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progress and new faces

This week has brought us further along on our goal of counting and randomizing all of the achenes from 2011. Here is volunteer Kathryn Eber, looking pleased to have her picture taken. Thanks to her and the other volunteers, we are nearly finished counting the 4000 batch of the 2011 harvest.

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On Wednesday October 31st, we welcomed several students from Lakeforest College for the first session of a four week internship. Meet Randen, who is working with me to learn how to identify ants:

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When he came in, he had no experience identifying insects or using taxonomic keys. By the time he left, he was able to identify ants to genus and–for some genera–to species. His project is to compare ant species collected from burned and unburned units of the Staffenson prairie preserve. Ants are a crucial component to terrestrial ecosystems: they move dirt, they prey on many critters, and they protect other critters like aphids. If fire influences the community of ant species in a prairie remnant, there may be cascading effects throughout the ecosystem. Naturally, I’m excited to see what Randen finds out during his project.

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