Short-term Internship: Exploring Conservation Research

My name is Anna Stehlik and I am participating in a short-term internship at the Chicago Botanic Garden during my school’s winter term this January. I am a senior at DePauw University studying environmental biology and am a part of the Environmental Fellows Program which is an environmentally- an sustainability-based honors program. I am also involved with the Sustainability Leadership Program and have been a campus farm intern for the past several years. On the campus farm, I have helped to establish a bee hive and deliver pollinator education programs to local school groups. I first became interested in pollinator health and habitat when my family began beekeeping about seven years ago and I focused my Girl Scout Gold Award project on creating a honey bee education program. I am also an avid hiker and spend my summers working at a backpacking ranch in the mountains of New Mexico. This past summer at the ranch, I had the opportunity to teach about the plants and wildlife in the area as well as the history of wildlife conservation.

My passion for the outdoors has driven me to pursue an education and career in environmental biology and conservation. I am very excited to explore the work done in the conservation lab here at the Chicago Botanic Garden. On my first day, I have learned about the fragmentation of prairie habitat and the work done here to learn how purple coneflower is affected. So far, I have been able to clean and process Echinacea flower heads to remove the achenes, and have also gotten to count achenes on scanned images.

Carleton College Extern Julie Bailard

Hi again, Flog! My name is Julie Bailard, and I’m a senior at Carleton College majoring in biology with a minor in cognitive science. I am excited to be starting my second winter at the Chicago Botanic Garden, after joining Team Echinacea last year as a winter extern and working this summer as an REU field intern. I am very interested in population and community ecology, particularly in the context of conservation and ecosystem health. Much of my previous work with the Echinacea Project has centered around one broad question: How effectively do our current methods of prairie maintenance and restoration protect and promote the health of small plant populations in fragmented habitat?

Staffanson Prairie on a gorgeous August day

This winter, I will be continuing to pursue this question in a new setting: my first germination study, using rope dodder (Cuscuta glomerata) seeds that Drake Mullett collected this summer for his dissertation research on the role of parasitic and hemiparasitic plants in prairie community health. Dodder seeds are “hard” seeds, with a tough outer coat that is impervious to water, leaving the seed dormant until that outer coat is damaged. Researchers aren’t sure how dodder breaks out of this physical dormancy in nature. While certain artificial laboratory methods for scarifying seeds have successfully broken the impervious outer coat in other dodder species, none of these methods have been applied to rope dodder, and very little is known about the optimal conditions for germinating rope dodder seeds. Interestingly, one earlier study of rope dodder distribution in Ohio prairies suggested that novel population recruitment may be positively associated with a recent history of burning. With my experiment this winter, I hope to compare the success of various scarification methods in promoting rope dodder germination, in order to identify the most effective treatment for laboratory germination. If possible, I also hope to consider the results in the context of rope dodder’s natural germinating conditions, including climate, sprouting phenology, and exposure to burning.

Cuscuta glomerata (rope dodder) seeds are about the same size as a poppy seed. And so far, no one knows how to make them sprout!
…And sprout is exactly what I want to make them do! So this week, I’ve been designing and setting up a germination experiment to figure out what scarification methods and climate conditions are best for making these seeds grow.

Outside of the lab, I am a clarinetist in the Carleton Orchestra and a consultant in our campus writing center. In my spare time, I also enjoy knitting, practicing T’ai Chi, and playing Muggle Quidditch.

Carleton Quidditch after a Halloween win against St. Olaf (in case you thought I was lying)

Julie Bailard

Echinacea Project 2019

Biology, Carleton College 2020

Research Interests

I am interested in community ecology, conservation genetics, and interspecific interaction, particularly in the context of pollination and reproduction. This winter, I had the wonderful opportunity to collect and analyze seed set data for Echinacea angustifolia, Solidago speciosa, and Liatris aspera with Team Echinacea. During that time, I came to wonder how the controlled burns used to maintain prairie fragments might influence plants’ interactions with their pollinators, potentially by altering the characteristics of plants’ floral displays in the year after the burn. This summer, I hope to explore other factors that could influence plant-pollinator interactions in prairie fragments.


I grew up in Menlo Park, California. In addition to studying biology as my major, I am a Cognitive Science minor with a focus on linguistics and neurobiology. I also enjoy learning languages, and while I’ve formally studied French, Spanish, and a little bit of Japanese, recently I’ve been trying my hand at teaching myself Korean. Outside of the classroom, I love to cook, knit, crochet, embroider, play clarinet, meditate with tai chi, and practice Muggle quidditch.

Shea Issendorf

Echinacea Project 2019

Alexandria Area High School. Graduating in 2020

Research Interests

I am interested in studying EVERYTHING! I am going into this summer with an open mind since this will be my first exposure to research outside of a high school classroom. Biology has always been my favorite subject in school and I am very excited to get to dive deeper into ecology and evolutionary plant biology. I’m hoping to gain a lot from this summer whether it be collection and analysis techniques, procedure planning, or just an overall better understanding of environmental science. I am eager to learn and can’t wait to get started!


I have lived in the Alexandria area for my whole life and Minnesota summers have always been my favorite part. I love to spend time out on the lake with my family and friends, fishing a lot and tubing as much as I can, but when I’m not on the lake, I’m playing soccer.  Sadly, our summers do only last about three months around here so I also try to travel as much as I can with my family. And lastly, I am still undecided but I would love to pursue Biology at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2020.

(Here’s a photo of me … I’m on the right)

Amy Waananen

Echinacea Project 2019

PhD Student, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota

Research Interests

I’m interested conservation biology, especially as it relates to pollination, phenology, movement ecology, and population genetics. For my dissertation, I’m studying pollinator-mediated gene flow and trying to figure out under what conditions pollinators maintain connectivity between plant populations in fragmented environments. I think a lot about how the processes that drive how species respond to habitat fragmentation vary among spatial and temporal scales.


I grew up in a suburb of the Twin Cities and currently live in the silver city of St. Paul. I started working with the Echinacea Project as an intern in 2015. In my free time, I like to spend time outside, read, garden, and go on walks with my dog Gooseberry!

Here’s me on a snowy day!


John Van Kempen

Hello Everyone: I just finished my 30th year of teaching/coaching and am looking forward to being outside during the summer months. I am currently getting ready to lead 14 students to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wildermess(BWCAW) for one week before i begin with the Echin Project. In my spare time i enjoy taking my two dogs (Lilly and Clyde) out for walks/runs, and spending time with my 4 children, ages 17- 22. I am interested in learning more about our local ecosystems in West central MN and learning about prairie plants.

Miyauna Incarnato

Echinacea Project 2019

Biology, The College of Wooster 2021

Research Interests: 

I am super fascinated with how life on this beautiful planet interacts and how truly interconnected everything is.  I am particularly interested in how these interactions, and the lose of certain interactions, affect the reproductive and developmental biology of organisms. What affects fertility, stem cells, organogenesis, the effects of fragmentation, ART, and more! Genetics and the process of life happening is so awesome, that I hope to study it in graduate school !


I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. Along with being a biology major, I am also a Chinese minor and Education Licensure candidate at the College of Wooster. I love baking, hunting for great antique shops, trying fun food, and watching movies! I also enjoy hanging with my family, including my dogs, and exploring our urban parks. You can always find me singing, telling a story, or saying how cool science is.


Erin Eichenberger

Echinacea Project 2019

Majors in Biology & Environmental Science

The College of William & Mary, Class of 2019

Research Interests

Broadly I am interested in community ecology and population genetics for conservation. At my undergraduate institution I studied Asclepias syriaca, or common milkweed, another grassland plant. Through this work I learned about the genetic and phenotypic variation of plants within fine-scale habitats as well as the transmission of herbivory defense signals. This inspired my most recent interests in pollination ecology and nectar defense. I’m excited to investigate similar avenues within a new ecosystem and study species, as well as learn more about statistical analysis by working with the Echinacea Project’s long-term dataset!


I’m from Raleigh, NC and attended college in Williamsburg, VA, and am only a little terrified of the weather I’ll encounter in Minnesota and Chicago! As a birder I’ve spent my fair share of time chasing feathered things in blistering heat and freezing cold, and I’m eager to start learning new Midwestern birds. In addition to peering through binoculars and thumbing through field guides I love to draw, listen to podcasts and share trivia I learn while in the depths of a Wikipedia rabbit hole. I particularly enjoy observing the natural world while hiking and canoeing.

Asclepias is dead, long live Echinacea! 

Michael LaScaleia

Echinacea Project 2019

Biology and Environmental Studies, Tufts 2018

Starting a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UConn in August 2019

Research Interests

My research interests are, like most researchers at this stage, all over the place, but in general I love anything that has to do with plants, insects, and landscapes. I’m a big fan of studying communities: not just one plant or insects, but all the plants or insects that are in a certain space. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t have research interests that also go into soil, leaf chemistry, birds, mammals, and hydrology. I guess I just like nature?


Hello again flog! I know I write here about 1-2 times a week, but I thought it necessary that I should write a new intro for a new summer field season. I’m wrapping up my year here as the Echinacea Project’s intern at the Botanic Garden with a return to the summer field crew. I’m very excited to get out and work with the plants again! In my spare time, I like to hike, run, read fantasy, and play video games (hey Riley, wanna Pokemon battle?)

It’s -5 F in this picture


Jay Fordham

Echinacea Project 2019

Biology Major, Gustavus Adolphus College ’20

Research Interests

The the recent 2018 Nobel conference at Gustavus has gotten me interested in soil ecology. I want to know what goes on in post-agricultural and fractured prairie ecosystems and what the implications are for species richness and productivity underground.

Personal Interests

I am a Biology major minoring in Statistics and English from Waseca, MN. In my free time I like foraging for mushrooms, gardening, and anything that gets me outside. I also like making mixed media art, video games, and trying to learn Swedish.