Wooster Waluigi Whodunnit??

Breaking news from Team Echinacea East, back here in Wooster, Ohio!

Upon returning to the lab this morning, the team was ready to begin work again after our trip to Minnesota. However, we were not prepared for the tragic scene that greeted us when we arrived. The Great Waluigi Wall of Williams Hall, constructed earlier this summer (a remembrance to our lab mate Mia while she was away in Arizona back in June), had vanished without a trace!

The scene of the crime!!
The original Great Waluigi Wall, in all its glory

After taking a moment to grieve and process this traumatic event, the team regrouped to further assess the situation and get to the bottom of this heinous crime. We discovered that while The Great Waluigi Wall was gone, not all the Waluigis of the lab had disappeared. The five Waluigis spread throughout the lab appear to have been left unharmed, much to the team’s relief. But despite the team’s best and most valiant search efforts, the other Waluigis could not be located.

Some of the Waluigis spread throughout the lab, including this one on Martha Chase, have been spared.

As to the suspect of the crime, the team thought long and hard about who could possibly be motivated to such a terrible act. Here, we arrived at a heart-breaking conclusion. The only person who had been in the lab during our time in Minnesota and thus the only person with direct access to the Waluigis would have been Mia herself! However, while still lacking the evidence, this awful possibility cannot be confirmed for certain at present. Team members reached out to Mia for a comment on the situation but received no response. It even appears that our suspect has gone so far as to flee to Arizona, forcing the team members to consider this frightening possibility.

Ren investigates the lab for any traces of the missing Waluigis

In the meantime, if anyone has any information as to the location of the Waluigis, please contact Ren, Miyauna, or me at Team Echinacea East. A memorial service for The Great Waluigi Wall will be held on 26 July 2019 at 4:00PM (EST) in Ruth Williams Hall.  

Farewell to Minnesota from Team Echinacea East

Hello flog!

Today’s flog is a bittersweet one, as it marks Team Echinacea East’s last update from here in Minnesota. After what has been a wonderful field experience with some truly amazing people, Miyauna, Ren, and I begin our journey home to the great state of Ohio tomorrow. Though we are sad to be leaving, we have had some great times while we’ve been out here, including times from our last day of field work!

We started the day off by making the drive out to P2 to tackle some more measuring and make some more progress on the pulse/steady experiment. Though we had been making steady progress through the measuring, the team really surged ahead today, and now are over halfway done!

All smiles for P2 measuring!!

After wrapping up with the morning tasks, the team trekked back to Hjelm House for lunch, where we were joined with a few special guests – Stuart’s parents and Steve Ellis (a local beekeeper) and his wife, Karen. Steve gave a talk about his experience raising honeybees, how his bees have been affected by neonicotinoids, and his experiences going up against the state and federal governments to get them to restrict/ban the use of these harmful chemicals. Though we usually focus on our own native solitary bees here at the Echinacea Project, I think we all found it well worthwhile to take this short break to discuss the nonnative honeybee and the plight of pollinators all across the world.

We love bees! (and Stuart’s world-famous cake!)

After the conclusion of Steve’s talk and a brief flossing tutorial by Ren, the team prepped to head back out for the afternoon. This mostly included people working on their independent projects – Julie checking her crossed plants, Jay killing some more ash, and Riley and Erin honing their computer wizardry skills a bit more. Miyauna, Ren, Amy, and I were in for a special treat though, as we got to ride with John in the famous Bombus Mobile to go water the baby plants in John’s restoration plots at the school.

Bombus Mobile selfies!

And that was it! Our final day of field work concluded. It’s been a terrific two and a half weeks, and we wish the team all the luck in the world with the rest of their field season – we will miss you all!

Thanks for an awesome field experience 🙂


Soaking Up the Sun

Hello flog!

After returning from our long day of grit-cultivation in the wet prairie for the orchid-hunting excursion, the team started back with a hard day’s work here in Kensington. The morning included phenology for several different plots, including P2. As the plants progress through the process of flowering, some of them are already beginning to approach end flowering, or have even finished flowering completely! It’s crazy to see how fast they progress!

Almost done flowering!

After a lunch break, the afternoon included a contingent who trekked out to P8 to (finally) finish up measuring for the plot. Despite the grueling conditions of 90+ degree heat, the team pushed through to finally finish off the last few sections, which made for a satisfying end to the day.

Shea and John, powering through the last few sections of P8!

That’s all for now!


Yale Plates, Scoring, Scavenger Hunts, OH MY!!!

Hello flog!

Out here at the College of Wooster, we have continued to be busy as bees. Seed Master Ren’s seed children are growing up – we have now planted over 80 seeds! Though most of the seeds in this batch we expected to germinate have already, our next batch of seeds will switch over from winter to summer next week, so we should have a lot more soon!

Our plant babies are growing up!!

Mia and Miyauna tag-teamed it today, starting off by running a gel on DNA isolated on Monday and some of the PCRs that have been run so far. Things came out looking pretty good! They then ran some more PCRs (I was on temporary leave as president of PCR) and prepared what is called a mix plate which will be sent off to Yale for genotyping analysis.

I basically did not step into the lab the entire day. Instead, I was helping out and learning how to do data analysis on the results we get back from Yale. For samples of an older project, I was helping to “score” the results and essentially ensure that the data were organized properly so that they can be analyzed without issue in R. So I suppose while the president of PCR was on leave, the excel expert was in the office.

As we wrapped things up for the day, we had an unexpected surprise. We share our gorgeous new science building with many other people, including other lab groups, summer camps, and freshmen orientation sessions. This week, a science camp for middle school girls represents one of our neighbors in Williams Hall. On an end of the day stockroom run, we were accosted by a group of these campers, running down the hallway. Apparently, they were on a scavenger hunt, and they asked if they could ask us some questions. They were a mix of science-related questions and Wooster-related questions, ranging from the most bountiful class of organisms on this campus to the name of our football stadium. One question they were tripped up on was where to find dihydrogen monoxide, which I think all of us got a kick out of. By the end of the scavenger hunt, they probably knew more about our campus than we did. Regardless, it was cheering to see how excited these young girls were about STEM as the next generation of scientists!

Until next time,



Further Updates from Team Echinacea’s Ohio Team

Hello flog!

It’s been another busy day for Team Echinacea at the College of Wooster.

Seed Master Ren started the day off by making an excursion to the garden store to hunt down some soil that will be used to plant the seeds once they have germinated and formed a radical. Then, she showed off her muscles, mixing the soil with sand and some water. Additionally, the plant growth chamber for our first group of seeds was switched over into summer mode, so we will hopefully we will see some baby plants soon!

Seedmaster Ren wrangles some dirt

Extraction extraordinaire Miyauna cranked out another grueling set of DNA extractions from some of the parental plants. Luckily though, this should be our last set of extractions at least for several weeks while we wait for our seeds to germinate and grow big enough so we can take a leaf sample.

Miyauna, getting into the extraction zone.

Our resident R expert/clumsy ninja Mia and I teamed up to begin PCR reactions with the DNA extracted on Tuesday and a batch that was extracted back in November. Each DNA sample needs to undergo 10 different PCR reactions (for the 10 different microsatellite markers being used), and after a bit of a slow start familiarizing ourselves with the methods, we ended up breezing through three PCR reactions. We also ran some gels and a nanodrop on the DNA samples to double check and make sure that DNA was successfully extracted for all of the samples.

We love PCR and gel electrophoresis!!!

After all this hard work, Team Echinacea Ohio called it a day in the lab. However, our team members still had one more important task – the noble quest for ice cream. Braving a torrential downpour, we set off for a local ice cream parlor/shop, where we enjoyed the sweet rewards of a hard day’s work.

Lab mates that eat ice cream together stay together

So long for now!


Avery Pearson

Echinacea Project 2019

Biology, The College of Wooster ‘20

Research Interests:

I am interested at investigating how different species of solitary bees impact male fitness in Echinacea.  Additionally, I’m interested in the varying impacts climate change is having on different ecosystems and the interactions between organisms within these ecosystems.

Personal Statement:

I am a Biology major and Classical Studies minor from Cincinnati, OH. I will be part of the lab team in Wooster this summer, but will also join the field team in Minnesota for a few weeks during flowering season. In my free time, I love reading, baking, and exploring the outdoors. I also enjoy swimming and spending time with friends and family.

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