MACC poster

Hello once again flog!

Last weekend I presented a poster (link below) at the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions convention in Worcester, MA.

This was my first poster symposium and I am glad to say it went great! I was able to interact with so many people attending the conference, along with other student researchers. I received some wonderful comments and feedback, and hopefully was able to make more people aware of soil, native bees, and the Echinacea Project!

My poster focused on the soil texture data I collected over January and its correlation to native bee nesting. After a little more work in R, I found some surprising results. The percent of sand or silt did not have any influence on bee presence. However, between the eight sites and the three land uses,  variation in percent sand was significant. Meaning, soil variation does exist across the Echinacea Project sampling area, it just might not be the strongest factor influencing bee nesting.

The soil is only one component of this project though. We also collected data on the slope, vegetation, percent bare ground, and soil hardness. One of these variables may be the key in understanding native bee nesting, so there’s a lot more analyzing and R to come.

I am so grateful for all the help I have received to make my first poster experience a success!

Until next time!

Click on the link below to see a high resolution image of the poster


341 samples later

After processing soil samples for two weeks (341 to be exact!) I was able to analyze some of the results and, along with the trusty functions of R (and of course T-Swift music) graph my data. I have included my poster down below and a pdf link.

The results provide evidence that shows soil in western Minnesota contains large percentages of sand and silt, with little clay. Between each of the 8 locations, some variation was present in the amount of sand, but not with clay. The results also showed that sand and silt may have no influence on the nesting locations of native bees. When compared, the graphs of sand and silt percentages from where a bee was found and not found were quite similar. So the question remains- What are the factors that influence where bees build their nests?

Throughout my entire time working on Team Echinacea and this soil project,  I have gained valuable knowledge and experience about data collection, project development, and different research methods. And not to mention the amazing lab group and individuals I have gotten to work/collaborate with! Since my college career is just beginning, the future has a lot in store for me- I can’t wait to see what happens in the next couple of years.

But one thing is for sure, I can officially cross “eat deep dish pizza in Chicago” off my bucket list!





Carleton Externs – Tris’s Final Update

Hi flog,

Wow! These last three weeks passed by super quickly! While the first two weeks were focused on seed cleaning, seed counting, and x-raying, we spent this past week on our independent projects. But that’s not to say this week was easy! In the past 5 days, I wrote exactly 900 lines of code in R to generate the figures and perform the analyses.

To get at how current pollen limitation affects Echinacea growth and future fitness, I performed analyses testing differences in plant traits between pollen exclusion, pollen addition, and open pollination treatments. I did not find evidence that pollination treatment affected either growth or fitness, which indicates that current pollen limitation will not benefit Echinacea in the future. This could be because Echinacea is not resource limited or because the cost of seed production is negligible.

Many thanks to the members of Team Echinacea who helped guide me through this process and made working in the lab such a pleasure!



Link to Poster

Aphis echinaceae at Carleton’s Fall Poster Symposium

The aphids were a hit at Carleton’s Summer Research Symposium.

At the Carleton College Summer Research Symposium on October 26th, I presented a poster on my work on the aphid addition/exclusion experiment. Over the summer, I administered the aphid addition and exclusion treatments for the experiment and collected data on leaf senescence and herbivory on plants in the study. Since August, I have been developing an aster model in R to analyze differences in fitness between these two experimental groups. Preparing the aster model for my project was quite a bit of work, but I learned more about R, statistical analysis, and plant-herbivore interactions in the process. Interestingly, Aphis echinaceae has not had an impact on plant fitness over the 8 years of the study.

I am excited to see how the experiment progresses in the coming years, and how the addition of data on seed set affects the results of future fitness models. Quite a few visitors to the symposium were also interested in the results of my analysis and my experience working with the aphids. It was a pleasure to represent the Echinacea Project at Carleton and to have a chance to share the fantastic work the team did over the summer.

Riley’s Fall Semester Update

Hello Echinacea folks! After a great summer at the Echinacea Project, I returned to Gustavus to work on the morphological and physiological data I collected at experimental plot 7. In my time at Gustavus so far, I wrote a proposal for my project so I can analyze my data and undertake a senior honors project under familiar Echinacea advisors Pamela Kittelson, Stuart Wagenius, and Sanjive Qazi. I have also worked on a methods section for my final honors paper and made a poster (attached below). In addition to my project, this fall I have been working on a project to implement composting and sustainable practices in Saint Peter restaurants and a project analyzing microRNA-mediated stress response in smooth cordgrass. The next steps for my honors project are to write up an introduction and do statistical analysis over our January-term. I will be performing aster and cluster analyses and am really excited to get back into some R coding! echinaceaPoster1_Thoen

Wes Braker’s poster presentation

Wes presented the poster “Attaining high species diversity in prairies with low initial restoration investment” at the 85th Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium & 31st MAS Annual Meeting with Stuart as co-author at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN on 21 April 2018. Here’s the poster.

Yay, Wes!

Wes presents his poster.


Hi everyone! Tracie, Kris (another PBC grad student), and I had a great time presenting this year at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference in Kalamazoo, MI. Here’s a look at my poster that I presented about pollen on Echinacea as a part of the ongoing Floral Neighborhood Communities project:

Do pollen loads differ among native bee visitors to Echinacea angustifolia?

A picture of me presenting!

MEEC 2018 was awesome! For any undergrad or graduate student interested in attending an inexpensive, regional conference I would highly recommend it. It was great to network with fellow graduate students and hear all about the great research ongoing here in the region!

2017 Update: Barto’s REU project

Ashely Barto, an REU student in summer 2017, developed an independent project looking at how pollination influences reproductive success in Echinacea angustifolia. She was interested in how heads that get pollinated each day differ from heads that only get visited infrequently, but receive a lot of pollen on those sporadic visits.

Over 19 days in July 2017, 1980 styles from 21 capitula were pollinated following a randomly assigned pollination schedule: pulse or steady. Capitula assigned to the pulse pollination treatment received pollen on all emergent styles at the same time, so there was a range of style ages. Steady pollination capitula received pollen daily, so all styles were pollinated on the day they emerged. Style shriveling, a proxy for pollination, was used as the response variable.

Using a generalized linear model, interactions between style age, floret position, and pollination treatment were considered to create a pollination rate model. Style age and pollination treatment did not interact or have an additive effect on pollination rates. Instead, floret position within the capitulum was the only factor essential to modeling pollination rates in Echinacea. The results suggest resource allocation plays a major role in Echinacea reproduction. Ashley will investigate seed set from the same capitula later this year to further elucidate the role of style age, floret position, and pollination treatments in Echinacea reproduction.

Echinacea on its third day flowering. Within the disc florets, there are persisting styles in Row 1 (A), fresh styles in Row 2 (B), and new anthers in Row 3 (C).


Ashley presented her work at the 2017 Arkansas INBRE Conference on October 28. Arkansas INBRE is the Arkansas Institutional Development Award’s network of biomedical research conference, and this year, it was hosted at the University of Arkansas. While this conference attracted undergraduates from many states to present on biomedical research in biology, chemistry, and physics, there were many posters like Ashley’s sharing summer research outside of the medical scope central to the conference’s theme. Ashley was able to talk about the Echinacea Project’s big picture work and how her independent REU Project fit into that larger image.

Ashley presenting her summer REU project at the Arkansas INBRE Conference in October 2017.

Start year: 2017

Location: Nice Island, prairie remnant

Physical specimens: 

  • 21 harvested Echinacea heads at the CBG, ready for cleaning and x-ray

Products: Here’s Ashley’s Poster of her results.

Ten simple rules for a short talk

Christopher Lortie presents ten simple rules for successful short and swift presentations in this PLOS Computational Biology paper.

10 simple rules:
1. Plan a clear story
2. Provide only one major point per slide
3. Limit use of text
4. Use simple visuals
5. Develop a consistent theme
6. Repeat critical messages twice using different visuals
7. Use the principle of parsimony in explanations
8. Allocate more than one slide to effectively end the narrative
9. Use the final slide for contact information and links to additional resources
10. Use timed practice

Read the article.

The Dynamic Duo is Back!

Hey guys! Long time no flog!

Remember back in June when Leah and I started working on our Independent Study Theses for The College of Wooster? Well, we finished! If you can remember that far back, I was examining the effect of removing buckthorn on the edge of a bog. I found that soil pH and canopy cover change after just a month of buckthorn removal – more similar to that of the bog interior! Leah found that bees exhibit decreasing floral fidelity towards Echinacea over time! So interesting!!!

We love and miss the beautiful Minnesota and our amazing pals in Team Echinacea so much! Thanks for everything, guys. We couldn’t have done it without you.



Alyson & Leah

Me and Leah holding our Tootsie Roll, a Wooster tradition in honor of finishing our thesis!