Busy as a bee

This summer Shea and John continued our yellow pan trap project to sample the pollinator community found along roads in our study area in Minnesota. Today volunteer Mike Humphrey pinned the last bee from this summer’s collection!

Mike with the collection; next he’ll be consolidating these with Shea’s pinning from this summer to be sent off for ID at the University of Minnesota!

Mike received a surprise on his last day of the year; volunteer Char found a desiccated bee in one of the Echinacea heads she was cleaning! Mike reports it’s different from anything else we have in the collection this year, so a seriously cool find.

A majority of the bees in our 2019 collection are unremarkable Lasioglossums that we call “small black bees,” but we also get remarkably shiny blue and green bees in our traps!

Thanks for all your hard work Mike, and we’ll see you next year!

Potluck 2019 – Thank you, community scientists!

Last Thursday, we had our annual Team Echinacea potluck to honor the work of lab volunteers over the past year. Stuart discussed why what we do is so important and how the work of volunteers helps us to answer important scientific questions. Some great recent milestones accomplished by volunteers include:

Allen, Sam, and Anne reaching 500,000 achenes counted

All 2017 heads have been cleaned, rechecked, and scanned

670,000 achenes were counted and 113,000 achenes were classified in 2019 (so far)

In addition to a general overview of the Echinacea Project’s goals, members of the lab who have individual projects talked about what they are working on. These projects are: Erin’s remnant flowering intervals, Drake’s prairie parasites, Lea’s floral neighborhood, Elif’s congener ploidy project, and Riley’s prairie fragment crosses. It was really great to talk about research and hear about a number of projects.

Most importantly, though, I want to thank all people who volunteer their time to the lab. Without you, the cutting-edge science we do is impossible. Truly, you are making huge contributions to science and our understanding of plant reproductive fitness in anthropogenically fragmented landscapes. Your work is so appreciated, and we are so lucky to have you all around!

Oh, by the way, the food was absolutely wonderful. 11/10.

Team Echinacea IL!
Front (L to R): Drake, Lea, Erin, Stuart
Middle (L to R): Char, Shelley, Allen, Laura, Elif, Gretel
Back (L to R): Marty, Art, Tessa, Riley, Mike, Aldo
Folks eat and Stuart talks about an Echinacea Project paper.
Stuart tries to get a good angle on a photo of Riley and Aldo – photoception.
Lea, Elif, and Riley.
Stuart, Allen, Tessa, and Shelley. Shelley did not see that someone was taking a photo.
Laura, Erin, and Stuart.

All of these photos are courtesy of Ray, a volunteer in the photography group. Thank you very much, Ray!!

Volunteer profile: Elif

Recently, Team Echinacea welcomed a new member, Elif Taskiran. Elif has a PhD in economics, but has recently expressed interest in biological sciences. The Echinacea Project is happy to have her on board! Elif volunteers her time on Fridays, where she engages in data entry and cleans heads. Elif also attends weekly lab meetings, where she engages in paper discussion and gives feedback on various works of the team (like presentations and proposals).

Elif is also very interested in using Chicago Botanic Garden’s flow cytometer to understand ploidy differences between Echinacea angustifolia, E. pallida, E. purpurea, and Echinacea hybrids. We hope this project will be fruitful! Thank you, Elif, for all of your work so far with the Echinacea Project. We look forward to your work in the future!

Elif in the lab!

The big five-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh!

Today we’re celebrating a huge milestone– Allen Wagner has counted half a million achenes!

Great going, Allen! We’re looking forward to the next 500,000!

New year, new x-rays

Hello flog!

For those of you who read all of my flog posts (I know there’s a solid number of you out there!) you’ve probably figured out by now that I love posting about numbers. So what’s today’s number?

Why, it’s 1948 of course!

Now this is the point that you might furtively look at wikipedia and say “I don’t understand what 1948 has to do with Echinacea. Everyone already knows that 1948 was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar, the 1948th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 948th year of the 2nd millennium, the 48th year of the 20th century, and the 9th year of the 1940s decade.” To which I would say that we are dealing with the number 1948, not the year.

No, 1948 is the number of seed packets of echinacea we x-rayed at the garden this week: and it’s only Wednesday! Through the combined efforts of many volunteers we are making some headway into the daunting task of figuring out which achenes have seeds in them and which do not. Look for updates soon about these number for our pollen limitation heads!


p.s., here’s a small sampler of what the xrays look like

A look at our qGen_a xrays from 2013. There’s almost 900 images total in this folder (not nearly that many are shown here)

A cupcake prairie to congratulate Anne!

Anne has counted over half a million achenes!

Today we celebrated Anne’s accomplishment of counting over 500,000 achenes with a prairie remnant made out of cupcakes. Anne has been a member of Team Echinacea for over 10 years and she has really put in the hours! We can’t thank her enough; it’s great having her in every Friday.

Notice the cupcake “soil” under the diverse cupcake prairie remnant – complete with Echinacea, Helianthus, bottle gentian, and grass!

Prairie cupcake remnant. Are these bare ground cupcakes good for solitary bees??


Prairie cupcakes detail.


Congrats Allen and Susie!

Last week, Allen and his wife Doris won an amazing award at the Volunteer Awards Reception! Congratulations Allen and Doris!

Allen and Doris were presented with the 2018 Kris S. Jarantoski Excellence In Horticulture Volunteer Service Award, an award that recognizes volunteers for “their dedication to nature, enthusiasm for education, and exemplary volunteer service in support of horticulture and plant collections at the Chicago Botanic Garden.”

We have been so happy to have Allen on our team. He is a long-term volunteer at the garden and has worked on a variety of different projects over the years. He comes in on Tuesday afternoons to work with Team Echinacea and is one of our critical achene counters! Thanks for all of your hard work, Allen- this award is well-deserved!

Allen counting achenes.


Susie, a member of Team Echinacea since 2011, was also recognized for volunteering over 600 hours this past year! That is quite an achievement. Susie would come in all day Tuesdays and Thursdays, starting out with randomizing or cleaning in the mornings and then working in the herbarium in the afternoon. Susie did so much great work for the Echinacea Project, always had a smile, and was always keen to learn about what the lab managers and grad students were working on.

Susie with all of her randomizing materials out.


Anne and Leslie rechecking Echinacea

Anne and Leslie are hard at work rechecking heads that have been cleaned from 2016. This is an important job in our ACE protocol as it makes sure that no achenes are left behind before they get counted and randomized!

Anne and Leslie rechecking Echinacea heads from 2016

Art is counting away

Art is spending the morning today counting achenes at the computer. One great thing about counting achenes is you can still tell stories while you’re doing it, and Art has quite a lot of funny and interesting stories about his earlier days volunteering at the garden.

Art counting Echinacea achenes in the lab

Char cleaning Echinacea heads

Today Char and Susie have been cleaning Echinacea heads from 2016. Char is interested in Art’s idea of using the seed counter to count out achenes once they have been cleaned. She wants to know if the seed counter will be able to count achenes that come from small heads that have tons of tiny achenes. An experiment is in the works!