Flannel Friday

Today was a very busy day at the Plant Science Center!

We started the day rechecking our echinacea heads, to make sure we had picked out and counted every achene. Soon after, we had a meeting with Leah, who presented her research paper outline on the comparative success of a number of prairie plants in relation to burnings. It was very interesting to think about the restorative nature that fire can play in these ecosystems, and we spent a lot of time discussing her methods of presenting data as well.

Leah discussing her paper outline

Next up, we heard from Fabiany about his work in conifer fossils, their evolutionary significance as well as how they connected to his home country of Columbia.

One of the plant fossils that Fabiany passed around to the audience

Before lunch, we went through training and began working on classifying achenes through X-ray scans. After lunch, we brainstormed ideas for our individual (or group) projects that we’ll be focusing on for the next two weeks. We all have a lot of different areas of interest, from the impact of inbreeding to limiting factors on plant growth to flowering based on climate change. In addition, we all plan to work on our data processing/analysis skills through learning “R” and more. We spent the rest of the day doing some background research on our project ideas and more discussion of the scope and general plan for our projects.

Overall, it’s been a productive day! We are excited to hit the ground running next week on our projects.

Flog out,


Extern update

The sun’s going down at the CBG, and Jack, Eli, and I are wrapping up sorting the Echinacea heads for Pulse-Steady! We’ve been pretty focused on it the last few days, with some breaks for learning about the project and meeting people around the lab. Erin, Riley, and Stuart have been good about showing us the ropes and giving us chances to get exposed to what’s going on with Echinacea project and other researchers in the building. Earlier in the week we got to meet a volunteer who sets pollinators (mostly different types of bees) to send to the University of Minnesota for identification, which was really cool. We’re also working on ideas for small independent projects we get the chance to do, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s lab meeting where we’ll get to participate in a discussion of a CBG scientist’s research paper in progress, focusing on the effects of fire on the reproductive success of several different prairie plants. It’s been cool to see the lab side of prairie research so far, and to be exposed to so many people studying it! And now that cleaning heads is wrapping up, I’m excited to see what we do next in the process.

Above: an Echinacea head before being taken apart very carefully! We’ve all been able to get into some music/podcasts while cleaning seedheads, so here are some recs––Emma: I’ve been listening to some podcasts––mainly Nancy and a new season of Limetown; Jack: Drilled, a true-crime podcast; Eli: some Radiolab podcasts and Earl Sweatshirt.

Day three at the Echinacea Project!

The first three days of our time here have been great! We’ve been oriented with everything in the lab, and most of the building. On Monday we went out to lunch at the garden cafe with Riley, Erin, and Stuart. The walk over there let us see some awesome parts of the garden, and Stuart shared with us some cool history about the garden. The last two days have been filled with lots of Echinacea head cleaning by counting and sorting achenes for the Pulse Steady experiment. This process is a bit time consuming, but quite satisfying once finished!

Setup for cleaning Echinacea heads- sorting and counting achenes

This morning Erin and Riley showed us and talked about the many experiments occurring at experimental plots P1 and P2 all of which are quite interesting! These experiments may end up guiding some of our individual research in the coming weeks.

The rest of the week holds more head cleaning, maybe beginning to X-Ray the achenes, some discussion about research ideas, and attending a lab meeting and seminar on Friday!

Until next time-


Carleton College Extern Eli Arbogast

Hi Flog,

My name is Eli Arbogast and I am a sophomore at Carleton College. I am a potential (more and more likely) Bio major and am very excited to be joining the Echinacea Project. I want to study biology with a focus on ecology, environmental systems, and plant science, so this externship is the perfect opportunity for me. Past research/environmental-focused internships have included rebuilding trails in the Rockies, measuring agricultural impacts on water quality in rural Costa Rica and working on outreach/fundraising for wild salmon in Alaska. I have a foundation for my environmental interests as a result of being raised on an organic blueberry farm and being a beekeeper (albeit very much a beginner).

Outside of the lab, I am a big music person (playing and listening), love hiking, climbing, and most outdoor activities. I am big into exercise, like to read confusing books, mess around with computers, and play video games when I can find the time.

I’m very excited and grateful to be working on this project this winter, and I look forward to learning a lot!

Carleton College Extern Jack Schill

Hello! My name is Jack Schill and I’m a junior at Carleton College. I’m excited to be part of Team Echinacea for the next three weeks as a research extern. I am an Environmental Studies major at Carleton, and I am very interested in many aspects of environmental science so I don’t really know exactly what I want to explore going forward in my education. However, I have really enjoyed and learned a lot from the ecology courses I have taken so far, so I’m hoping this will build on those interests! Furthermore, by growing up and going to school in the upper midwest (I grew up in Milwaukee, WI) I have a special interest in prairies and prairie restoration. I also hope my time here will allow me to meet a lot of interesting people doing cool work, and understand how people got to this position to maybe try to help me figure out what areas of environmental science I want to explore!

In my free time at Carleton, I’m on the varsity soccer team, I’m a member on climbing staff at the rock wall, I’m an active member of the ski club, and I enjoy doing crosswords. Away from Carleton, I enjoy spending time with family, and skiing as much as possible. I’m really excited for the next few weeks to work with Team Echinacea!

Frozen Lake Superior!

Winter Break Extern Introduction!

Hi! I’m Emma Greenlee, a junior biology major at Carleton College, here with the Echinacea Project as part of Carleton’s winter break externship program. I’m interested in ecology, conservation, and I’m excited to learn more about prairie research at the Chicago Botanic Garden the next few weeks, where I’ll be helping with a pollination experiment and conducting a small project of my own! I grew up in Aurora, MN on the Iron Range in a more forested part of the state, but I’ve come to love the prairies of southern MN and the Dakotas as I’ve attended Carleton and through summer jobs with The Nature Conservancy and at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. I love fieldwork, but I’m excited to round out my understanding of prairie ecology and research by working with the Echinacea Project this winter! 

At Carleton I’m on the cross country and track teams, and I’m hoping to minor in Spanish. I like reading, and love spending time outside and exploring in nature or in the city. I’m looking forward to spending time in a new city, learning from grad students and scientists, and exploring the lab side of prairie research the next few weeks!

Potluck 2019 – Thank you, community scientists!

Last Thursday, we had our annual Team Echinacea potluck to honor the work of lab volunteers over the past year. Stuart discussed why what we do is so important and how the work of volunteers helps us to answer important scientific questions. Some great recent milestones accomplished by volunteers include:

Allen, Sam, and Anne reaching 500,000 achenes counted

All 2017 heads have been cleaned, rechecked, and scanned

670,000 achenes were counted and 113,000 achenes were classified in 2019 (so far)

In addition to a general overview of the Echinacea Project’s goals, members of the lab who have individual projects talked about what they are working on. These projects are: Erin’s remnant flowering intervals, Drake’s prairie parasites, Lea’s floral neighborhood, Elif’s congener ploidy project, and Riley’s prairie fragment crosses. It was really great to talk about research and hear about a number of projects.

Most importantly, though, I want to thank all people who volunteer their time to the lab. Without you, the cutting-edge science we do is impossible. Truly, you are making huge contributions to science and our understanding of plant reproductive fitness in anthropogenically fragmented landscapes. Your work is so appreciated, and we are so lucky to have you all around!

Oh, by the way, the food was absolutely wonderful. 11/10.

Team Echinacea IL!
Front (L to R): Drake, Lea, Erin, Stuart
Middle (L to R): Char, Shelley, Allen, Laura, Elif, Gretel
Back (L to R): Marty, Art, Tessa, Riley, Mike, Aldo
Folks eat and Stuart talks about an Echinacea Project paper.
Stuart tries to get a good angle on a photo of Riley and Aldo – photoception.
Lea, Elif, and Riley.
Stuart, Allen, Tessa, and Shelley. Shelley did not see that someone was taking a photo.
Laura, Erin, and Stuart.

All of these photos are courtesy of Ray, a volunteer in the photography group. Thank you very much, Ray!!

Meet Tate!

Tate is interning with us in November with his classmates from Lake Forest College. We’re excited to have his help around lab!

Tate, happy to see a scan with barely any chaff! Nice work, cleaners!


I’m Tate Rosenhagen, a junior biology major at Lake Forest College doing a four week mini internship at the Chicago Botanical Garden for a Plant Biology course. It’s my second week in the Echinacea lab, coming in once a week for four hours, and this week I’m learning how to count achenes and randomize samples! Last week I learned a lot of the background of the Echinacea project; what an achene is, how to remove the achenes from the flower head, and a little bit about Echinacea and their pollinators. One of the questions I hope to answer while I’m here is if there is a relationship between seed number and average seed weight in Echinacea. I hypothesized that in heads with fewer seeds, the average seed weight should be higher as all of the plants are in the same experimental plot and thus are subject to the same conditions and nutrients. If the plants have roughly the same amount of nutrients and conditions, theoretically plants should use the same amount of energy as their neighbors. Therefore, I hypothesized that if one plant has created fewer achenes than another plant, their achenes may have more nutrients in their endosperm thus leading to a higher weight. However, a number of factors could cause plants to use their energy in places other than their seeds, such as damage repair on the plant itself or stem growth. I hope that some of the data I find while I’m here will begin to answer this question, however, only being here once a week for four weeks limits how much data I am able to collect.

Tate Rosenhagen

Tate searches for the answer!

Volunteer profile: Elif

Recently, Team Echinacea welcomed a new member, Elif Taskiran. Elif has a PhD in economics, but has recently expressed interest in biological sciences. The Echinacea Project is happy to have her on board! Elif volunteers her time on Fridays, where she engages in data entry and cleans heads. Elif also attends weekly lab meetings, where she engages in paper discussion and gives feedback on various works of the team (like presentations and proposals).

Elif is also very interested in using Chicago Botanic Garden’s flow cytometer to understand ploidy differences between Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea, and Echinacea hybrids. We hope this project will be fruitful! Thank you, Elif, for all of your work so far with the Echinacea Project. We look forward to your work in the future!

Elif in the lab!

Survival in common gardens

Last Friday, I was dispatched by Stuart to find the number of plants/ achenes planted in each experimental plot, along with the number alive as of a recent year (2017-2019, based on the plot). Although records of some plots were a bit harder to come across that others, I was able to compile data from each plot (besides p10 – planted 2019 – data coming soon). This would not have been possible without the help of Gretel, so thanks GK! I have attached a small datasheet with the survival data.

In the history of the Echinacea Project, the team has sown 31,888 Echinacea viable achenes in experimental plots. There were many more sown that likely did not have a seed. Team members found 3634 seedlings from these seeds, not including Amy D’s experimental plot 3 and remnant seedling refinds. The team has planted 18,869 Echinacea seedlings in experimental plots, not including p10 – planted at West Central Area HS in 2019. Finally, 7090 Echinacea are currently alive in the experimental plots!