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Lots (and Lots) of September Updates

It’s been pretty busy here as we begin to wrap up the summer field season. We’ve been slowly chipping away at all the tasks that need to be completed before the end of next week. I hope you’re ready for a jam-packed flog post!!

1. Remnant echinacea harvest is done! We have harvested every single focal echinacea plant at each of our remnant sites. Now we just have P1 left…

2. Liatris harvesting has begun and is in full swing! Just like with Echinacea, Liatris has to be harvested at the exact right time – wait too long and all the heads on a stem may already have dispersed. We’ve been visiting our Liatris sites every 3-4 days to try and ensure we catch all of our focal plants right on time. We snip off the stalks and put them in a labeled L-bag. 

A Liatris plant that’s ready for harvest!

3. Total demo is all done! This week we finished up our very last total demography site. Pictured here: Lindsey, Alex, and I at Hegg during what was our foggiest (but prettiest!) total demo experience. 

Me and Lindsey at Hegg, Featuring Taylor the GPS in her little raincoat
Alex recording demography at another total demo site
Beautiful bottle gentians!

4. Andropogon update! Last week we collected and counted lots of remnant and pilot Big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). At each randomly selected point, we used a meter stick to count the total number of Andropogon culms within a 1m radius and then harvested all the inflorescences. Counting and harvesting can take quite a while – especially if you get a particularly dense plot like this one that Alex and I counted which contained almost 200 culms (higher than last year’s record!)

The hydra Andropogon plot in question – the more heads we cut the more seemed to appear

5. We also enjoyed a little rainy day time indoors learning how to clean Asclepias seed pods from Jared – a very fun and relaxing activity. 

And here is Lindsey using the metal detector to locate nails in one of the recruitment plots. We found the nails and beat the storm – a success! 

It’s been an exciting and productive week with lots done and lots more to do! Thanks for reading 🙂

It’s September!

It’s the first week of September and despite only four days of work (thanks to Labor Day) we’ve gotten a lot done. This week in the field we went out to find and shoot Liatris neighbors! We use the GPS to record the four closest neighbors of each focal Liatris plant, and on Friday we finished every single site! Now we just wait until they’re ready to harvest…

A bumblebee spotted visiting Liatris!

We have also been harvesting a lot of Echinacea heads and have been working our way through all the plots. Some of the things we look for to determine if a head is ready for harvest are visible or loose achenes, crisp upper leaves, and a brown stem. If a plant is ready, we snip its head off and put it in an H-bag! 

Lindsey teaching me how to harvest Echinacea heads at P1

On Thursday we had a lovely dinner together and made a huge bonfire. We ended our delicious meal with 3 desserts (Alex’s chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream, AND s’mores), after which we came to the very scientific conclusion that eating dessert does in fact expand your stomach. 

We also made two goat visits this week!! Here they are enjoying their favorite snack (buckthorn).

I’ve had such a great first week meeting the team and being in the field! I’m so excited to be out here and am really looking forward to learning even more as the month continues. Thanks for reading!

Manogya Chandar

Echinacea Project 2022

My name is Manogya and I am very excited to be joining the team this month!

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in investigating the mutualistic relationship between plants and pollinators, specifically through plant reproduction and survival. I am excited to apply these interests to the Echinacea project while investigating effects of fire disturbance.

Statement

In my spare time I enjoy being outside whether that means hiking, swimming, or just looking at flowers! I also enjoy cooking and baking.

Flog Post

Hello Flog-beasts! We’ve been busy here at the Echinacea project. This Tuesday we finished measuring P1, which was the final big hurdle in our quest to finish measuring. That’s right: we’ve now visited every position in our experimental plots at which we’ve found a plant in the last three years! Very exciting.

The other two big tasks we’re working on finishing is finding Liatris and harvesting Echinacea heads. We’re making great progress on both! Every few days we revisit Echinacea in our plots and in the remnants to see if they’re ready to harvest. Once we harvest the heads, we put them into an H-bag which goes into a G-bag which goes in the seed drier which goes in G-3. That reminds me of a certain song about a bog…

This summer there’s been an unprecedented amount of Liatris flowering, so it’s been a huge task to map it all. We’ve had to put in transects at certain plots because there’s just too many to surv!

Spiral staircase Liatrus!

One other thing we’ve been spending a lot of time doing is total demography. This is when we use the GPS to revisit every location where there’s been a flowering plant in the past. When we find flowering plants we also surv(ey) them. Geena, Daytona, and I had lots of fun at Hegg Lake today surving plants…and also serving looks!!

One thing we are all about at the Echinacea project is innovation. Which is why I am happy to share some cutting-edge creativity Geena demonstrated today by using a Capri Sun straw as a Visor stylus:

It works!

See you next time, flog-fanatics!

Mid-week Shenanigans Update

Hello all you flog-readers! We’ve had quite a fun week at the Echinacea Project, and it’s only Thursday!

This past Tuesday, we had the team social at Hjelm. The highlights of the dinner were fresh corn on the cob and S’mores- thanks, Stuart! We also finally got to see the fruits of our tree-hauling labor as we (Jared) ignited one of the bonfire piles (which we stacked less than 20 feet tall, as per regulation).

The team has spent a lot of time this week measuring P1, our nearest and dearest plot. We are definitely making progress! My favorite pastime during P1 measuring is catching grasshoppers and katydids, and unleashing them on other team members. We also got some help measuring today from Team Echinacea alum Riley and our favorite recurring guest star Ruth!

P1 resident biting me so bad.

One great interpersonal disagreement we must overcome at Team Echinacea is differences in opinions on field clothes. Some people are never seen outside without their wide-brimmed hat with sun flaps. A few prefer long sleeves and long pants for sun protection to avoid cuts from grass. Many enjoy t-shirts and long pants. Some even wear shorts (as I did, once, but was quickly deterred). However, I truly believe this may be a first for Team Echinacea: Geena braved P1 with no shoes! “Socks are just enough protection for me,” she told us.

Geena goes primal.

On a more bittersweet note, our beloved team member Kennedy had her second-to-last day of work today. This was Kennedy’s second summer with the team, and we loved hearing her talk about aphids, dust, goats, and her cow Ollie. Alex baked a delicious cake to commemorate Kennedy’s leaving. Thanks Kennedy for being such an awesome, sweet, kind, and funny person to work with this summer! We wish you the best of luck in South Dakota 🙂

Wednesday Shenanigans

The team split up for an adventurous and successful Wednesday morning. Some went to go do total demo at landfill (finishing the last big site!), while others did demo at various other sites. I also was working on my dust traps throughout the day, part of my independent project where I am measuring the amount of dust traveling off of unpaved roads. If you are interested in learning more about my dust, go check out my project update! After I finished placing my dust traps, I finished up some demo and phen at a few prairie remnants and headed back for lunch.

The afternoon proved to be an eventful one! The entire team headed out to P2 to get trained in on harvesting. I don’t have photo evidence (sorry guys), but even Jared made it into the experimental plot, an event rarer than a double rainbow! While in the plot, Stuart taught the team the 4 ways to know if an Echinacea head is ready to harvest, then sent us on our way to start harvesting in the experimental plot. The task seemed to be easy enough at first, but proved difficult as we moved along. The culprit of our problems: the 13 lined ground squirrels who call P2 home. Many of the plants had their roots eaten, which we discovered when the peduncle (stem) of the Echinacea was no longer attached to the ground. If the plant was lucky enough to have its roots still intact, it may have had its head eaten off. Daytona and I tried to scare them away when we saw them eating our plants, but the safety of our plants was likely short-lived. The ground squirrels were feeling especially brave, one even jumped on my leg! The excitement of harvesting and the ground squirrels made for a quick afternoon, and soon enough we had to head back and finish up for the day. I collected my dust traps and everyone split up to enjoy their evening!

Alternatives to Echinacea: a Monday with Milkweed and Liatris

Hey flog-heads! Welcome back to one more week of the Echinacea project; off to an exciting start with milkweed, measuring, birds-of-prey, total demo, wet shoes, visitors, visors, liatris, and as always … phenology.

This morning the team divided, some to continue remnant phenology on few remaining flowering echinacea while others went to start total demo on on behemoth of a site, Loeffler’s corner. I am grateful that Jo and I had the task of scoring milkweed at Bang and Hegg lake. We trekked through the dewy grass, Jo’s rubber boots repelling the water that my shoes invited in, leaving me to walk in puddles for the majority of the morning. Jared warns that soon enough that I’ll be dreaming of the abundant purple heads of Liatris aspera as I will see so many, but for now I revel in the excitement of the few flowering plants I was able to find today at Hegg. Along with Green Milkweed, we encountered three osprey, all upset by our presence, as well as a stickbug, pictured below.

Geena found a calf in the street, which when she asked politely to moooove over, they obliged (sorry Jared, I stole your joke, but its for the fans. You get it.).

At lunch, we welcomed Scott back to the Echinacea Project. An alum from 2016, Scott returned on his way back to Boulder, CO to make sure everything was still in working order. We were excited to hear his stories and gain some wisdom about the adventure into science, post-team Echinacea. Thank you Scott!

The afternoon brought with it measuring in P2 and P1 for the majority of the team, while Sophia and I ventured to Yellow Orchid Hill to begin mapping Liatris for my project. We found many more than previously expected, inspiring burgeoning hypotheses as to why. Soon, Yellow Orchid Hill West will be ablaze with purple. Maybe they’ll have to change the name.

Friday: Stormy Staffanson (& more!)

This morning the crew split up, heading out to work on various tasks: remnant phenology, p7&9 phenology, and p2 measuring. P2 was peaceful, and measuring is like a game of I-spy: can you spot the echinacea in this picture?

Echinacea hidden in the grass, likely around position 47

After lunch and a successful goat herding (they love a new pasture!), the team got to head to Staffanson, where we got to see how the rolling prairie has changed since we first visited in early June. One of my favorite plants to see was Allium stellatum, or the prairie onion! The team spread out across the prairie, searching for flowering echinacea and following speedy Emma as she staked to a subset of the plants for total demo. Staffanson was stunning, and even more fun was watching the afternoon storm roll in. Eventually, we had to head back for fear of getting soaked – but we didn’t made it, so we got a quick shower before heading home for the day.

Overall, Friday was a breeze, and filled with beautiful prairies and as usual, lots of echinacea. 🙂

Remnant phenology update

To record the flowering phenology of Echinacea, we visit plants every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning so we can estimate the flowering start and end date within 2-3 days. During peak flowering in mid-July, the full team spent the whole morning recording phenology. This year was a good flowering year for Echinacea across sites, but fortunately we reduced the number of sites and visited only a subset of plants at larger remnants and those that burned this year.

Remnant phenology is currently wrapping up for the summer. Most of the plants are done flowering now, and we have stopped visiting several of the smaller sites. Landfill West is the exception; the site burned in late May, so the plants flowered several weeks later than at other sites.

Birthday Monday

On Monday morning, the crew split into two groups. Half of the team did remnant phenology, which is going much faster now that most Echinacea are done flowering. The other half did total demo at prairie remnants nrrx and rrx, where we revisited a subset of the plants that flowered in previous years. Johanna made a fabulous illustration for the cover of total demo binder. Can you identify all the prairie species? It was also my birthday on Monday, so we celebrated by eating Stuart’s famous vegan chocolate cake at lunch.

In the afternoon, I joined Kennedy and Johanna to finish total demo at rrx and start on27. At rrx, we spotted several robber flies laying their eggs on Echinacea heads. It was a busy day for insects, and Johanna also spotted two walking sticks climbing through the grass at on27. Overall, it was an excellent birthday!