First Week & the Runestone!

This was a great first week, and great introduction to all the work going on this summer with Team Echinacea. Despite everyone else’s familiarity with the procedures, everyone has served as great mentors and teachers this week as I do my best to catch up.

Each day I spent a bit of time doing something different. Monday was spent looking at Lea’s project on Solidago and Liatris, some time on rechecks, and also demo! On Tuesday Stuart introduced me to Hegg lake and the number of interesting projects going on out at that location. I also pinned insects some this week with Alex (yay bees!) and did vegetation with Lea and Tracie.

I’ve set a few goals for myself this summer: these include becoming comfortable with naming the local vegetation and pollinators, developing my skills in R, and staying up on current literature. I’m really enjoying learning about everyone’s projects, developing my skills, and getting to know everyone better.

Today was mostly relaxed, but I decided to get out of the house for a bit this afternoon and check out Runestone County Park. The story goes that a group of Vikings were commissioned by the then current King of Norway to travel to the west. After traveling through the Arctic Ocean, this small group of Vikings ended up in the Hudson Bay and then trekked south into Minnesota. Near Kensington these Vikings were ambushed (likely by Native Americans) and left behind the “Runestone” or an inscription which detailed their encounter. A man and his son discovered the tablet in the late 1800s, prompting investigations into the first recorded history of Europeans in North America.

People remain skeptical of the Runestone, however, after numerous Wikipedia searches it seems that there is some evidence suggesting the story to be true. While we may never know which group of Europeans reached North America first, the park is pretty and serene, and serves as a unique part of an interesting local legend.



Goodbye Ashley!

It was a sad morning saying goodbye to Ashley. She left everyone cute goodbye letters with hand-drawn Echinacea. Ashley was such a wonderful part of of the team! Lea and I took Ashley to Perkins in Alex early this morning to have breakfast with her before her shuttle picked her up. She’s heading to St. Louis for a couple days and then watching the eclipse before going back to school in Arkansas.

Lea and Ashley in Perkins.

We already miss you Ashley!

Later in the morning Lea and I went out to a few remnants to stake for Rich Hood. We staked the Golf Course to Around Landfill loop, and then took some data at 5 of our plots at Around Landfill. We found some strange Artemisia ludoviciana plants that were losing their color.

A strange Artemisia ludoviciana.

Tomorrow we are hoping to finish up staking and collect vegetation data at our Aanenson plots!

See you next time, flog!

The End of Peach Time

It’s my last day here at the Echinacea Project 2017. I learned so many new things and met many wonderful people during my time here, and I’m sad to see my time come to its conclusion. Nonetheless, we made the most of the day…or we tried to at least.

The team started the morning off doing re-checks in p1 while Stuart and I spoke about my experience and my project. He gave me some valuable tips for presenting my work, and I made it a goal to finish my project assessment within a week. Post-our meeting and morning re-checks, I headed out to p2 with Will and Wes to harvest. Sadly, many of the heads we harvested already shed many achenes, so we spent a large portion of our time at p2 picking up achenes from around the plant. For one head alone, we picked up 102 achenes! We decided since lunch time was approaching that we ought to head back and be sure to grab tweezers for the afternoon harvest work.

Lunch was filled with a fun discussion of peach-day calendars (again) and plans for the eclipse Monday. We intended to start work, but the rain persisted, so I gave a brief presentation to the group about my summer research project, and the whole team contributed valuable feedback to enhance my project. When I was finished, we had independent project time, so Tracie and Lea headed out to do vegetation analysis, Alex and Kristen worked on pinning, and I worked on creating maps for harvesting my Echinacea heads.

After work, we relaxed for a while and eventually went to the Douglas county fair where I savored fried Oreos and cheese curds while gazing at prize-winning cabbage as big as a globe.


Now, I’m all packed up and ready to leave first thing in the morning. It’s been real. It’s been fun. It’s been a real fun summer with the Echinacea Project–Definitely one for the books.

Taking a Random Sample of Achenes

The next step of the ACE protocol is to take a random sample of all the achenes which will then be x-rayed for seed set and viability. The randomness of the sampling is important to not introduce any potential biases in which achenes are chosen. If only potentially fertilized achenes were chosen then this would lead to bias in the data; thence, inaccuracy in assessing the experiments from which they came. The sampling of all the achenes will then be separated into informative and uninformative categories. The informative achenes will be x-rayed since they will be able to inform whether or not there is a viable embryo inside the achene. The uninformatives are those that have been damaged, eaten by a critter, or “tinies”/ “micros” that were never fertilized. There is a reference image to help determine whether achenes are informative or not (see image below).

General guide of how to identify the differences between informative and uninformative achenes

Detailed instructions of how to take a random sampling is in the protocols folder. The envelopes, segmented circle and achene counter paper is located in the cabinet to the right of the center area close to the windows.

The achenes to be used are in the box that has “scanned behind this card” present. The informative achenes get placed in the clear plastic baggies located in the drawer labelled “plastic baggies” make sure to use the “Good Ones” in the drawer. The uninformative achenes get placed in a small white envelope. Both get a label that corresponds to the original manila envelope from which it came. Spread the achenes evenly around a circle. Randomly select two segments to separate into informative and uninformative. These two segments account for about 1/6th of the total achenes. Record the number of informative and uninformative achenes from that envelope on a sheet (see image below). Once achenes from the manila envelope are sampled both the manila achene and chaff envelopes are placed behind a marker “randomized behind this card.”  

Once the achenes are evenly distributed on the circle two segments are randomly selected and separated into informative and uninformative achenes

It can also be helpful to write this number on the white envelope. The white envelope and clear baggie containing 1/6th of the achenes are placed in another box. After this point the informative achenes will be x-rayed.

The next post will focus on what happens after the achenes have been scanned: COUNTING!


Tracie’s B-Day

Today was Tracie’s birthday! After a morning of individual projects due to rain, Gretel brought out a beautiful cake at lunch that was decorated in flowering heads of anything that was currently in bloom.

Tracie’s Birthday!

We also realized that today was the last day of having a full ten people together at the project because Anna won’t be here for the next two days and Gretel and Ashley leave for the summer this weekend. Picture time!

Team Echinacea 2017

After lunch the weather was still very wet and rainy, so we took the afternoon off. In the evening, the Andes Crew went out to a restaurant called Pike and Pint to continue the birthday celebration. When we returned home there was a lot of bustle in the kitchen to make a massive cinnamon roll cake!

4 peach day passes, 3 peach day begins

Today we had a productive day! We started the day with staples and re-checks in p1, which as Will remarked today could at times be called, “pool 1”. Indeed, my pants were wet from boot to waist, and it took a few hours to dry off completely.  After rechecks, we worked on computer work until lunch. It was at that point that 4 peach day passed and 3 peach day began. We measure days in peaches, Ashley’s peaches to be exact- never Alex’s peaches. It was also at lunch that I received a very clear notification regarding my flogging responsibilities, posted below.

Look how confusing!

After lunch, we spend a few hours working on independent projects. Tracie, Gretel, Kristen, and I headed to NRRX and RRX to work on some vegetation analysis. It was nice having Gretel, the local plant ID expert, help us with the data collection. Kristen also was a great help, she’s learning the Visor skills at lightening speed. Meanwhile, the rest of the team finished demo at RRX, and everyone had some independent project time. An interesting coincidence happened this afternoon- both Wes and I had a question about the identity of the same plant species. We both took photos, and luckily Gretel was able to help.  Even with all of Gretel’s great clues about the ID, (“the epithet is a sauce you’ve made”) I couldn’t get it on my own and had to be told the ID!

Overall it was a great day, and I can only hope that the remainder of 3 peach day goes as nicely!

Ashley finds another Monarch caterpillar at Nice Island!

Demo Day!

In the morning everyone split up and did separate projects. Tracie and I worked on aphid addition and exclusion. Alex did phenology. Ashley and Anna did demography at Railroad Crossing. Leah and Kristen went to Staffanson. Eventually, everyone came back and we all worked on putting in staples in experimental plot 1 to mark plants that haven’t been found in the last three years. While doing that, Alex found this awesome Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia).

Argipe aurantia in P1

After lunch, everyone went back to P1 for an hour of placing staples. Then Leah and Tracie went out to work on their plant community analysis and Ashely, Will, Kristen, and I went to do demography at Railroad Crossing again. We finished staking all of the plants known to have flowered in the past and then had time to flag all of the new flowering plants. We just need to GPS the new flowering plants before we are done at Railroad Crossing.

Happy Monday!

Kristen, Ashley, and Will doing total demography

Kristen Manion

Echinacea Project 2017

B.S. Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Kansas, 2017

Research Interests

Broadly speaking, my interests are in plant-pollinator conservation and restoration in native tallgrass prairie. I am interested in the interplay between landscape dynamics such as habitat fragmentation, and its effects on community composition, diversity, and success of both plants and pollinators. How can we utilize this information to help inform land management decisions, and continue to protect and conserve this natural resource?


I originally grew up all over the country, but eventually found my way back to the heartland through Kansas by way of Missouri. I have a number of interests in science other than plant biology including entomology, herpetology, and mycology.  I am also very passionate about the human impact of science on the public, and enjoy participating in scientific outreach and science diversity educational programming. In my free time I like to travel, study Spanish, drink tea, and enjoy a good book. I am looking forward to joining the Master’s Program in Plant Biology & Conservation this fall at Northwestern.


Kristen Arrives!

Today was a nice cool and rainy day in Minnesota. I spent the day cooking and hanging out with the dogs while people went out and did various chores for the weekend. Wes played in a very rainy parade, too! We also got Andes all cleaned up and ready for Kristen! Kristen arrived around dinner time and we are all very excited that she’s joining the team this week! It will be nice to have a new team-member for the last third of the summer. All in all it was a nice relaxing weekend day, and the weather was beautiful even though it was very wet.


Rocks in the rain at Andes


Celebrating a Great Summer!

My time here as a 2017 summer team member of the Echinacea Project is nearing its end. During my REU internship, I have had the opportunity to work under great mentors and with some great peers, and I’m sad I only have one week left. Nonetheless, I hope to make the most of my last week, and the data analysis part of that week continued today. This morning, I worked on my generalized linear model of my shrivel rate data in R using a model problem Stuart gave me. Lea helped me work through some errors returned to me while creating my models, and she used her Solidago figures to help explain the difference in additive and multiplicative interactions. Tomorrow, I hope to find what is significant in my study using the

Viking set-up at Andes


While I worked on my analysis, there was a mountain bike race at Andes, and part of the set-up included a 3 meter viking near the finish line. Taking a picture with it was somethings I definitely could not pass up.

In the afternoon, Lea, Tracie, and I enjoyed a evening celebrating a great summer. Since it’s my last weekend before returning to my university in Arkansas, we wanted to have a great evening, so we enjoyed a night out in Alexandria!

Tracie, Lea, and I in Alexandria

We are excited to welcome our new roommate, Kristen, tomorrow!