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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.

Randomization:

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.

Planting:

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!

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