Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three (4!) Bags Full

Today and yesterday Katherine and I harvested most of the heads from P1 and P2! It’s an all day affair now that it’s just the two of us, but we enjoyed seeing how much progress we’ve made- many of the rows and all of the heads for Q3 are completely harvested!   Today at P2 we had a picnic lunch in the field to maximize efficiency and enjoy the beautiful and clear fall day. I also gained a deeper understanding for just how caring of a person Katherine is. As we were harvesting she carefully ensured no bugs made it into the bag declaring, “Why must I have such a respect for the sanctity of all life!” as she herded another small bug back into its home at hegg. Unfortunately as we headed home, the truck didn’t quite start! Luckily, a kind passerby helped us jump it and after at the auto body shop we got to play with Bo, the friendly and pudgy yellow lab.

We started off today by receiving a post card from Ben! It’s addressed to all of Team Echinacea, so I urge everyone to return to read it in person (and so we can see you)! To say we were overjoyed would be an understatement, and it reminded us how much we miss our buddies who have returned home, to school, and to continue work in Chicago! Unfortunately as you can see from the pictures, some members were not so fortunate as to remain humans after the summer. So much time spent studying Echinacea has caused Gina to turn into an Echinacea and from eating too many cucumbers from the Wagenius’ garden, Ben has become a cucumber! We are impressed by how much this summer influenced our friends both academically, and physically.


Katherine cuddles Bo while the car is expected!

Katherine cuddles Bo while the car is expected!

Gina misses the project so much she's turned herself into an Echinacea!

Gina misses the project so much she’s turned herself into an Echinacea!

We miss Ben, but we like him as a cucumber too

We miss Ben, but we like him as a cucumber too

Losing heads in P1

Today the team headed out to kjs to finish up the seedling refinds! We were happy to  finish the site with the most seedlings! From kjs we went to P1 to do a harvest! On Thursday we were so proud of the progress we’d made with the harvest, and naively thoughtthat Thursday may have been the longest day! Little did we know we would spend the greater part of today ruthlessly chopping off the heads of the flowers we tended so carefully all summer. We may have lost more that just the flower’s heads out there! Happily we had a croc pot meal of chili with cornbread courtesy of Danny! Yum!



September 3: Off With Their Heads!

This morning, the team spent some time catching up on smaller activities. Matt and Katherine worked on their website which we all eagerly anticipate, Danny and Amy planned for the rest of their year with the Echinacea Project, and Abby and I worked on the aphid project. I tried to channel Gina as I took her place as Abby’s partner, but must admit defeat-  that girl is irreplaceable and very missed!

We spent the rest of the morning at East Elk Lake Road doing seedling refinds. We’re getting the hang of this new protocol, and it’s exciting to try to see maps that 2011 team members have made, and follow their tracks to find the tiny echinacea plants.

After lunch, we had a lot of harvesting to do! We teamed up and powered through the afternoon, motivated by visions of puppies in our future. Sure enough, as we approached town hall we saw the bundle of white puppies that our neighbors have outside their house! We have all agreed that they are the most wonderful thing to have ever existed ever ever.  We stopped for a quick snuggle before going home to make pizza!


August 27: Come on Cauline


Dear Reader: Before you embark on this adventure, may I recommend some easy listening?

This morning Abby, Gina, Katherine and I reluctantly returned to Loeffler’s Corner again to harvest heads. I say reluctantly because the last time this quad ventured to Loeffler’s it was to do demography rechecks. And that ended with us in the back of Abby’s car consoling our somewhat broken spirits with unroasted s’mores. However today with renewed spirits, we harvested with the vim and vigor of girls with clear hearts. In harvesting heads we knew we must take off everything, leaving nary a twist-tie in our wake. This ensures that heads can be uniquely identified, throughout the sorting process.

No longer beaten-down by Loeffler’s, we were far too young and clever to be confused by metal tags and dud flowers- no not us! Before getting in the van we cried too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye aye as we drove back to Hjelm house.

By the time we got back to Hjlem, Stuart had returned from his sojourn in Chicago! No longer do we wear beaten-down eyes sunk in smoke-dried faces, we were so happy to be reunited with Stuart. Abby could barely hold back a too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye aye she was so overjoyed, and Gina sang along and said she would surely hum this tune forever when she remembered the reunion. Who’d blame them for being glad, things round here have changed since Stuart’s been back and now we will have plenty of demo rechecks to do tomorrow!

The rest of the team spent the morning doing demo rechecks at Riley and East Riley, and sorting various harvest maps. They replaced many red twist-ties,  because the red ties we put on plants at the beginning of the summer had lost their color and the poor old ties looked more clear than red! With each twist-tie added, members of Team Echinacea felt like they were putting pretty red dresses on the flowering plants.

At lunch, Gina talked about her findings from the aphid project. As Gina explained the statistics behind her analysis, I confess, I thought to myself: “Aah these things, I know they are real, but I swear what [s]he means could be said in plain english.” Stuart taught us how to explain our statistical results in language that is accessible to a broader audience, a valuable lesson for all scientists! Gina and Abby studied the same plants that were used in the 2012 aphid research and since then the plants have grown, so grown, and I must say now more than ever that there are more flowering than there were in the original data-set. To look at how more flowering plants may affect the data, the girls must come on out to P1 and assess herbivory on the cauline leaves. They were so resigned to what their fate was that they went straight to P1 after lunch to look at the leaves. These people round here really know how to tell a story of plant/insect interactions that captures the changes that occur in Echinacea populations over time.

After lunch, Katherine and I headed out to P1 to repaint Echinacea used in Q3 all the while humming Jonny Ray. Although his voice sounded sad on the radio, we can sing [his music] just like our fathers and that small comfort motivated us to do the best we could with the painting.

The Echinacea Project has taught me so much about teamwork, and at this moment, I remember that Katherine’s help means everything to me. You feel as if you can do the work alone, but when your hair verges on dirty, and you have shown weakness in the afternoon heat, it is your partner who will make you feel like saying too-ra-loo-ra, too-ra-loo-rye aye!

I look forward to the days when the Echinacea Project’s papers are as popular as Dexy’s Midnight Runners, a band who moved a million albums in mono. In the mean time, we spend our time fighting off hornets here at Hjelm House, unrecognized heros in the world of evolutionary ecology.


Eileen- rendered in lunch

Eileen- rendered in lunch



August 20th from the eyes of Ricky

I feel like live for the mornings these days. Before moving to Hjelm House, I spent the early hours avoiding the dew that descends upon the road every morning. It’s not easy being a caterpillar in the wilds of Kensington, Minnesota. I have lived here my whole life, so I suppose that’s all I know. But recently, as I watch the flower children begin to leave (Taylor, sweet girl how I miss thee), my grippy feet get itchy and I long to see the greater world. Perhaps you will find me in Rhode Island, hidden amongst Ben’s clothing this Sunday.

But I shall not digress further. This flog post is dedicated to my day today. Not the day that I sneak into Ben’s bag and travel to Rhode Island. Nor the day when I move in to the third room in Danny and Amy’s apt. Ali has briefly left her computer unattended, and I have decided to flog in her stead, to describe to you loyal followers what I did today.

Today the flower children arrived as they usually do, piling out of the car holding containers of rotting leaves and vegetable matter. I have yet to understand why they do this, but as they joyfully make their way from their cars toward the garden, I long to follow them into the eden of vegetable matter that they must be headed toward. They all sat around the table, shivering like the wimps they are (I find the weather beautiful for sitting on leaves) and giggled at each other sleepily.

Another, more official looking flower person emerged from the house and smiled at the flower children. He promised them warmth later in the day, and told them in the mean time they could venture out to pee as well. As I watched them leave the porch, I visualized what they would be doing during our separation. I wondered why the flowers must be measured in this strange “P Two” location. I wished to ask why they measured the plants rather than immediately eating them. I knew that the numbers were important however, because when they returned for lunch, they spoke excitedly of finishing measuring almost all of the densest section of “Pea Too.”

As they ate their lunch I ate around another leaf. I have been constantly eating since these humans brought me to Hjelm House. They have provided for me very well. After lunch, they sent one of the children off on his own, to collect flags from Hegg Lake. Before that boy left, I tried to get his attention to tell him to say “hi” to Auntie Ellis for me. She flew out to Hegg with a young ‘pillar from down the block last summer. I haven’t seen her since, but think of her fondly. The other children went to the Landfill for a demo. What sort of demo was going on at a Landfill. Perhaps, the gulls will demonstrate how to collect snacks from the garbage piles. But the flower children brought their visors to collect data on, so something tells me that it isn’t the kind of demo that the gulls or I would be interested in.


Four of the girls stayed back near me. Two of them wandered out to move the aphids around from one Echinacea plant to another. Two other girls brought sheets of paper labeled “Q3 data sheets” to paint Echinacea flowers. Before I moved to the house, I saw them painting, out near the road I lived on. I overheard them saying that they were painting to ensure that the put the pollen on the correct anthers on the Echinacea flowers. I don’t understand why these humans don’t trust the bees to carry out pollination. They bees have done this job for so long, and these children have fingers as large as my body– how could they properly transfer the pollen?

At the end of the day, as I was minding my own business, one girl took my picture (I will post it below).

They wonder at my size, saying that I look too big to be a normal caterpillar. One of them even said sarcastically that I was the larval stage of an Eagle. I found that to be ridiculous, and frankly a little sizest.

I have enjoyed my time reporting to you about my day. But Ali approaches, and she looks eager to use her computer and I should begin the walk back to Hjelm House so that the children don’t find out that I left my yogurt container on the porch. It’s a long crawl back, but don’t worry about me, I’ll be just fine.

Till next time,

Ricky The Caterpillar

Gina rudely interrupts my meal

Gina rudely interrupts my meal



August 8th- We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love our CORN

Yesterday in true Team Echinacea 2015 form, we planned our day surrounding eating adventures and a little bit of ecology. When I finally emerged from bed, I was greeting with the sweet sight of Amy hard at work in the kitchen preparing cinnamon buns for us all to enjoy! They were topped with a delicious cream cheese frosting.

Cinnamon Buns!

Cinnamon Buns!

Sometime in the midst of this decedent feast, we wandered outside to discover heaps of corn and squash awaiting us on the front stoop! We have heard tales of secret zucchinis snuck into cars by gardeners with a bumper crop, but we never thought we would be so lucky to receive such treasures ourselves! Later in the morning, Stuart told us that the anonymous deliverer was in fact a friend of his and Gretel’s named Bob. Bob, if you are reading this our deepest and most satisfied thank you goes to you.

Ben, Gina, and Taylor ogle our special delivery!

Ben, Gina, and Taylor ogle our special delivery!


After a lunch of grilled cheeses, we did some grocery shopping in Alex and prepared for a grill out at Runestone Park! Despite the loud thunder we heard as we loaded up the cars with grillable goodies, we remained optimistic about our evening plan. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans for us. As we approached the park, a torrential downpour hit and we decided to head back home to eat our dinner in the dry comfort of Town Hall. We ended the evening with a rousing viewing of “Cane Toads: An Unnatural History.” Which I believe all team members would recommend to documentary enthusiasts young and old.

Winding down of Summer- August 3

Today was one of the first days where the end of summer felt notably, and sadly very near. A big contributer to this feeling was that we finished doing phenology at all of the sites (p1 and p2 included!) before lunch. Several of the sites including East of Town Hall, KJs and North of Golf Course, are finished flowering all together! While Riley’s used to take many hours, it only took me and Will a few minutes to finish up phenology there this morning. At lunch  Will taught us a puzzle/riddle which while difficult to explain in a flog post, elicited many laughs and caused hats to be thrown in frustration across the picnic table of the Hjelm house. After lunch, the most of crew went to p1 to continue working on crosses for the Q3 experiment. Many of those are done now too, and we have seen a lot of style shriveling hopefully indicating compatible pollen addition and a successful cross between flowers! Tonight we have a special guest appearance from Erica, Lea’s sister! While we’re all excited that she’s here, it’s bittersweet because it means that Lea is leaving tomorrow morning 🙁 We’re all feeling a little snuffly about Lea’s departure, but excited to stay in touch with all members of the 2015 Echinacea team.

Friday July 24th

Friday was a phull phun day of pure phenology! We visited all the remnant sites, P1, and p2. As the summer slips away from us, so does the flowering Echinacea. Though phenology has been taking less time it serves as a sad reminder that summer is beginning to wind down. After all the phenology was completed, we all worked out in P1 on crosses for the Q3 experiment. Some of us also peaked on some of the crosses from the previous day, curious to see whether our crossing technique has been effective. When we see shriveled styles on heads that we have crossed, and those styles are not associated with bracts that are painted white to denote that they may have been pollinated before we designated them as part of the Q3 project. It was exciting to see how it has been working, and we’ve been seeing some preliminary shriveling on what we crossed! After work, most of the team (minus Gretel, Stuart, and Matt) headed back to town hall Lea made yummy guacamole and a group made some homemade chips! At the end of the day we went to Abby’s house and watched McFarland projected at her outdoor theater! It was a very full, and very fun day.

July 7: Welcome Back Sunshine!

This morning we were excited to see the sunshine again! The haze of the Canadian fires has obscured the sun the past week or so, lulling us into a false perception that we didn’t have to wear sunscreen! Some of the team fell into the trap, and ended the day with sunburnt necks after a day of heads bent down in search of Echinacea. This morning we did half of the phenology routes, and finishing up GPSing. Danny and Stuart have been hard at work consolidating the GPS data to create maps that we can use to help speed up the phenology process, and corroborate tag data to increase accuracy. After lunch many people worked on their independent projects. Will, Ben, and I headed to Hegg Lake. Ben got to work staking out plots to be used for seed collection. Will and I continued working on P2, and even found a plant that was on its first day of flowering (eek!). We all made good progress today, and are looking forward to finishing up tagging plants so we can begin phenology to ensure we do not miss any flowering Echinacea!

Ben's sunshiney view at Hegg!

Hawkweed Progress

Last summer several members of Team Echinacea began an experiment to determine the best way to eradicate Hawkweed from p1. Elizabeth, Cam, Allison, and Jared randomly assigned five treatments for removing Hawkweed in 16 1mx1m plots: 1. Hand pull, without tools, hawkweed basal leaves and flowers with the intent of removing as much root as possible (hand pull, no tool) 2. Hand pull with a tool with the intent of removing as much root as possible (hand pull w/tool) 3. Paint one leaf of each rosette with a 2:1 round-up herbicide solution with red dye (paint leaves) 4. Cut the flower head off of each hawkweed plant, paint 2:1 round-up herbicide solution with red dye on peduncle (cut head, paint stem). The 5th treatment was a control, where there was no effort to remove Hawkweed.

This summer, I revisited the plot where this experiment took place to observe how the Hawkweed looked after 1 year. I visually estimated percent cover in each plot, and am excited to compare the results from this year with data from last year to see how various treatments affect hawkweed presence after a year.

Hawkweed 2015 experimental plot 1