Categories

Authors

Town Hall Brew

While gazing up from measuring Dichanthelium today I spotted a large patch of fruiting sumac. The past summer I had been itching to make some sumac lemonade, and the abundant stand of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) presented an irresistible opportunity!

After a quick and easy harvest of the fruits (called drupes) that are found in compound clusters at the end of branches, some team members and I returned for brewing.

There are many methods for making sumac-ade on the world wide web. The variables are sumac berries on or off the stem, the temperature of the water, and the duration of the soaking time. I decided to try out two at first, both leaving the fruits on the stem, one adding cold water and a longer wait time, and one where hot water is added and steeping only lasts 30 minutes. (Sumac is pictured below, jars thanks to Gretel and Stuart)

town_hall_brew.JPG
After many test rounds, two taste testers and I agree that the colder, longer brew time results in a more palatable, tart, and less bitter final product. The hotter, shorter method heats up the stems and causes them to release bitter sap. (In the picture below the sumac in the jar on the right was submerged in boiling water, and it is actively releasing sap).

IMG_1163.JPG

Future projects include sumac-ade popsicles, as well as fruit drying for winter use and spice grinding.

Mon 3 Sep

Shelby, one of the PhD students working with Ruth, departed for St. Paul today. So only Katherine and I are left in the big town hall. I guess we poured ourselves into fieldwork as we got a lot done today. In the morning we finished demo rechecks at KJs, then flagged seedling refind plants at East of Town Hall. We returned to Hjelm House for lunch, then set out for Nessman, finished seedling refinds there (total 6 plants). We also finished seedling refinds at East of Town Hall (5 plants). From there we headed to Aanenson for demo rechecks, and got almost halfway done! We also had fun taking photos of prairie, ourselves and cows at Aanenson.

Belated Friday post (31 August)

Hey folks, it’s Maria. Sorry for late reporting – the post I had written earlier was lost due to internet fuss, and I didn’t have the heart to rewrite everything again. So, unfortunately, you’ll have to settle for a concise report.

And yes this time I’m writing in a text editor first before copying and pasting onto the flog.

Friday was Kelly and Jill’s last day.

In the morning we finished demo rechecks with 2 teams at Staffanson, while Kelly finished harvesting her heads.

After lunch Stuart went to K-town to pay rent and utilities, while the rest of us did our projects/ cleanup. When Stuart returned we went to Staffanson for seedling refinds. Stuart used the GPS to find and flag focal plants, and did a few sling refinds. Katherine and Kelly resolved a particularly complex circle – the plant by the road. Jill and I worked on a few simpler circles.

We celebrated the end of the day with rootbeer floats. Dinner was pizza and supper was black bean brownies, sending off Kelly and Jill with a flourish.

Photo courtesy of Katherine.
IMG_2173.JPG

p/s 31 August is Malaysia’s National Day! Selamat Hari Kebangsaan to all fellow Malaysians 🙂

Sync-ing in the Rain (Aug 30)

Maria here.

Woke up this morning to some rumbling thunder in the distance.

The skies looked grey, but nothing too bad. We discussed how to do all the things we had to do at Staffanson: demo rechecks, harvesting Kelly’s Echinacea heads, removing twist-ties and flags from heads/plants that Kelly won’t harvest, figuring out 6 nearest neighboring Echinacea plants to each of Kelly’s plants that was going to be harvested, and pulling up ant traps. Whew!

We did some individual project stuff from 9 to 11am. Jill finished up sorting ants. Katherine and Kelly went to NWLF and NNWLF to pull ant traps and remove twist-ties from heads. I was in CG 99 South, measuring Dichanthelium from my maternal lines experiment, and got 4 rows done before 11am.

We set off for Staffanson, all 5 of us cozy in the truck. The corn and perennial weeds greeted us happily on the dirt road leading into Staffanson. Jill went to pull up her ant traps and then helped Kelly to remove twist-ties and flags. Stuart, Katherine and I brought out Sulu (the GPS), R2D2 (the netbook), and paper datasheets, and tried to figure out how to determine the 6 nearest neighbors to Kelly’s harvest heads. We concluded that the most efficient way was to use R to determine the 6 mapped nearest neighbors, obtain the distance to the 6th neighbor, then use a reel tape to measure out the distance and search to see if there are any other nearest neighbors closer than the mapped one. We would have to do it another day.

Here’s a fancy spider Stuart found on his knee today. Photo courtesy of Katherine.
IMG_2160.JPG

On the way back for lunch, Stuart and Kelly belabored the pros and cons of color coding the top and bottom GPS poles.

After lunch we set out for Staffanson again. Kelly worked solo to harvest heads, while the four of us split into 2 teams (1 GPS + 1 clipboard) to do demo rechecks. After a little while, it started sprinkling and we heard some distant portentous thunder, so we turned back and left Staffanson.

Back at Hjelm House, Jill and Katherine cleaned up the ant traps and went to pull ant traps at Nessman. Stuart demonstrated dissecting achenes from Echinacea heads for Kelly, so she can dissect the heads she harvested when she’s at Carleton.

Lastly, as requested by Stuart, the “Sync Your Visor” song I came up with as an alternative to “Sync, Sync, Visor Sync”:

(To the tune of “Oh My Darling Clementine”)

Sync your visor, sync your visor,
Sync your visor everytime;
Data lost and gone forever
Don’t be sorry – sync it now!

Any suggestions for improvement are much welcome.

Warm Thursday 23 Aug

Hey folks, Maria here.

This is our 3rd day without Stuart, and I must say we have been quite productive.

We continued seedling refinds at EELR this morning. Then we discovered that we had not yet flagged many focal plants, probably because they had not been flagged during demo/Katherine’s aphid survey. So we returned to Hjelm House, and decided to do demo rechecks at Railroad Crossing and North Railroad Crossing instead. We finished in time for lunch!

In the afternoon, we used the GPS to stake and flagged focal plants for seedling refinds, and did seedling refinds. Jill and Kelly got quite a perplexing circle, where seedlings didn’t match up with maps. They found that the measurements were useful, but the map as a visual aid was not.

Around 3.15 we went back to Hjelm House to work on individual projects. I measured 3 rows of Dichanthelium plants that were planted in 99 South Common Garden. There was one super-tall plant – ~15cm, as compared to most other plants that were 1-3cm tall. Katherine and Jill sorted ants.

Karen did her crossing experiment at Hegg Lake all day. Some Helianthus heads are done flowering, and she is quite pleased about that.

Oh, and the tick eggs hatched today! Almost everyone was quite flabbergasted at the sight of baby ticks splashed on the walls of the plastic jar that we kept them in. Ughh…

Here’s an unrelated picture from July, the day Lydia and Shona GPSed/helped measure my Dichanthelium plants at Hegg Lake. I was taking a picture of Lydia taking a picture of Shona taking a picture of a plant 😀 Pic-ception!
2012-07-11 11.38.53.jpg

Monday and Tuesday, Aug 20th and 21st

The past couple of days have been lovely for outdoor work–sunny, cool, a little breezy. On Monday we said bon voyage to the Wagenius family as they prepared for their trip back to Chicagoland. Stuart will be back next week, but Gretel and the kids are done for the summer. Now there are five of us and no shortage of work to do.

Monday morning we went to the site off of hwy 27 to take demography data on plants that flowered last year and reconcile errors from this year’s demography census. With two teams working with the GRS-1 GPS units, the task went quickly and smoothly.

We spent Monday afternoon re-finding seedlings at KJ’s. This is a particularly challenging site because there is a high density of plants in a small area. We continued the endeavor this morning, and I’m happy to say are nearly finished. We should be able to defeat the beast tomorrow morning.

Here are Jill and Maria looking for seedlings at KJ’s. Red flags mark completed focal plants.
IMG_2118.JPG

This afternoon we performed some routine maintenance of the main experimental plot, pulling out flags that marked plant we could not find. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon on individual projects.

Karen Taira, who came up last week, has been spending her days working on her pollination experiment involving several species of Helianthus. Her field story of the day was that she found a pile of entrails next to one of her experimental plants. Apparently they were bigger than a prairie dog’s and smaller than a human’s. Perhaps it’s a new form of sacrificial sun worship–Praise Helianthus!

Where do aphids go at the end of the summer?

Like their hosts, Echinacea aphids exhibit a strong seasonality. There’s a sharp rise in the frequency and abundance of aphid infestation followed by a rapid decline in early fall. That decline has occurred much earlier this year than last year. Fortunately, that has given me a chance to make some observations about what happens to aphids at the end of the summer. Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

1. Throughout my surveys in CG1 and several prairie remnants, I’ve noticed that the frequency of winged morphs has declined since July. Last week, I did not see any winged aphids, with the exception of a couple at East Elk Lake Road. This implies that dispersal declines as aphid numbers drop.

2. I and several others have noticed that aphids are starting to congregate at the base of the plant both at the petioles and at the base of the stem. I’ve also seen aphids crawling down beneath the soil surface and a few latched onto the tops of roots. One possibility is that as plants withdraw resources from their leaves, aphids move down the plant to follow their food source. I’ve also seen ants moving aphids at the base of the plant and placing them in dirt structures. These observations support the notion that aphids overwinter on Echinacea roots.

Many aphid species in temperate regions spend the winter and summer on different plants. Their winter host is where they lay eggs and their summer host is where they feed and reproduce asexually. My guess is that Aphis echinaceae does not have a separate winter host.

This plant at Nessman’s had a bunch of aphids congregated at the base. Notice the little green guys on the stem:
IMG_2102.JPG

This is one of the plants from my aphid addition/exclusion experiment in CG1. There are still aphids on the leaves, but most of them have moved to the petioles:

IMG_2111.JPG

Monday the 13th of August

Today was a cool day! High temp of mid 70s.

Ruth and Amy came up from the Twin Cities, to give us a jumpstart to Seedling Refinds.

We overcame some technical hurdles with DroppedBoxx on Sulu and Chekov (our two lovely GPS units), and started seedling refinds at Steven’s Approach in the morning, worked way past lunch hour before Stuart called timeout.

We had lunch supplemented generously with bounty from the Wagenius family garden – juicy chestnut crabapples, ripe sweet cantaloupe, and cool yellow watermelon!

After lunch we stopped by the road outside CG2/Jennifer’s Plot at Hegg Lake, and harvested Bouteloua. We will broadcast the Bouteloua seeds in CG2 after the burn if DNR decides to burn the plot; otherwise we will broadcast half the seeds in the fall and half in spring.

Then we resumed seedling refinds at Steven’s Approach. We solved some tricky mysteries with the seedling maps, and completed Steven’s Approach! We also found a couple of flowering plants that had been missed during demo.

While we were doing all that, Karen was working hard at her independent project. The searching and keying paid off as she found a third species of Helianthus, H. tuberosus, at Hegg Lake.

Here’s an unrelated picture of a pheasant’s nest near my Dichanthelium plot. The pheasant mum and I often startled each other during those mornings when I did fieldwork.

2012-07-13 10.22.49.jpg

Look, a pheasant egg!
2012-07-13 10.23.28.jpg

And I know you’ll forgive me for posting yet another picture of Dichanthelium 😀
2012-06-22 06.03.39 dewy with flash.jpg

Rainy Sunday 12 August

Hi all, Maria at K-town.

It was raining this morning as we bade goodbye to Lydia. All the best to Lydia as she prepares to go to Ireland for study abroad! Here’s a great picture to remember the fun times in the prairie 😀

2012-07-14 10.56.41.jpg

Karen arrived at the town hall yesterday evening! This morning, she braved the rain and went out to many prairie remnants to look for Helianthus. She reports that Riley, Staffanson and Hegg Lake seem to hold the best promise for her pollen limitation experiments with H. maximiliani and H. pauciflorus, and maybe another H. species, if she can find it.

Andrew arrived back from his weekend trip announcing that he had all the food that’s bad for you all in one day. He, Shona, and Jill went to watch Alladin, the play by the Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre that Per and Hattie were in. They enjoyed it very much!

The skies gradually cleared up though temps were still in 60s-70s. It was quite chilly in the town hall.

With the squash, zucchini, and cucumber explosion 😀 😀 :D, Shona made zucchini bread. We also welcomed Kelly’s return from Northbrook about an hour ago.

Lastly, here’s a beautiful photo of Dichanthelium with morning dew:
2012-06-22 06.05.57 dewy.jpg

Sunday & Monday July 29-30

Howdy folks,
Maria reporting from K-town.

Sunday we had a real day off =)

The weather was good and sunny, but not too hot.

Random tidbits from the town hall:
Shona made oatmeal pancakes for breakfast – they were really yummy – thanks Shona!
Kelly and Shona went swimming at Elk Lake and bumped into the Wagenius family
Katherine found a new trail in the forest at the Runestone Park on her biking adventure
Andrew had a great time at home and arrived at the town hall before 11pm
Lydia spent the day helping out in the kitchen at the camp in Alexandria
I made Irish Soda Bread to use up some sour milk, but still have ~1 cup sour milk (turned into buttermilk substitute, any ideas what to do with it? Pancakes would be easiest, but we just had them)

After the weekend break, it’s time for work again! Monday (today) we divided and conquered.
AM – Greg set out his yellow pan traps in his remnants. Stuart, Katherine, Jill, Lydia and I did demo in the remnants. Ruth and Greg came to join us. We found many Echinacea flowering at Loeffler’s Corner East, an okay number at Loeffler’s Corner West, 2 at Railroad Crossing (Douglas County), and ~6 at Yellow Orchid Hill.
The others (Shona, Kelly, Andrew) did CG1 rechecks and then worked on their independent projects.

Ruth bought some delicious fluffy spongy chocolate cake which we cleaned off the dish.

PM – The two teams switched jobs. Stuart led Shona, Kelly, Andrew, Ruth and Greg in demo at KJs and On 27. The rest of us did CG1 rechecks, and then worked on independent projects.

Here’s a file called “Crash Course in R”, which might be helpful to folks
crashR.2.pdf

Now for some photos!

Flowering Dichanthelium!
2012-06-26 07.56.23.jpg

I think this is a super cool picture as it shows 3 stages of Dichanthelium stigmas/anthers emergence. See how the bottom-most spikelet has the stigma just emerging, while the anthers are still inside; the middle spikelet is open and has both stigma and anthers well-exserted; and the top spikelet is closed and the anthers are drooping out from the spikelet.
2012-06-28 06.19.17.jpg

Last but not least here’s an epic picture from our bonfire last year 😀
IMG_0104.JPG