Sappy (demo crew appreciation) post and Grass Corner


It has been a busy and at times stressful few weeks in and outside of work, but I’m thankful for the supportive and reliable people around me in both aspects of my life who help me stay positive and hopeful.

In terms of work some of the people I’ve been grateful to count on the past few weeks are Allie, Anna M., and Anna A., who’ve been working with me to do demo––we’ve done one or two sites every day the last week and a half, and it’s been going smoothly. It can be kind of a zen time, just me, the GPS, and the point I’m staking to…repetitive, routine, peaceful. I’m really glad to have teammates who do their jobs well, that makes my part easy! Another thing I enjoyed doing this week was ID’ing native milkweed Asclepias viridiflora with Anna M. Something about plant ID is just fun! And fun to see someone learning it for themselves.

Today I also got to work on my independent project some, doing a pilot study out at East Elk Lake Road, a favorite site. I collected microhabitat data around maternal Sling plants, including plant community composition & flowering plants, distance to roads, slope & aspect, and litter depth. The end goal is to learn to what extent microhabitat characteristics are related to Echinacea seedling persistence! I learned a lot on my test run today about my protocol (if anyone knows how to use a clinometer hit me up), and was reminded of how much I love doing community composition sampling! It felt so natural and fun to be doing again, even though it was just a little.

One last thing is a special mention of the apple of my eye, the native grasses in P1. There is awesome species representation and it’s been so fun seeing each one’s phenology as they take turns sending up seedheads throughout the summer. First was porcupine grass (Hesperostipa Sparta), then sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) started, then big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), followed by Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and we’re now approaching my favorite grass, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)’s flowering. So great, so diverse! Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Grass Corner with Emma.

An insect predator-prey interaction? I heard that the green bug at the bottom is a predatory species, so it may be
Sometimes instead of woody encroachment it’s ag field encroachment––a lone Echinacea between the soybean rows
The most beautiful color on this sideoats grama pollen! I’d never seen such bright red pollen before.


I love Montana! My mom and I decided to take a trip out to Montana to visit colleges. We arrived in Bozeman, Montana on Friday. Since Friday we have done tons of hiking, visited Yellowstone and took a tour of Montana State University. Yellowstone had lots of people and it took us about 5 hours to drive only 30 miles! In Yellowstone we saw the grand canyon and some geysers. Today we had a campus tour and I fell in love with Montana State University and later today we are going on a cave tour.

I have done a lot of hiking in my life but this hike was by far my favorite! My mom and I woke up at 5 am to get to Hyalite Trail by 7. We hiked for about 7 miles and it was gorgeous!

Moving out/Moving in

Hey flog!

Amy headed back to the Twin Cities on Friday, which left me alone at the Hoff House. Since I don’t feel risking my life everyday biking to work on 27, I moved into the Andes Tower Hills condo Friday evening.

It has new topography (a hill) and new wildlife (Lea’s dogs). Given the general lack of dogs and elevation gain in the past 1.5 months, this is much more similar to my living condition at home (upstate NY).

I’m looking forward to fun new adventures with the Andes crew!

Andes Tower Hills – elevation of 1620 ft (290 ft rise)!
Bellamy (left) and Huxley (right)

Who run the world? GIRLS! (…again)

Hey flog!

It’s Anna Meehan (Alpha Mike) coming at you with an update of our demo/measuring adventures. This week our active team consists of exclusively girls! And of course, no insult to the lovely men on our team, we have got a lot done. Specifically, demo and measuring have been flying by at a faster-than-usual rate.

We started off the day with some demo and phenology, which is typical of our mid-season schedule. Emma, Allie and I took on Loeffler’s Corner this morning. This is a large demo-site with approximately 175 plants. Usually, Darwin (our GPS system) would count as a man, but he is, in fact, a GPS. Meanwhile, Anna Allen conquered P2 phenology, all on her own! While our tasks seemed somewhat daunting, we completed both in a timely manner well before noon. We wrapped up the morning with some extra measuring in P1.

Superstar Demo Team Emma and Allie stake some new flowering plants!
We had the chance to jump/crawl under some barbed wire fence today…
in the name of science!

We took the afternoon to measure some more segments of our P1 plot. Today was significantly nicer than others, with lower humidity and temperature levels than Wednesday and Tuesday. Amy even joined in on measuring for the first time in ~3 years! Sadly, we weren’t able to get a picture of this precious moment, but it will live on in our memories. Mia, Allie and I found some aphids along the way, which have slipped our eyes the entire field season. Now, we may be able to continue our aphid addition/exclusion experiment from previous years.

APHIDS!!! At last!

Overall, our day was pretty typical. This week has reminded us of the importance of women in STEM, and just how much we are capable of as a team. I’m incredibly lucky to have some awesome, efficient, kind, and strong women to look up to as I continue my journey through science.

That’s all for now!

See ya later flog,

Anna (Meehan)

The girls do P1

and phen, and demo, and…

Today was a solid day’s work with a small crew––we worked on phenology, demo, and P1 measuring, mostly. Everything went smoothly overall––there’s lots of P1 to go, but flowering is really on its last legs which makes for diminished phenology personnel needs. This meant I got to go and use the GPS (“Darwin” to close friends) and work with Allie and Anna M. on demo at Railroad Crossing! We shot 112 points in about 2-2.5 hours, and there were minimal technical difficulties which was a relief since GPS guru Erin is off to greener (NCSU) pastures! I’m looking forward to continuing to work on some other big sites with people the rest of this week. Thankful for a reliable and hardworking team in the face of adversity!

Found a couple new plants at Loeffler’s Corner today…these surprise Echinacea stragglers to the flowering party keep me young!
Master measurer Allie kicking butt and finding staples in P1 last week. Shoutout to her for coming in clutch to help Anna and I finish our row at the end of the day today!

The end of an era/Erin part 2

Ohhhh heyyyy flog its me Mia

Today started with some remnant phenology, the majority of the plants are done flowering at this point which means that the team can make short work of the task. Erin and Emma set off to do demo at north of golf, they staked to 134 different locs!

During lunch we celebrated Erin’s last day of field work with cake and chocolate!

Erin and cake!

In the afternoon the team continued to chip away at p1 measuring, with the help of the one and only Gretel Kiefer. Gretel came up from Chicago and got here at Thursday morning. We have all been highly appreciative of Gretel’s help over the past two days.

The team has been working on our bee ID skills here is an example of one of the bees found visiting Echinacea.

An Agapostemon virescens found by JVK id-ed by Alpha Whiskey

Bur bye


Phenology winding down and presentations


This morning started with brisk remnant phenology routes for the team—flowering is winding down, so things go more quickly with phenology by the day as more plants shift to being done flowering. In the afternoon everyone worked on independent projects, which included a fruitless search for aphids (and by “fruitless,” I mean aphidless), some pollen collection in P1, and reading up on plant community monitoring methods. 

We ended the workday with a Zoom call where we heard from Scott, a former Echinacea Project team member and current grad student at UC Boulder, and current team members Drake and Devon. Scott gave a practice presentation for a talk he’s giving at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology later in the week about fire and survival, reproduction, and recruitment in small Echinacea populations. The conference is for a conservation and land management audience, which I thought was really cool—I’m always excited when I see science and management coming together because collaboration between these two “sides” is critical to effectively caring for the planet, and is really interesting to me! 

Devon gave a cool update on her project, which involves investigating the probability of Echinacea seedlings occurring at varying distances from maternal plants (“dispersal kernel” was the new phrase I learned today). Amy Dykstra, a researcher who’s been a leader with the Echinacea Project on the Sling project Devon’s analyzing data from, made a good point that if  maternal plants’ stalks tend to falls over, where their seedheads land might determine the distance of many seedlings from that plant. I really liked Devon’s visualizations of her preliminary findings and I’m looking forward to seeing more! 

Drake’s update was good news—the transplanting into P1 stage of his project is finished, and the parasitic plants Pedicularis canadensis and Comandra umbellata are doing okay in their new common garden locations. The overall goal is to determine if these parasites are keystone species in prairies. Among other types of data collection, it sounds like there could be some clipping and sorting of biomass in Drake’s (or someone’s, maybe an extern’s?) future! 

The withered state of many Echinacea angustifolia that are done flowering
This Echinacea purpurea sighted at Yellow Orchid Hill on the other hand is only at the “rays spreading” stage. Its and leaves (and phenology this year) are very distinct from those of Echinacea angustifolia!

Demo and a dog

This week we began gearing up for staked demo, where we use Darwin to search locations in the remnants where mature Echinacea have been found in the past. The team has tackled lots of flowering demo this summer, but now it’s time to take on new challenges like no tag no pl and equivloc records.

Anna M. and Emma contemplate the maps and scenery at EELR

Emma and I were challenged in a different way when we found this monstrosity of a plant at South of Golf Course. It’s newly flowering this year, though we kind of wish it wasn’t, since its bushy leaves and rogue “armpit tooth” florets are uncomfortable to behold. It seems to have a cousin at Loeffler’s Corner with a similarly demented growth habit.

Fearful asymmetry

After all the lake excitement on Friday afternoon, we had a comparatively quiet Saturday. Gooseberry is in town, so Allie and I took her for a walk to the park where she drank puddles and sniffed everything within reach. In return, Goose kept me company as I worked on reconciling demap.

In the evening we enjoyed takeout from Mi Mexico and a rousing discussion of what the world would be like if society was reorganized into five sects, each with their own physical limitations, like having clams for hands or being perpetually confined to an Olive Garden. Goose did not contribute much to the discussion but did partake in some heavy belly rubbing action.

That’s the stuff

The end of an era

On Friday The Echinacea Project saw the end of an era. Long-time team member Riley Thoen had his last day working for the project after 3 summers spent in the field.

We started off the morning with phenology in the remnants, with the added goal of looking for purple prairie clover at each of our sites.

Purple prairie clover, or Dalea purpurea, at Loeffler’s Corner

During lunch break, we celebrated Riley’s time here with some cake and an eyepatch.

Riley, featuring his cake (eye patch not pictured)

After lunch, we finished measuring all of the inbreeding 2 experiment plants and had an early end to the day. We spent some time eating ice cream bars provided by John and then headed to Elk Lake with some canoes for end-of-work-week and end-of-Riley-working-here activities.

Best wishes to Riley as he heads off to grad school!

Emma, Erin, and I enjoying some time in one of the canoes
The other canoe crew, with Riley, Anna M. and Mia

P2 Phun!

Unfortunately today started off raining. Some of us went to WCA to work on our indented project and some stayed at Hjelm. My project is the aphid exclusion and addition project but unfortunately we can’t find any aphids in P1 yet so my project is on halt until we find some aphids.

After the rain cleared up, 3 of use went to P2 to do some phenology, or should I say phonology.