Farewell, Flog!

Goood afternoon!

Yesterday was my last day with Team Echinacea. I’m sad to say goodbye so soon, but my Junior year of high school is calling me. I had an amazing summer with the team, and I learned so much about plants and the prairie in a unique experience I wouldn’t be able to get anywhere else.

It wasn’t just my last day yesterday, but also Lea, John, and Emma’s. We wrapped up our time together with one last goat-herding excursion, some packing, and a little bit of demo before our early lunch.

At lunch, we had some delicious vegan chocolate cake (Thank you Jean for all the cakes you’ve made us this summer!) and sat in our 2020 grass-circle for the last time. John and Lea’s puppy pals came to visit too! I’m going to miss our little spot under the oak trees, but I won’t miss the constant fear of acorn-pelting…

Who’s a good boy? Clyde’s a good boy!
Huxley and Velmie came to visit too!

In the afternoon, Emma, Mia and I went out to Hegg Lake/P2 to shoot demo on some recruitment sites. I got some quality time with Darwin in the car while we drove, and Emma was able to shoot one final site with him. I think it was a pretty sentimental experience for the both of us.

MYSTERY DOGS!! These guys were hanging out on the side of the road as we drove by… we thought they were coyotes, but we were pleasantly surprised!
“don’t speak to me or my son ever again”
Just kidding! Darwin and I are very social

At the end of the day, we cleaned up Hjelm as much as we could, returned our equipment, and said the final good-byes for the summer. I’m going to miss Team Echinacea as Fall and Winter come, but I’m hoping to visit again next summer. Thank you to all the people who helped me grow as a scientist and student. I wouldn’t exchange this summer for anything, and I’m grateful we were given the chance to come together in 2020.

Signing off for now,

Alpha Mike / Anna Meehan

Adventures in New Territories

Hey flog! It’s been a minute!

The team is starting to wrap up our season as we say goodbye to more members. We’re sad to see them go, but our remaining group has continued to power through- business as usual!

Emma, Mia and I started the day off with demo in some sites previously untouched by the 2020 team. First, we went to Hegg Lake, where I harvested some Echinacea pallida as well as Echinacea angustifolia, the last field-work step of our hybrid experiment (Stay tuned for an update on that in the coming weeks!). Emma and Mia practiced demo in some smaller sites so that Mia is trained in on Darwin, or “Chucky D”, when Emma and I leave.

In the afternoon, Emma headed off to do some more work on sling, while Mia and I harvested heads. Emma not only managed to finish the sites she planned, but also went on to tackle Staffanson! Big sites like that are hard to manage, especially on your own. Go Emma!

Mia and I continued to pick away at P1 harvesting. We got a good portion done, and plan on finishing it in the coming week. I also took some pictures of plants in different stages to improve our protocol, which will help newcomers and oldtimers in the following years.

Overall, our small team turned out to be pretty successful! We were productive, pushed through, and made it out alive. Here’s another success story for the books- or, maybe just the flog.

Until next time!

Anna (Meehan)

Who run the world? GIRLS! (…again)

Hey flog!

It’s Anna Meehan (Alpha Mike) coming at you with an update of our demo/measuring adventures. This week our active team consists of exclusively girls! And of course, no insult to the lovely men on our team, we have got a lot done. Specifically, demo and measuring have been flying by at a faster-than-usual rate.

We started off the day with some demo and phenology, which is typical of our mid-season schedule. Emma, Allie and I took on Loeffler’s Corner this morning. This is a large demo-site with approximately 175 plants. Usually, Darwin (our GPS system) would count as a man, but he is, in fact, a GPS. Meanwhile, Anna Allen conquered P2 phenology, all on her own! While our tasks seemed somewhat daunting, we completed both in a timely manner well before noon. We wrapped up the morning with some extra measuring in P1.

Superstar Demo Team Emma and Allie stake some new flowering plants!
We had the chance to jump/crawl under some barbed wire fence today…
in the name of science!

We took the afternoon to measure some more segments of our P1 plot. Today was significantly nicer than others, with lower humidity and temperature levels than Wednesday and Tuesday. Amy even joined in on measuring for the first time in ~3 years! Sadly, we weren’t able to get a picture of this precious moment, but it will live on in our memories. Mia, Allie and I found some aphids along the way, which have slipped our eyes the entire field season. Now, we may be able to continue our aphid addition/exclusion experiment from previous years.

APHIDS!!! At last!

Overall, our day was pretty typical. This week has reminded us of the importance of women in STEM, and just how much we are capable of as a team. I’m incredibly lucky to have some awesome, efficient, kind, and strong women to look up to as I continue my journey through science.

That’s all for now!

See ya later flog,

Anna (Meehan)

Experimental Plot 7 / Hybrid Project Update

Hey flog!

I wanted to make a post detailing my experiment this summer with hybrid Echinacea plants at Hegg Lake. As a student, it was my goal to design, execute, and analyze an experiment with Team Echinacea this summer. Because I’m interested in genetics, I wanted to create something that would connect inheritance with population control among Echinacea. With the help of some seasoned Team Echinacea members (Riley T and Mia S), I was able to construct an experiment that would study the reproduction potential of hybrid Echinacea, crossed between E. angustifolia and E. pallida.

In the history of experimental plot 7, two Echinacea plants have flowered. Most recently, a hybrid Echinacea flowered this spring. This allowed us to cross the hybrid’s pollen with a variety of E. angustifolia and E. pallida in the Hegg Lake area. In order to assess reproduction potential, styles were painted, pollinated, and later observed to look for shriveling. Although styles may shrivel for a variety of reasons, shriveling usually indicates reproduction. In the winter, we will assess the seed-set of these individuals to determine reproductive fitness.

When new species from non-prairie remnants are introduced to new areas, the risk of hybridization among plants of the same genus arises. E. pallida, which has shown to out-compete E. angustifolia in our experimental plots, therefore has the ability to pass on its genes through hybrids. If hybrids are able to reproduce, and continue to pass on E. pallida genes, the risks of genetic swamping increase. Therefore, over time, hybridization could eventually exterminate E. angustifolia from its native prairie.

A picture of me painting bracts for our hybrid crosses. Photo credit to Mia S!

In order to assess reproduction, we hand-crossed a variety of sample pollen with E. angustifolia, E. pallida, and hybrid Echinacea. In this experiment, a shriveled style is a sign of successful reproduction. Because Echinacea plants are not self-compatible, the reasons for a style not to shrivel could vary. Reasons could be that the hybrid was not compatible with this type of Echinacea, or because the specific Echinacea plants were incompatible due to inheritance patterns.

An example of hand-crosses from Shona Sanford-Long, 2012

Our sample size was also effected because only one hybrid Echinacea flowered this summer. In the end, we cross-pollinated our hybrid plant with three E. angustifolia plants, and three E. pallida plants. If more hybrids flower in the future, we will be able to expand our sample size and cross variety. For this reason, we hope to continue this experiment in the following summers if hybrids continue to flower.

Overall, we saw that hybrids were more compatible with E. angustifolia rather than E. pallida. While hybrid reproduction passes on E. pallida genes, a greater chance of reproduction with E. angustifolia keeps native genes (and hopefully, native traits) in the prairie gene pool.

In the future, I will share more updates as we continue to analyze and reassess the data.

Thanks for joining me on this exciting, new experiment!

Anna (Meehan)

Wacky Wednesday (feat. Alpha Mike and Romeo Tango)

Greetings, flog friends!

Today was a wild ride, to say the least. Our morning started off with an intense thunderstorm. Some Team Echinacea members reported strong thunder as early as 2 AM, which persisted into the early morning. Although it left the remnants wet and muddy, we were lucky to start at our usual time.

I spent the majority of the day working with Riley T. as we conquered the phenology route we affectionately call “Choo-Choo Corner.” This path inculdes remnants such as Loefflers’ Corner and Railroad Crossing. Thankfully, Stuart was there to take care of Yellow Orchid Hill and North Railroad Crossing.

Some happy Echinacea are thriving in their flowering state at Loeffler’s Corner West!

While at Loeffler’s Corner, Riley had a strange encounter with a baby deer. The surprise was well justified, as the fawn was alone and near a highway. Unfortunately, the deer left before Riley could take a picture, but he reports the experience as “shocking” and “unusual”.

We ended the morning with some flowers in our on-site experimental plot, “P8.” After a much needed lunch, we returned to the site to conduct measuring. If you’re a seasoned flog-reader, you’ll know that measuring is the process we use to assess the Echinacea planted in our experimental plots. By measuring, we’re able to keep track of plants that survived, were lost, and their physical fitness over time. P8, one of our largest plots, is notorious for its heat and humidity. However, we persisted, and made great progress!

Half-way through our P8 excursion, Riley and I had another wacky experience. One of the rows we were assigned to measure had a constant rate of lost plants and toothpicks, our universal seed-identifying material. During burns and harsh winters, toothpicks (and often plants) tend to go missing. However, row 169 was unusually bare. This is when we realized we had made a dire mistake.

To our demise, we discovered that the unusual row was mislabeled. Because of this, we had compared visor records to a completely irrelevant row. Although it was somewhat disappointing, we were glad to know that our mortality rate was much lower than we thought. It was also a good experience that taught me it’s okay to make mistakes, and that we must learn in order to improve. Even with our minor setback, it was an extremely successful day for the team, and a great kick-off to our P8 studies!

We concluded the afternoon with some Wednesday Watermelon, and a rhine-throwing contest. Watermelon is a team-favorite treat on hot days!

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed our “Wacky Wednesday” as much as we did. It’s always great to have a little excitement at work, and a bit of “phun” with phenology!

Until next time,

Anna (Meehan)

A Great First Day! Anna Meehan FLOG

Good afternoon, flog!

Today was an amazing first day at The Echinacea Project. While it may have gone slightly unexpected due to COVID-19, we managed to have a product and fun-filled day. I’m so excited to have been introduced to the wonderful plant, Echinacea angustifolia!

We began our day by meeting at the Hjelm House for introductions and COVID-19 guidelines. As a junior in highschool, networking is extremely important. One perk of working with Team Echinacea is that I get to meet an array of people from different backgrounds, experiences, and have access to an endless supply of knowledge about ecology and conservation. This became apparent when we visited Staffanson, where new and recurring team members familiarized themselves with native and non-native species. This experience opened my eyes to the extensive biodiversity of prairie, as well as how burning affects the versatility and populations of flowers, grasses, legumes, and any other plants you might find.

John got a really awesome picture of me with the “monster plant”, which is known to provide several Echinacea heads. Featuring me, for size reference!

After our trek through Staffanson, we visited “South of Golf Course”, a heavily disturbed prairie remnant. The lack of biodiversity and clear topographical difference reminded us of how human interaction can impact environment, but also provides us a place to study ecological restoration in heavily-impacted areas.

After lunch, I had a chance to visit some remnants with team member Lea, where we practiced flagging, observing, and estimating Echinacea plants. Thanks to that, I now know what to look for when trying to observe several species of plants, which will be crucial for future experiments.

I then spent the afternoon visiting a controlled burn near the Hjelm house. During the burn, several flags that marked former Echinacea (planted by the team for observation) had suffered, and were less-than-impressive. Team member Emma and I worked hard to replace and mark flags, which will be helpful in future experiments this summer.

An example of a flag Emma and I marked this afternoon
An image of our hard work, as well as the remains of some poor, poor flags. At least the Echinacea benefit from that!

By the end of our flag restoration extravaganza, it was time to pack up and head home. Now, we get to rest and do it all tomorrow! I’m excited to see where our projects take us this summer, which will all be documented in our flog!

Until next time,

Anna (Meehan)

Anna Meehan

Echinacea Project 2020

Student, Alexandria Area High School ’22

Research Interests

I am interested in studying the genetic traits of wildflowers in prairie ecosystems, with a focus on natural selection and advantageous phenotypes.  Often times, flowers are overlooked when speaking of biodiversity. However, flowers are necessary to the structure of every ecosystem, as they allow symbiotic relationships for basic and complex organisms alike. By indicating and preserving advantageous traits, I hope to learn how scientists may help endangered plants through assisted breeding and appropriate preservation practices.


I am from Alexandria, Minnesota.  In my spare time, I like to practice violin, study languages, and write historical fiction pieces on Eastern Europe. I love classical and folk music, especially the works of Vaughn Williams, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich. When I have the time, I enjoy researching and recreating historical dresses from around the world.

When I graduate high school, I plan to attend college and apply my love of language, history, and science to become either a medical geneticist or sociocultural anthropologist. I also hope to use my voice to spread awareness about environmental conservation. As of recent, my favorite animated movie is Howl’s Moving Castle, which always goes well with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I’m looking forward to this research experience, and I’m excited to see what summer of 2020 has in store! 

You may not be able to see it, but I’ve got a big smile under that mask!