Frenetic Phonetic Alphabetic

Flog post for August 29th, 2017.

This morning we broke into two teams to do flowering demography at three sites. The team I was on went to Around Landfill. Normally the cows at Around Landfill stay unseen in a different part of their pasture, but today a few of them cam right up to the fence. Maybe they were telling us to stay away from their calves? We combed the site for any Echinacea that had flowered that previous year, and while we’ve been visiting the site often to collect phenology data, we still managed to find a few previously missed flowers. Both groups converged on the On 27 site after an hour or two and collaborated to sort through the sumac and uncover the Echinacea there.

After lunch, the majority of the team went to harvest Echinacea heads and Bouteloua grass. The county has recently been cutting roadsides in preparation for winter, so we thought we had to act fast to snap up the Bouteloua seed. As it turns out, the mower didn’t reach us yesterday, but we still managed to gather another gallon of seed to spread on P1 after the fall burn.

In an effort to spice up head harvest, we tried to communicate the head I.D.s via the NATO phonetic alphabet. We decided at one point to make some more creative changes to the typical code.


B- Bravo



E-Echo (echo, echo, echo)












Q-Quebec (said in a heavy Irish Accent)







X-Xylophone or Xray (depending on how confused you are on the spelling of Xylophone)


Z-Zulu (or Xylophone, don’t judge us on our spelling).

I think this adapted version is far superior to the current version, and NATO needs to update it stat.

We finished the day with a cookout at Elk Lake. The Andes crew supplied chocolate cake and some CSA veggies, and Stuart supplied vegetables from the garden and cooked. The lake was absolutely beautiful, and everyone went home happy and full of food.


Coaxial Cable Conundrum (9 August 2017)

Have you ever had one of those days you can just feel rain coming? Yesterday was one of those days. When I stepped outside in the morning, my immediate thought was “I wonder when it will start raining?”. The sky was ominous, and pretty much by the time we arrived at the Hjelm House it was coming down.

We spent the first part of the morning updating Stuart and Gretel on our individual projects, measuring, and demo. My yellow pan trap project is going well; I have the contents of approximately 120 traps in the Hjelm House freezer right now waiting to be pinned, and I tried to use the rainy weather yesterday to make a dent in all of that. My pinning is getting faster each day, and the pinned specimens are looking better and better. Soon I will begin identifying these specimens and analyzing my data.

It amazes me, when I think about phenology, how long it used to take to complete. I was able to do the whole of the Around Landfill loop in about half an hour yesterday, a task that would have taken two people a morning to complete only a few weeks ago. It amazes me how much time has gone by this summer already.

This brings us to the pivotal event yesterday: the great coaxial cable conundrum. In short, we need a new cable for the GPS, but the brand-name replacement is far too expensive. We spent some time discussing our options, and a decision has yet to be made. More updates to come?

The afternoon brought a little more rain, which for me meant more pinning. After the rain cleared, Wes, Ashley, Anna, and I embarked to Hegg Lake to measure at the Hybrid plot there. Unfortunately, we were unable to finish the plot, having only two or three rows remaining, but I’m sure they will be finished soon.

An old image, flowering Liatris at Hegg Lake; 31? July 2017.


One of the reasons I enjoy field work is its unpredictability: it could rain or it could be a cloudless day, it could be 80˚F or it could be 60˚F, you could make a pretty significant dent measuring P2, finish measuring in P1, or you could get stung by a couple wasps for like no reason. Any combination of 4 of those things could make for an interesting and complex day.

Yesterday we did finish measuring in P1 (though we still need to do re-checks), and we got through 14 rows of measuring in P2, all during the morning. So far, no one seems to have gotten lost in P2, but we will see what happens as measuring progresses.

During the afternoon, most of the team worked on demo at the railroad crossing sites, while Lea visited her sites, and I set out yellow pan traps. Doing the yellow pan trap study is one of my favorite activities as a member of Team Echinacea. Every time I bring one in, its like a new and different present. There are some sites where I’ve come to expect certain insects. For example, I have come to almost always expect to see a cockroach in the site 3 yellow pan trap. It’s exciting, it’s fun, and it’s producing really interesting data. More is sure to come.

Oh, also happy August.

An old picture of Augochlorella spp. on a prairie rose. July 2017.

Glenwood Saturday

Sometimes, team Echinacea weekends can be very low key: we read or study, do laundry, or cook lunches for next week. This past Saturday was different. Lea, Tracie, Ashley, Wes, and I went to yoga on the beach in Glenwood. It was nice, the water was very peaceful, the class was rigorous but not overly difficult, and it was a warm morning.

After yoga, we got breakfast at the Gingerbread Cafe nearby. Now, I love breakfast. It’s hands down the best meal of the day. As far as the taste, the Gingerbread Cafe delivered a solid egg-hashbrown-toast plate. It was basic, but well done for a small town greasy spoon. The wait for said food was a bit long; I believe we waited a little over an hour. However, the restaurant was busy when we walked in, so I expected a little bit of a wait. The service was very good, and I (who was at that point in desperate need of a coffee) was not found with an empty cup. For my overall experience, I would give it a 9/10: a good breakfast.

After breakfast, Lea and Ashley went and had their own experiences. But Wes, Tracie, and I, along with a few of Amy Waananen’s team, went floating on the Long Prairie River. Butt reeds aside, it was perfect. Stuart and Gretel had graciously supplied us with tubes, and not wishing to use Wes’s bike pump, we filled the tubes at one of Alexandria’s finest gas stations. I am now absolutely convinced that Rosie, Kristina, Matthew, and Amy are all genii. They had found a floating cooler, which we tied ourselves to (with varying levels of permanency). The float took a few hours. To make a very long story short, we encountered tunnels and bridges, visited with turtles, got poked by Wes with reeds, and enjoyed a few libations. It was overall an excellent afternoon, captured by the blurry but nonetheless perfect figure below.

Oh yeah, and Wes, Ashley, and I went to fireworks in Glenwood that evening too. Good Saturday, 12.5/10.

The least blurry photo of the floaters feat. Amy, Rosie, Kristina, Matthew, and Wes’s forehead. 29 July 2017. Photo Courtesy of Wes Braker.

Phenology Wednesday

Today was undoubtedly the hottest work day this year (so far). It was the sort of heat that you can’t help but talk about, the kind that saps the energy out of you. We started out the morning phenology. Ashley, Gretel, and I went to p2. The heat seemed to have sped up the emergence of new male and female florets. It almost seemed like new rows of anthers and styles were emerging as we were observing them! There were bees and flies everywhere, on Echinacea heads, buzzing around our heads, and visiting other plants. Despite the heat, it was exciting to see so much activity.

Ruth visited us today to help us with phenology and measuring. It was nice to talk to her a little more at lunch and during measuring.

But while everyone else was starting measuring in p8 in the early afternoon, I split off and visited my yellow pan trap sites. I had placed 5 out at various points along the roadsides on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, two of the pan traps tipped over during the night because of the intense rain we got in the early hours this morning. However, I was able to collect some insects from the remaining three. I can’t wait to put out the remaining traps later this week.

To end our day, Stuart and Gretel cut up some watermelon. It was an absolutely perfect end to a hot, hot day.

Phenology at p2 with Gretel, Ashley, and Lea; 05 July 2017.

Happy Monday!

The name of today was phenology! Wes, Ashley, Anna, and I started off the morning finding and documenting Echinacea buds at the East Elk Lake Road fragment. We had heard tell of a four headed plant living on the edge of the corn field, and low and behold there it was! We only found about 20 plants, but I’m sure we will find more as the season progresses.

In the afternoon, we split into 2 groups: one group went to conduct phenology at p2, and the other group went to stake and find plants at the Staffanson transect plot. Staffanson was absolutely beautiful; there were a few puffy white clouds, the temperature was perfect, and the Echinacea buds were out! The p2 team reported that there would be an above average number of flowering Echinacea plants this year, while we found typical numbers of Echinacea buds at Staffanson. It was a great day of fieldwork and a nice way to start the week.

Stuart and Tracie at Staffanson Prairie doing phenology and staking the transect (26 June 2017).

Monday Flog (19 June 2017): Attack of the Hawkweed

Hawkweed, hawkweed, hawkweed! We started off today pulling the invasive weed out of the P1 plots. For a long time, it seemed like wherever I looked, I saw basal hawkweed! The summer 2016 Echinacea Project team was best removed with hand tools, so this year we used garden knives to take out as much of the roots and runners that we could.  We removed so much of this weed, we were able to fill a whole wheelbarrow!

Tracie and Anna goofing around on the hawkweed mobile (aka the wheelbarrow). (19 June 2017).

After lunch, we set up the P2 plot at Hegg Lake. We first marked the beginning and ends of each row. We then placed flags every 5 meters along each row. It was a lot of work, but once we finished, P2 looked all ready for the rest of the summer!

Phenology Friday

Flowering Milkweed found at East of Elk Lake Road.

Today was a phenology day for Team Echinacea.  One of the things that I like best about phenology is that it allows you to visit a large array of fragments and encourages you to really get to know them as you work your way through the Echinacea maps Stuart has prepared and seek out plants.  I went along the north west route today, a route I had never been on before.  This route includes East Elk Lake Road, North North West of Landfill, Northwest of Landfill, and Around Landfill, among others.  None of these sites, in my opinion are as stunning as the East Elk Lake Road.  East Elk Lake Road isn’t a huge site, but there were a number of flowering Echinacea, including those being used by Leah in her independent project.  East Elk Lake Road has both great scenery and a diversity of beautiful wildflowers.  In particular, I thought the flowering milk weed was especially pretty.

After phenology, Team Echinacea convened for lunch as usual.  Through the entire lunch I was on the edge of my seat.  I had been expecting several packages delivering the materials I need for my independent study, and without them I really could not start.

I went with Gretel in the afternoon to GPS some plants at a few of the fragments, and after very very narrowly getting poison ivy, we returned to the Hjelm house.  There, like brown treasure chests waiting to be cracked open, sat my boxes full of lab equipment.  I skipped down the stairs leading to the Hjelm house basement (though not really because that’s crazy dangerous with boxes in your hands, and doubly so because I’m crazy uncoordinated).  Anyways, I set up my lab space, didn’t fall down the stairs, and went out to P1 to help the crew there weed hawk weed.

After all this excitement (it was mostly just me), we all sat down to chocolate cake.  I have no idea how Gretel found time to make this, as we had GPS-ed earlier and I don’t think I had been weeding for more than an hour.  To put it simply, Gretel’s cake was crazy good, and we all appreciated it very very very much.

Bees Bees Bees

Today was the first day of Team Echinacea’s pollinator observations!  A number of genera were tentatively  identified, including a number of small black bees and Agapostemon.  As I sat in the field today, I encountered a pair of mating bees (picture below) on an Echinacea head.


Pair of unknown bees mating on an Echinacea head while the female forages.

The female’s scopae were chock full of pollen, and it was a great way to start this season’s pollinator observations!  I also saw a few bumblebees today, buzzing around but not visiting Echinacea heads.  All around, it was a great day of observations.  On my last few observations, I came across a pretty big bug.  It decided to chill out on my arm for a while until I finally finished my last observation and returned to the Hjelm house for lunch.

A Big 'ol bug (of unknown species) who decided to take up residence on my arm for a while this morning.

A Big ‘ol bug (of unknown species) who decided to take up residence on my arm for a while this morning.

It was interesting to note that many observers noticed that as the day wore on, more and more pollen was (presumably) collected by pollinators until there was a time when little to no pollen was able to be observed on Echinacea, and after this time pollinator observations were few and far between.  This seemed to happen even at Landfill (where I was located), even though there were a relatively greater number of flowering pollinators than at some smaller sites.  It was also interesting that though there were relatively more flowering plants, there were fewer pollinator observations at Landfill than at some of the smaller fragments.

I can’t wait to continue pollinator observations in the near future, and to observe the changes in pollinator diversity as the Echinacea flowering season continues!

Update from Town Hall: Sunday Funday

Team Echinacea embarked on another exciting day of festivities at the Kensington Rune Stone Days.  In particular, we enjoyed the Rune Stone Days parade, where we gorged ourselves on free candy and watched fantastic viking ships, ATV performances, and band stand floats go by.  Some members of the town hall “Flower Children” also ventured out the previous night to dance at the street dance.

Besides dancing last night and the parade today, the “Flower Children” spent the day napping, reading, and working on their individual projects.  It was a fine day for preparing for the next set of adventures this coming week!


The Kensington Lions Club Viking ship float.


Alex Hajek, asleep in his hammock in town hall