Lake Forest College Intern: Emma

Hello! My name is Emma Carlson, and I am one of the Lake Forest College student interns working at the CBG! I am currently working with Tracie Hayes and Stuart Wagenius on the aphid exclusion and addition project. Over the past few weeks, I have been working on cleaning Echinacea heads, as well as randomizing and counting achenes! I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this project and being able to actually DO science! As a future science teacher, I always want to emphasize to my students that science is not just something you learn or read about, but something that you do and engage in! Science is about exploration, discovery, research, and hands-on problem solving. I am LOVING this opportunity to get out of the classroom and actually do science with this internship!

I am so thankful for this opportunity to see and experience how all of the different parts of the project, such as counting thousands of achenes, contributes to the overall importance of the study. This mini-internship has been an extremely valuable experience for me, and something that I am honored to be a part of!

Here is a few photos of me, working super diligently to beat Leah’s overall achene count for the day!

Bee-uty School Dropout

Hello! I am Emily Staufer, one of the Lake Forest College students taking part in the ‘mini-internships’ with CBG! I’m working with Kristen Manion on pinning foraging bees from the Hegg NE site.

I really enjoy working on this project; I spent the past summer in a research lab point-mounting ants, and so working with critters a little larger and involving much less glue is a much-welcomed change of pace. I’ve also always had an interest in conservation ecology, so this project is a perfect fit, and Kristen is helping me figure out how to ask questions of my own about my little section I’m working on in order to have a great presentation for the end of the semester.

When asked about my specific role, I like to think of my corner of the table in the CBG lab as my bee beauty (bee-uty!) salon – it’s my role to make the specimen look as good as possible, and this all boils down to fluffy bees.

At my salon, the wash always comes first, since the bees are all in their ethanol tubes from each collection location. A quick towel dry follows to begin the fluffing process. Under the dissecting scope, they undergo a slightly invasive process when the pin is put in place through the center of their abdomen, but it is followed quickly by a relaxing massage with a pair of forceps as I position their legs and wings. What comes next is the real treat – a nice, warm blowdry using my very professional Pink Hairdryer. No bee is left defluffed, as this is key to the process! After their treatment, each happy customer is added to the larger board next to their foraging friends from the same site. Come visit my salon in the CBG lab, 100% satisfaction rating on Yelp (or it would have one, if bees had access to iPhones).

Some of the bees Emily has been working with these past few weeks.

Aphis echinaceae at Carleton’s Fall Poster Symposium

The aphids were a hit at Carleton’s Summer Research Symposium.

At the Carleton College Summer Research Symposium on October 26th, I presented a poster on my work on the aphid addition/exclusion experiment. Over the summer, I administered the aphid addition and exclusion treatments for the experiment and collected data on leaf senescence and herbivory on plants in the study. Since August, I have been developing an aster model in R to analyze differences in fitness between these two experimental groups. Preparing the aster model for my project was quite a bit of work, but I learned more about R, statistical analysis, and plant-herbivore interactions in the process. Interestingly, Aphis echinaceae has not had an impact on plant fitness over the 8 years of the study.

I am excited to see how the experiment progresses in the coming years, and how the addition of data on seed set affects the results of future fitness models. Quite a few visitors to the symposium were also interested in the results of my analysis and my experience working with the aphids. It was a pleasure to represent the Echinacea Project at Carleton and to have a chance to share the fantastic work the team did over the summer.

A cupcake prairie to congratulate Anne!

Anne has counted over half a million achenes!

Today we celebrated Anne’s accomplishment of counting over 500,000 achenes with a prairie remnant made out of cupcakes. Anne has been a member of Team Echinacea for over 10 years and she has really put in the hours! We can’t thank her enough; it’s great having her in every Friday.

Notice the cupcake “soil” under the diverse cupcake prairie remnant – complete with Echinacea, Helianthus, bottle gentian, and grass!

Prairie cupcake remnant. Are these bare ground cupcakes good for solitary bees??


Prairie cupcakes detail.


Welcome LFC Interns!

This week the Echinacea Project welcomes our three Lake Forest College interns: Emma, Leah, and Emily! We’re excited to have them for the next four weeks helping out in the lab. Emily is pinning bees from Hegg NE for Kristen, Emma is looking at our 2015-2017 heads in the aphid addition and exclusion experiment, and Leah is looking at our 2015-2017 heads in the pollen limitation experiment. Look forward to more updates from Emma, Leah, and Emily themselves!

Emma and Leah cleaning heads

Emily blow drying a bee

A fluffy prairie waits for winter

Stuart, Michael and I were back in Minnesota this week Monday-Thursday to finish up a few fieldwork tasks. We staked to 268 points across our sites to complete demo rechecks. Most of our Echinacea have fully senesced, but there were a few out there with some greenish leaves. There are not a lot of species flowering, except your occasional Solidago still holding on.

We also started work herbiciding Ash trees in p8. We didn’t apply herbicide to any trees close to Echinacea, because we wanted to test out our methods. It will be interesting to see how well the herbicide works. Finally, no chances for a burn these last few days, with wind and humidity levels not right. There might be a chance for a burn this fall, but more likely spring 2019.

Solidago fluff at Hegg.


Riley’s Fall Semester Update

Hello Echinacea folks! After a great summer at the Echinacea Project, I returned to Gustavus to work on the morphological and physiological data I collected at experimental plot 7. In my time at Gustavus so far, I wrote a proposal for my project so I can analyze my data and undertake a senior honors project under familiar Echinacea advisors Pamela Kittelson, Stuart Wagenius, and Sanjive Qazi. I have also worked on a methods section for my final honors paper and made a poster (attached below). In addition to my project, this fall I have been working on a project to implement composting and sustainable practices in Saint Peter restaurants and a project analyzing microRNA-mediated stress response in smooth cordgrass. The next steps for my honors project are to write up an introduction and do statistical analysis over our January-term. I will be performing aster and cluster analyses and am really excited to get back into some R coding! echinaceaPoster1_Thoen

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).


Hello from the Molecular lab of Team Echinacea East

Hello from Team Echinacea East!

A long long time ago on the flog many clicks away, Lara Leventhal performed an experiment to determine the amount of interspecific pollen diversity on different taxa of solitary ground nesting bees. The field aspect of this experiment occurred during the summer of 2016 this involved catching bees and wiping them on styles of Echinacea. By genotyping seedlings that were produced by wiping bees on receptive styles, we are able to determine how many different plants that the bee taxa are carrying pollen from. This requires performing plant paternity tests really means a lot of PCR work. This work has been going on for over a year, we are starting to reach the end and almost to a point of doing only reruns on samples that failed. I have not been doing this work alone, there have been many people that have worked on this project right now Michelle Chang and I have been on the molecular team, (there has been at least two people besides Laura that worked on this project).

Meet Michele! She is working on loading a PCR plate in this photo


Look its a new PCR!

We called it boxville for a reason!

Doing lab work requires well a set up lab. The College of Wooster just opened our new life sciences building that means that when I got back to school the lab was full of boxes. We had to unpack before we could do anything. This was very exciting but also was a daunting task, we have recently have finished setting up the lab and the greenhouse(oh have I not mentioned it yet there is a greenhouse attached to the lab!)

One side of the lab(post boxes)

The other half of the lab

Until next time flog!


Returning to CBG

Tomorrow I will be coming back to CBG to work for a few days over break and I’m very excited! I just wanted to take the time and explain some of the things that I’ve done since the school year started. I finished entering two data sets of data; the data from pollen in the bank and the maternal repaints (technically I entered one and a half because Zeke filled out the pollen in the bank data with me). I’ve also been showing our new volunteer, Nate Scheerer, around the lab sense he’ll be helping me count the pollen on the styles Zeke, Mia, and I collected this summer out in Minnesota. But what I’ve completed that I was most proud of was making the fuschin dye that we’ll be using to stain the styles. Even though I was nervous when making the gel, the product turned out great! One thing that I recommend before making the gel is having all the materials that you’ll need nearby so you can keep a close eye on the gel (and so the people in the stockroom don’t get annoyed with seeing you every five minutes). I’m looking forward to a productive few days at CBG!


Just a small amount of the gel that I made in the lab.