Hello from the Molecular lab of Team Echinacea East

Hello from Team Echinacea East!

A long long time ago on the flog many clicks away, Lara Leventhal performed an experiment to determine the amount of interspecific pollen diversity on different taxa of solitary ground nesting bees. The field aspect of this experiment occurred during the summer of 2016 this involved catching bees and wiping them on styles of Echinacea. By genotyping seedlings that were produced by wiping bees on receptive styles, we are able to determine how many different plants that the bee taxa are carrying pollen from. This requires performing plant paternity tests really means a lot of PCR work. This work has been going on for over a year, we are starting to reach the end and almost to a point of doing only reruns on samples that failed. I have not been doing this work alone, there have been many people that have worked on this project right now Michelle Chang and I have been on the molecular team, (there has been at least two people besides Laura that worked on this project).

Meet Michele! She is working on loading a PCR plate in this photo


Look its a new PCR!

We called it boxville for a reason!

Doing lab work requires well a set up lab. The College of Wooster just opened our new life sciences building that means that when I got back to school the lab was full of boxes. We had to unpack before we could do anything. This was very exciting but also was a daunting task, we have recently have finished setting up the lab and the greenhouse(oh have I not mentioned it yet there is a greenhouse attached to the lab!)

One side of the lab(post boxes)

The other half of the lab

Until next time flog!


Returning to CBG

Tomorrow I will be coming back to CBG to work for a few days over break and I’m very excited! I just wanted to take the time and explain some of the things that I’ve done since the school year started. I finished entering two data sets of data; the data from pollen in the bank and the maternal repaints (technically I entered one and a half because Zeke filled out the pollen in the bank data with me). I’ve also been showing our new volunteer, Nate Scheerer, around the lab sense he’ll be helping me count the pollen on the styles Zeke, Mia, and I collected this summer out in Minnesota. But what I’ve completed that I was most proud of was making the fuschin dye that we’ll be using to stain the styles. Even though I was nervous when making the gel, the product turned out great! One thing that I recommend before making the gel is having all the materials that you’ll need nearby so you can keep a close eye on the gel (and so the people in the stockroom don’t get annoyed with seeing you every five minutes). I’m looking forward to a productive few days at CBG!


Just a small amount of the gel that I made in the lab.

How many heads is too many heads?

Hello from Chicago!

All members of team Echinacea have evacuated Solem Township for the season and migrated to warmer climates (well except for those who stayed in Minnesota). No worries though, we’ll be back soon to harvest the last 21 heads that just weren’t quite ready when we left. Once we have those heads, it will be time to start recording new data!

Back at CBG, we’re getting underway with processing the data that we collected this year. The first step, as always, will be inventorying the heads that we collected in the field this year. How many heads you might ask? This many:

We’ve definitely got our work cut out for us, but it’s nothing that we can’t handle!

Be on the lookout for our yearly project updates, they will start being published soon.

Thanks for reading!

Back from the field

Hello, Flog!

The field season in Minnesota has wrapped up, and we have all returned to continue working hard at our various institutions. For the members of this years team returning to the Chicago Botanic Garden, that means analyzing all of the data (including 1000+ Echinacea heads) that we collected in the field and in our experimental plots.

Our last few days at the Hjelm house have been filled with harvest and management, getting ready for our prescribed burns this fall and spring. We’ve harvested all sorts of species – everything from Asclepias to Viola – in preparation to spread them after the burns in p1 and p8.

Thanks for reading the flog this summer! Here’s a parting shot of Hegg lake from the last day we were out there: white and purple asters with some great Solidago!

Prairie Zoo

The very damp morning began with flagging p8 on each nail that was spaced 1 m apart. A then very interesting meeting with Joe Montoyne from NCRS who provided us with much insight into prairie restoration and some local history of local prairies. After lunch Michael, Tracy, Andy and i wnet to p2 to harvest more flower heads. As the summer comes to an end i am so appreciative of the opportunity i have had this summer with the Echin Project and the group of quality young people here. Rest assured citizens, these kids will be our community leaders, parents and professors leading us into the next generation at a when the world needs such an intelligent thoughtful group in charge. I have also gained an appreciation for what we have been blessed with in our very own west central Minnesota. Everyone is within a few minute drive to a prairie with a diversity that may go unappreciated until you spend some quality time walking and observing what the prairie has to offer. Our zoo is right here. There is a diversity of plants and insects that will require thoughtful consideration of how we choose to treat the soil and water. It may be difficult to imagine that not too long ago west central Minnesota was acre after acre of prairie.

Harvesting Woes

Hello, Flog!

Monday was, unfortunately, a rainy, rainy day. Well, okay, maybe it started out just a slightly rainy day. But the kind of rain that makes it just impossible to do any dampness-sensitive research.  We started off the day with the usual moist trudges through the ever-present big bluestem, and even managed to complete a few of the many field rechecks we have to do.

What are field rechecks you might ask? Sometimes, we look over the data from a summer and go, “Huh? What? How did this happen?” Our data, frankly, just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes one person will look at an area and say “There’s one plant!” and another might say “There are six plants here!” When we look at this data later, we need another opinion as to how many plants are there. And in comes field checks! (They’re particularly easy to do because they require the least walking, and therefore the least wetness.”)

Now, after lunch, picture Michael, Andy, and Lea poised to do P2 harvesting.  Imagine them with bags and clippers in hand, ready to save achenes from the cruel fate of the ground. Imagine the cars bursting with egg cartons and data sheets full of LetNos (the identifiers we use each head).

Now imagine rain.

You’re not imagining enough rain, imagine more!

Well, it rained enough to make harvesting impossible. So instead of experiencing the thrill of saving a head from dropping achenes, we did some coding in R and called it a day.

Here’s to less rain this week!


Check, Check, Check

Hello Flog!!

Wow today was very productive, as always.  The morning was filled with the completion of many small projects.  Michael and I finished demo at 6 different sites!  Riley finished rechecks at P1, P6, and P9 (wow!).  Andy and Kristen got all of their yellow pan traps put out as well!  Many completion checks were made to the long list of “Echinacea Project: Things to do.”

Michael staking a point

Me observing a flowering plant

At lunch, I gave a presentation about my project update.  We had cake and ice cream afterwards as a farewell to me, as today was my last day 🙁

Stuart’s famous chocolate cake

In the afternoon, Kristen, Andy, and Lea moved bee tents and collected yellow pan traps.  Riley completed the final part of his project, which was measuring the thickness of the echinacea leaves.  Stuart and Michael completed some behind the scenes work.

Signing off for good, so long flog!




ESA Poster: Variability in reproductive synchrony of Echinacea angustifolia among years in a fragmented landscape

Hello from New Orleans!

Yesterday I presented my poster on the general patterns of Echinacea flowering in our study area! I found that there are patterns of high and low flowering across all of the remnants that we study. I also found that there are good years to flower for the metapopulation that we study (and bad years..). What could be causing lots of echinacea to flower in the same year?

I presented my poster at Poster Session 18 – “Habitat Structure, Fragmentation, Connectivity” from 4:30-6:30. I had lots of visitors stop by to hear about my results and got to meet several Echinacea Project Alums!

Me and my poster <3

Here is my poster:

Wills ESA Poster PDF


You can’t spell ‘measure’ without ‘me’ and ‘u’

Hello, flog!

Today, Team Echinacea continued our quest to measure every plant in P1. Yes, it takes a long time and yes, the big bluestem might be over our heads, but we will always carry on!

A quick recap of today’s measuring events:

After completing half of “Big Batch,” yesterday,(Big Batch is a large group of plants at the south end of the plot), we attempted to push ourselves to finish the rest of the plot today. And by “we” I mean two teams, in particular, decided to finish their rows as fast as possible (these teams will remain unnamed and totally not depicted in the pictures below).

Some A+ measuring

These teams finished their rows impressively fast, and, while we made a good dent in the remaining measuring locations, we did not end up finishing. In the spirit of competition, I have decided to rank the participating parties in how good they were at measuring. The results can be seen below.

Rank #1: All humans who participated in the measuring today. Some humans are not pictured here but they were also just as good


Rank #2: The goats. They’re good at removing buckthorn but not great at measuring echinacea

Thanks for reading!

Funology, goats, and measuring, OH MY!

Today was a big day for Team Echinacea, many things were accomplished all around. It started with funology at P2 with some harvesting. An ever-increasing number of heads are done flowering and ready to harvest. Which makes the already enjoyable task of phenology, suitable of the name funology! After returning to Hjelm the team dispersed into a brief session of task forces before returning to team work of goat moving! There are 4 goats that live in pastures around Hjelm, they are used to control the invasive buckthorn. The four goats are named Style, Scape, No S, and The Kid. Goat moving was an exciting change of pace for the team, none of our study organisms require herding or coaxing. The first step when moving the goats was to disassemble the electric fence and reassemble it around the new pasture. While the assembling was being assembled Andy and I were tasked with watching the goats in their old pasture and moving them towards the new pasture. This worked out surprisingly well, by the time the goats arrived at the new pasture the fence was near completion and no goats went on adventures too far from the path.

Andy carefully watching over the goats while they munch on some near by trees.

Whoops lost half a goat during the transfer!

Happy goats surrounded by their one love. Buckthorn.

After the goat moving extravaganza we broke for lunch, today’s strange lunch conversation included how much Kristen would need to pay Evan for him to eat a large inch worm that was found on Andy’s shirt. Once this debate had been exhausted the team got back to checking things off the to-do list. Kristen, Evan, John, and Andy moved emergence traps and put out pan traps. A good chunk of P1 measuring was also completed, we finished the remaining sections of the inbreeding garden, then we started and completed the 99 garden. The plants in the 99 garden are significantly closer together which makes this a difficult task but when the team sets its mind on something it seems like we can complete almost anything! There is quite a large population of Big Blue Stem that calls P1 home, while it makes for quite a nice prairie community it is not so nice for us researches that attempt to navigate the plot. At this point in the season, the grass is over all of our heads which makes measuring plants that are ~30cm off the ground somewhat challenging.

Do you see Michael? It’s hard to spot him through all the Big Blue Stem!

After work today Riley made a tuna pasta salad which was delicious. Then the “Roosters” were joined by Kristen for a showing of an episode of the bachelorette. Yet another fun filled productive day seems to have passed for team Echinacea!

Until next time flog,


P.S. Last time I posted I talked about my personal project as an update on Friday I did my 60th and last hand cross! So now on to pollen counting!