Planting a new experiment in P1*

* well, adjacent to P1.

This past Friday I planted the seeds from the inter-remnant crossing experiment I completed over the summer. The goal of this experiment is to understand how the distance between plants that live in little fragmented remnants and the difference in their timing of flowering influences the fitness of their offspring. The expectation is that if plants that are close together and/or flowering at the same time are closely related, their offspring might be more closely related (i.e., inbred) and have lower fitness than plants that are far apart and/or flowering more asynchronously. If this is true, then it would suggest that individuals in small, fragmented habitats would benefit from reaching more distant or dissimilar mates, such as by introducing seeds from faraway populations to remnants, creating corridors that promote pollinator movement, or managing habitat to increase heterogeneity in flowering time.

Plot location & layout:

The plot is located directly to the east of P1, spanning 12 m east to west and 30 m north to south, between positions 860 and 890. See Mia’s flog post from September for more information about how we prepared the plot by clipping the grass and treating the sumac with Garlon. Mia also used Darwin to shoot points within and along the edges of P1 so that I could generate coordinates for each position in my planting that aligned with P1’s crooked grid. This was a good exercise in geometry. I figured it out, but not before googling how to find the intersection of two lines. Oh well!

When I laid down the meter tapes based on the end points of the rows in this grid, it matched pretty well (the rows were supposed to be exactly 30 m long), but they were off a bit due to topography and the vegetation keeping the tape from laying perfectly flat. It was right on for row 58 and off by ~5cm in rows 62 and 65. We lined up meter sticks with the flags placed ever two meters and positioned achenes relative to according to the flag positions, rather than the tape. We placed 4 achenes per meter in positions 860-889.75.


Based on the number of seeds I had, and the expectation that I might want to plant more for this experiment in the future, I randomly chose three rows (58, 62, and 65) to plant out of the twelve total rows that fit in the area that we prepared. I randomly assigned positions to all of the full achenes, based on their weight. Prior to planting, I placed each of these achenes into a 1.5mL microcentrifuge vial and labeled it with its planting position (1-360). I sorted the vials in order of planting position and placed them in vial trays that we brought into the field.


It was a dry and unseasonably warm day. This is lucky because there was 10 inches of snow where the plot is located a week and a half earlier. I was able to convince Matthew and Gooseberry to come along to help. Matthew was extremely helpful, but Goose mostly ate deer poop all day and threw up on the way home. Very yucky! To set up for planting, I staked to the end points for the rows we were planting, set up a meter tape, and then staked to and placed pin flags at positions every two meters along the rows. I started by placing pin flags every meter, but this was time consuming and a pin flag every two meters gave us a sufficient reference point for each meter.

We liked breaking the actual planting into two steps, and working in a pair, because it meant that we had fewer items to fumble around with and it was easy to catch and fix each other’s mistakes, such as accidentally skipping positions. I do not believe we made any actual goofs, which is a first for me with planting! For the first step, one person cleared the duff, and the other placed the corresponding vial. For the second, one person placed the achene and collected the vial, while the other placed the toothpick and carried the clipboard, making any notes, e.g., if the achene was planted a few cm off the row to avoid placing it on a rock or in bunchgrass. The first step took about 10-12 minutes per 50 positions. The second took about 8-10 minutes per 50 positions. We set the achenes on top of the soil so that they had good contact with the soil, but weren’t buried. We finished around 4 PM and were grateful that we did not have to plant in the dark.

I hope the seeds have a good winter and I look forward to seeing them in the spring!

July 4th Festivities

Team Echinacea worked a half day this morning, with most of us working on our individual projects. Then we headed back to Andes to gear up for an afternoon celebrating July 4th. We got our bathing suits on, finished up our potluck items, and headed over to Elk Lake.

It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon, and we had a lot of tasty food. At least half of the picnic table was covered in desserts. Following tradition, the Declaration of Independence had to be read, with each of us taking turns. There was a small debate about whether this should happen before or after eating, but that decision-making was pretty easy.

Eventually the heat got to us and we took the canoes out. Some splashing battles between the Wes-Ashley canoe and the Alex-Anna-Tracie canoe ensued. A few close calls, but no one fell in. After that, we spent the rest of our time swimming, hanging out, and watching Blue eat watermelon rinds.

The Andes crew is planning to climb up the nearby hill to watch some fireworks from the surrounding towns tonight. Should be an exciting ending to our day.

Everyone gathering around for a July 4th lunch at Elk Lake.

Lemon squares, fruit pizza, brownies, peach-plum pie, and oreo-peanut butter pie.

Lea, Will, Stuart, Per, Gretel, and Alex enjoying some food.

Team Potluck

We had a great time at our annual lab potluck on Tuesday. We celebrated all the people in the lab, including all of the undergraduate interns. Scott told us about the smoke experiment. Then Amy explained the pollinator study from 2016. Lea talked about her projects on flowering phenology. We reviewed some of our many accomplishments in the lab, including: 1) cleaning and randomizing all 1233 heads from exPt2 in 2015, 2) counting 478,069 achenes from 3078 heads, 3) scanning 1710 images, 4) assembling 198 xray sheets. This year Lois, our reigning “achene queen,” counted her 800,000th achene and Sam counted his 250,000th! This summer we have ambitious plans for the field and lab. It was a lot of fun and the food was great–an incredibly diverse spread of tasty dishes.

We took a group photo:

First row (L to R): Lois, Art, Leslie, Amy, Laura; Second row: Susie, Char, Gretel, Anne, Stuart, Allen, Mike, Ivy, Lea, Scott, Shelley. Not pictured: Aldo, Susan, Michele, Marty, Naomi, Sam, Kathryn, Lou, Suzanne, Nicolette, Sarah.

Thanks for a great year!

Chicago: No Phone, $1.00 Edition

Part 1. I couldn’t stay away from the Echinacea Project too long. As I’m positive you want to hear both about my poster that I will be presenting at MCMS tomorrow at the University of Chicago and my adventures in Chicago, I will share both. As I arrived at the airport to fly to Chicago, I realized I had forgotten my cell phone. I thought to myself, I lived most of my life without a cell phone, I can do it another day. After arriving in Chicago, I had thankfully packed a dollar in quarters, so I was able to use a pay phone (yes, those still exist) to call a cab. While I did struggle to understand the technology, I was finally able, after spending my only dollar in quarters, to procure transportation to the Chicago Botanic Gardens. I was left penniless, phoneless, and with only a laptop and my knowledge of Chicago (this, by the way, was absolutely nil). After making a successful rendezvous with the team, I enjoyed a lunch and tour of the lab. It was great to see everyone again.

Part 2. After figuring out the best way to get to my destination at the University of Chicago, I jumped on the purple line, confident that, after a quick jaunt on the green line, all I’d have to do was walk a block or two to the hotel, where dinner awaited me. I hopped off the train, and quickly realized that the area had been highly developed since the last google street image had been taken, unless my memory of the picture failed me. Ah well, I thought, I wrote down the street that will get me to my hotel, it’s just east of here. The street just east was not the correct street. Maybe the map I saw was just wrong. By the next street, I knew I was in the wrong place. Thankfully a friendly man suggested a bus that would take me five miles to the east, where I thought I was getting off. Yes, I had taken the wrong train. All was well and good until I hopped on the bus and realized that I was penniless, with no money for a fare. Again, the bus driver was a greatly friendly man, and I rode the bus without a fare. Sailing was smooth from there on out.

Tomorrow I will present my findings on how edge effects play a role in the style persistence and pollen limitation of Echinacea at the Midstates Consortium for Math and Science. Style persistence decreased as plants were farther from habitat edges, demonstrating a spatial pattern in pollination. Attached is my poster. stylepersistenceedgeposter

Off to share a room with someone I haven’t met yet. Day in the life.


No explanation needed. Great to see y’all again.

The never ending (or starting) tale of Almanzo

As we gazed upon an apple in the eye of a dying bonfire, Stuart tried to recall an old tale from Laura Ingalls Wilder, about a boy who left a whole apple in a fire in an effort to cook it. Or was it a potato…?

Today, Amy, Jame and Will first did total demography at KJs (where you can’t shift your weight without accidentally crushing another tag), hitting 99 points, then did demography at the flowering plants on the North side of Aanenson. This task kept them busy until lunch time. Meanwhile, I went to Staffanson to collect data for Lea’s aster phenology experiment. There are still two flowering Liatris plants on the East transect, with Solidago plants in all stages of flowering. At lunch, we discussed the ways that time travel can, will, and probably has already, impacted and improved research by the Echinacea Project.

Now, was that potato story the tale of Almanzo…?

We saved harvesting in experimental plots for the afternoon. Lots of plunder was taken from P1, but it seems like something is consistently beating us to the punch in P2. Today, as well as the last few times we’ve gone, rodents (or somebody else) have eaten off parts of the Echinacea heads and left them, with broken achenes, strewn about the plot. We’re trying to recover these heads so we can accurately assess the seed sets of these experimental plants as a proxy for their reproductive fitnesses, but alas, they are no longer of this world. But don’t worry too much, because the interns will think of something clever to get around this (gulp). Meanwhile, I went back to the Dermatology clinic in Alexandria (my third time this summer —  a hat trick), where the doctor and I assessed phenology on my worts.

But wait, I’m still not sure if it was apples, or potatoes in that story…

After work, we went to Elk Lake and grilled some vegetables while watching high schoolers dive (fall off) the diving platform there. In what is either a testament to or indictment of our cooking, the vegetables actually turned out a lot better than anybody expected. The fare included marinated eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, tomato, corn, leeks, onions, watermelon, cheetos, and for those who love the taste of living creature, burgers. After this, we returned to the Hjelm house, where we lit bonfires in the backyard with some remaining buckthorn and two thirds of a bottle of lighter fluid. In a fashion almost as circular as this flog post, Stuart began to tell us the story of Almanzo —

Ah, yes, there was also the tale of the milk-fed pumpkin…

Other highlights:

  • Talking to the four-wheel man at KJs
  • Stuart’s watermelon-seed spitting
  • Finally learning whence the wind comes. It comes from Wind Cave. In fact, that’s why it’s called wind — it’s named after the cave.

Other lowlights:

  • Amy’s potty-mouth at P2
  • Grilled watermelon
  • Tomorrow is Will and Jame’s last day of the field season. Next week they begin classes, although they’ll still try to skype in to help with seedling searches.

Candid shot of Jame enjoying Kendrick Lamar's masterpiece album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

Candid shot of Jame enjoying Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.

Stuart, mid-spit

Stuart, mid-spit

Jame is now the third-tallest team member, after Will, and bonfire.

Jame is now the third-tallest team member, after Will, and bonfire.

Cucumbers and ice cream literally every day



We’re drawing down here, folks. Today, we drove the team from the Hjelm House to work at Steven’s Approach in a single car. There, we did seedling searches, checking 18 focal plants for some of their old seedlings. There was a bit of confusion (and internal screaming) since tags there are replaced so often, and plants are mowed on the reg, but we finished by 11:30, and thankfully will have mostly easier sites remaining for seedling refinds. Yes, there were cucumbers at lunch.

In the afternoon, we hit cruise control, finishing total demography North of the Golf Course in just an hour. It turns out that the demography records at this site actually included plants from Liatris Hill, a site I haven’t visited before that we’ve mostly ignored so far this year. Man, what a pretty place it was, blanketed with sunflowers and cordgrass with leaves five feet tall, hidden from view of the roadside by a line of conifers and a hill slope. There were no flowering plants there, but several Echinacea basal plants are still alive and kicking. After finishing NGC, we returned to P1 to recheck some of the “can’t finds” from our exhaustive measuring there. We got a considerable proportion of the replants done, covering hundreds of meters and uncovering several hidden Echinacea basal plants, narrowly avoiding losing our meter sticks. Just as the aphids are slowly leaving P1, some corners of the plot are slowly being settled by paper wasps. Future re-checkers and harvesters beware.

The team breezes through total demo at North of Golf Course without a sweat (note: that last part is not true)

The team breezes through total demo at North of Golf Course without a sweat (note: that last part is not true)

After work we enjoyed watermelon slices on the porch of the Hjelm House, while Roxy enjoyed eating (mostly begging for) our rinds. We enjoyed these with our hands, mouths and faces. This was in part a celebration of our new sexy bright yellow GPS-pole, which James will lovingly nurture and employ tomorrow shooting points for his independent project (see picture). For dinner in Kensington, we tried our lot as Russian peasants, eating borscht and a home-baked loaf of bread for dinner. Yes, there was ice cream. We finished the evening with invigorating games of hearts, where James won one game and Lea won another by shooting the moon. Hmm, that’s funny, I can’t remember who came in last — there must not have been a loser.

Sweet baby (and) James

Sweet baby (and) James

Finally, shout out to Laura “Puff Daddy” Leventhal, whose last day of work is tomorrow before she heads back to Akron for a wedding and school. It was fun working with Laura, who always had good jokes or propositions for odds, let us look at her burgeoning wisdom teeth at the dinner table more than once, and was generally cool in other ways. She will be writing the last in her series of hilarious and topical flog posts tomorrow. Bye, Laura!

Where is the category for "team members sleeping"?

Where is the category for “team members sleeping”?

Some Light Reading for Your Sunday Afternoon

I am excited to present to you my summer 2016 research proposal. While previous research has shown that isolated Echinacea plants and populations experience reduced reproductive fitness, we have not looked at what influence edge effects may have on Echinacea populations. Findings presented in Ison and Wagenius 2014 showed that plants in P1 experienced slight edge effects on seed set. My research this summer will use style persistence data collected from all remnant sites and quantify the relationship between distance of an Echinacea plant from a habitat edge and average style persistence. This will help us understand if fragmented populations are being harmed by yet another factor. Hopefully you find this topic as interesting as I do.


July 16th: Jill and Wames Sweep the Night

Hello floglanders! Happy Saturday! How you doin’???

We started off the day today with pollinator observations! We did not see too many bees, but that did not stop us from having a good ole’ time! Jennifer gave us watermelon, and it was delicious! We painted and assessed shriveling for the pollinator intraspecific pollen load diversity project.

Afterwards, we went back to town hall and ate leftovers and souls. James did not partake in this meal. They were delicious. Then I knit three quarters of a carrot colored sock with the moral support of all of town hall when I turned the heel. After I worked on the sock, we all went to Alexandria to play a rousing game of Settlers Of Catan at Will’s house. It was my first time playing and the dynamic duo of Laura and Lea won!!!! James and Will were thoroughly “put out” at our win because they were self-proclaimed protegees. Well, maybe they did win, but I might not want to admit it. Currently, we are watching the Big Lebowski. Hopefully, Will does not fall asleep because apparently he has never made it through 1/10th of the whole movie. He is actually letting us watch the movie in his room. There is a rug here that really “ties the room together”. (quote from currently being watched movie).

Also, Leah taught us some Spanish in the Taco Bell drive through.


Leah debe estudiar Español y no la biología.



June 14th – Overcast

We began this morning at 8:30 am with most of the team heading out to observe pollinators, however no pollinators were seen because it was so cold and rainy! While the rest of the team was watching for pollinators Abby and I worked on crossing in the west unit of the Staffanson Prairie preserve as part of the compatibility experiment! When it started to rain the team gave up on pollinators but, Will, who very generously drove us to Staffanson came and helped us finish the crossing so that we didn’t have to sit out in the rain by ourselves.


Abby is worried about the aphids drowning in the rain so she retreats into her shell.

After failing to see any pollinators this morning the team went out to P1 to work on the aphid exclusion and addition experiment. Under the strict guidance of Abby, our resident aphid expert, we quickly finished adding and removing aphids from the 70 plants that are part of the experiment!


Will is waiting to start playing Catan, he is so excited.

We had plans to measure the plants in P2 in the afternoon but the cold rainy weather would have made that difficult. Stuart gave us the afternoon off to work on proposals and relax; Will, James, Lea and I decided to focus on the relaxation part and play a friendly game of Settlers of Catan. James and I consider ourselves to be experts at this game, as we have played it many times.


“I have memorized the rule book so you don’t need to read it Will” – James 2016

The game lasted a long time and Lea did a really good job of stealing all of Will’s brick cards. In the end Will narrowly beat me. I am pretty salty about the whole ordeal because I really like to win, but Will is just really good at board games I guess.

Signing off –


July 13, 2016! Look at all those chickens!

Hello Flog!

We did phenology in the remnants and the experimental plots this morning. I think we are already past peak flowering! *sigh* It goes by so fast. In the afternoon, most of us went to P2 to do some weeding and phenologizing. Other team members caught pollinators and worked on doing crosses.

I have been looking forward to today all week, however, not because of fieldwork, but because it was wing nite at Angelina’s Restaurant in Alexandria. Many members of Team Echinacea came and ate a lot of wings, including James, who ate 4lbs of wings all by himself! James reports feeling really good about himself afterwards. Evidence below:

James "Clean Plate Club" Eckhardt

James “Clean Plate Club” Eckhardt

I had to take my leftovers home in a styrofoam box. In other news, Scott met his baby doppleganger at the restaurant! See picture below:

Scott (future, in foreground, at left) and Scott (present, in background, at right)

Present Scott (in foreground, at left) and Past Scott (in background, at right)

I will leave you with a video that encapsulates our dining experience:

So long, farewell, floglanders! Until next time,

Will J. Reed, U of MN, Class of 2018