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Off to a great start

The field season is off to a great start. We’ve spent time collecting data on two experiments and we are getting new equipment & gear organized. Not everything is roses though.

We have determined survival of plants in our experimental “recruitment plots.” Seeds were planted during fall 2000, 2001 & 2002 in plots with different prescribed burn treatments. We have kept track of survival every spring. Five plots down, four to go! We will write down our equipment list & the protocol for this experiment later this week.

We searched for and found seedlings in three remnants (sap, nwlf & kjs). The goal is to find plants of the 2007 seedling cohort and determine their survival this summer & in future years. We want to compare seedling recruitment & juvenile survival from year to year and among remnants. This project will offer insight into the differences in population dynamics in small & large remnants. We’ll also be able to gauge masting in Echinacea.

Distinguishing between seedlings and small plants is difficult. Some plants were obviously seedlings because we could see green cotyledons or brown shriveled up cotyledons. Other plants were the same size as seedlings, but were obviously not seedlings because we could see remains of a dried up leaf from last year. Then there were some that we just weren’t sure about: small plants with no leaves from last year and no cotyledons.

Some problems are impossible to solve right now (distinguishing seedlings). Other problems are solvable–and we have a lot of them. We have many new gadgets to get working this summer: kites, digital cameras, video cameras, high-precision GPS, etc. We will push some of our equipment to the limits (like using binoculars to follow flying bees). We’re feeling a bit overwhelmed and worried that we won’t have everything figured out before flowering starts. And flowering will start soon–one plant at kjs (#1919) looks like it could start flowering tomorrow.

Fortunately, field biologists are a resourceful lot. It is no surprise that Andy & Josh surmounted the problem that we had with downloading large video files.

We will face many challenges in our pursuit of efficient data collection in demanding, harsh field conditions far away from civilization with pressing time constraints. But science must move forward! New discoveries await! We are up to the challenge! Stay tuned to the Echinacea field log to read about new adventures of the Echinacea team…

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