire and seed set in echinacea, and I would be looking at number of flower heads and seed set in liatris. We planned to do some cleaning, rechecking, scanning, counting and X-raying to get part of the data we need and then do some data analysis. With this in mind, we were much more motivated to do some more cleaning and rechecking and dive into the second week of our externship!

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