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Seedling microhabitat project findings

Hi again, it’s Emma––it’s been three weeks already and I’ve finished the majority of data analysis for my independent project! I presented about it at our lab meeting this morning and it was good to show what I’ve learned to the team and to get some helpful feedback.

To summarize my experiment’s goal, I was investigating whether there are differences in microhabitat between areas with surviving Echinacea seedlings and areas where Echinacea seedlings established but have died. This involved collecting data on site characteristics like litter depth, vegetation cover, slope, aspect, distance to roads and fields, plant community composition, and floral neighborhood at circles where seedlings monitored in the Sling project sprouted between 2007-2013. After analyzing my data, I can report that I found no differences in microhabitat between living and dead seedlings, and that I did not find differences in survival by prairie remnant, either. This suggests that the microhabitat variables I collected data on are likely not the most important factors driving seedling survival and mortality in this long-lived prairie perennial plant. Instead I propose that other factors, like climate, soil moisture & nutrients, pesticide drift, light limitation, herbivory, and genetics, may have greater impact on whether seedlings establish or die. Luckily the Sling project is ongoing and members of Team Echinacea are working to find out what drives seedling fitness in fragmented Echinacea populations!

I learned a LOT about doing data analysis in R during this project. I’m super grateful to Mia and Stuart for all the help they gave me when I had questions about R during the internship! The highlights probably are learning about, and doing, some multivariate analysis and using the R package vegan. It was so cool getting to create my own NMDS and species accumulation graphs after seeing them in many ecology papers I’ve read. From here I plan to do a few final analyses and edits with the intention of presenting my project findings at an ecology conference next summer.

That’s all from me for now! Stay tuned for a groovy poster…

–Emma

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