2021 Update: Aphid addition and exclusion

Team Echinacea continued the aphid addition and exclusion experiment started in 2011 by Katherine Muller. The original experiment included 100 plants selected from exPt01 which were each assigned to have aphids either added or excluded through multiple years. The intention is to assess the impact of the specialist herbivore Aphis echinaceae on Echinacea fitness.

In 2021, the aphid addition and exclusion project was conducted by Allie Radin with occasional help from other field crew members (often Emma Reineke). They located 26 living exclusion plants and 17 living addition plants. The experiment was conducted from July 9th to July 23rd, with the final visit consisting only of searching for aphids. No aphids were seen or moved in exPt01 this year.

Once again, there were very few aphids (actually, none) in exPt01. This is the second year in a row of missing aphids, raising other questions about where the aphids have gone, let alone their impact on the Echinacea plants. Allie and the team searched the experimental plot thoroughly to make sure no potential aphid hiding spot was left unturned. This included large plants from this year and last year, this year’s flowering plants, and plants which had aphids in previous years. Despite low aphid numbers, other insects such as beetles and thrips were present in the plot.

  • Start year: 2011
  • Location: Experimental Plot 1
  • Overlaps with: Phenology and fitness in P1
  • Data collected: Scanned datasheets are located at ~Dropbox\aphidAddEx\aphids2021
  • Samples collected: NA
  • Products:
    • Andy Hoyt’s poster presented at the Fall 2018 Research Symposium at Carleton College
    • 2016 paper by Katherine Muller and Stuart on aphids and foliar herbivory damage on Echinacea
    • 2015 paper by Ruth Shaw and Stuart on fitness and demographic consequences of aphid loads

You can read more about the aphid addition and exclusion experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries mentioning the experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

The Great Radin Mid-Western Adventure

Since I have been scheduled to flog today, you’ll be getting one last flog from me!

I left Andes at around 5:30am to get to MSP to pick up my dad (JR?) for the road trip back to Albany. After getting a little lost looking for what I’m pretty sure is an imaginary cell phone lot, I successfully retrieved one father and we got underway.

We made sure to stop at Culver’s for lunch, so my dad can experience what is truly the best of the Midwest on this whirlwind tour. The verdict? Fried cheese curds are amazing.

After that was driving, some more driving, traffic, driving, road work, and then – you guessed it – more driving!

I have now driven 791 out of the 1,371 miles to get back home in about 12 hours, covering 4 1/3 states. Yikes!

Luckily we have some good podcasts and music for the long drive.

Happy field season everyone, I’ll miss you!

New day, new ditches

On Saturday, some of Team Echinacea took a trip up north to record seed set of the western prairie fringed orchid.

Mia, Jared, Amy, Wesley, and I (Allie) rolled out of bed to hit the road at 6am to meet Stuart and Gretel up in Fertile, MN. After finding out that Opdahl’s Donuts doesn’t open until 9am on Saturdays, we trekked out to find all the flags marking flowering orchids we found on the last trip to record seed set. The wet prairie was very not wet, one might even say dry, this time as well. Mia and I paired up to find orchids. Disappointingly, we only found a few orchids that had set seed.

After a morning spent assessing seed set, we all headed into a picnic lunch in Fertile. The afternoon was spent visiting various natural areas.

First we went to the Agassiz Dunes SNA, where we botanized and also had some wildlife viewings, including some wild turkeys and some wild botanists. We tried to find the (alleged) burn break, but had no success.

Then, we hopped in the car and headed to Frenchman’s Bluff SNA, one of the highest points in NW MN. We could see far into the distance, both towards North Dakota and towards the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Despite the dry and crunchy conditions, the Liatris punctata seemed to be doing quite well!

Finally, we headed to the Felton Prairie SNA. We were aiming to walk along some beach ridges to find some fens, but instead ended up visiting 2.5 of the 3 parking lots associated with the SNA. I say 2.5 because we did find 2 of them, but the third parking lot, and coincidentally the one we wanted, remained tantalizingly out of reach.

However, in true Team Echinacea fashion, we ended up exactly where you would expect us: in a roadside ditch looking at some cool plants. In this case, we didn’t see E. angustifolia there, but we did find some cool plants usually only found in wetter conditions.

After a long day of botanizing, the team had dinner at a taco truck in Fargo, making it the first time Mia and I ever stepped foot into North Dakota. Then it was a mere hop, skip, and a car ride full of Taylor Swift to make it back to Hoffman for a well-deserved night of sleep.

Some thoughts about chicken

The Andes crew has excitedly participated in 2 Ruby’s Pantry food runs this summer. Ruby’s Pantry distributes overstock food throughout the northern Midwest, for a very low price. Occurring once a month, you show up and they give you lots of random food.

When I say “lots” and “random”, I truly mean it.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of what we have received across two times (post not sponsored by any listed companies):

  • a bouquet of roses
  • Ritz cracker knockoffs
  • Little Bites (Banana muffin)
  • A case of lemon FiberOne bars
  • Canned potatoes
  • Canned green chiles
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Frozen vegetable bean soup
  • New potatoes
  • American cheese
  • So much bread
  • Clorox wipes
  • Large bubble wands, etc.

The latest round of Ruby’s Pantry brought the biggest challenge we have ever faced: 20 pounds of frozen chicken.

It has been one week since we received the chicken, and we have now eaten about 6 pounds of it in various forms. The most recent way it has been prepared was chicken kofta, with chicken samosas in the works for tomorrow.

If you or anyone you know would like some frozen chicken, point them our way, please.

We’re optimistic we can finish the chicken before everyone leaves. Stay tuned for more chicken shenanigans!

Police do phenology?

We started out the morning doing phenology out in the remnants. For the first time this year, we got done in record time and finished before lunch!

During lunch we had an update from Alex about her independent project and Lea practiced her talk for ESA. They were both fantastic!

After lunch the team scattered to work on different projects.

A group of us went out to Hegg Lake to do phenology in experimental plots 7 and 9 and to shoot survey points for the Echinacea pallida we decapitated.

While there, we had a bit of a run-in with the police, perhaps about the Echinacea beheadings…

The Elk Lake house hosted the team social for this week in the evening. We had taco bowls, featuring quick-pickled red onion and homemade hot sauce. Delicious!

We also had live entertainment in the form of poetry. Amy brought a book called “Joyful Noise”, which features poems about different insects designed to be read by two people. Everyone paired up and read a poem. The poems were great and they squeezed in a lot of natural history – the best form of entertainment for ecologists.

Insects on Echinacea

A style-eating beetle found at Steven’s Approach!

Gearing up for flowering phenology

Today was a jam-packed day! We were greeted in the morning with John and his spiffy new flag-storing bin.

Then, we spent the morning getting trained in on phenology. We headed to Hegg Lake to hang out with some roadside Echinacea and learn about style persistence. We also had phenology quizzes, which everyone aced!

At lunch, we had status updates from various teams about roadside dust and insects. In addition, we tried to estimate the number of flowering plants and flowering heads found in the remnants to date (excluding Staffanson). Wesley had the closest guess for the number of flowering plants and Stuart had the closest guess for the number of flowering heads. John had a very strong entry into the contest, but ultimately was not quite convincing enough for our judge, Jared. The numbers we have right now indicate 1198 plants and 1597 flowering heads. There will be more added to the count as missed plants are found.

In the afternoon, the team scattered to work on different projects. Stipa search was finished up and people worked on independent projects. Kennedy and I spent the afternoon in p1 looking for experimental plants for the aphid addition and exclusion experiment and the pollen limitation experiment.

It is super exciting to see all the projects for the summer start to come together! I can’t wait to see what progress we make in the next few weeks.


Saturday shenanigans

The first weekend of the field season! With super nice weather, the Andes crew headed over to the Elk Lake house to do some laundry. We spent some nice time hanging out with the folks there while laundry dried and then headed into Alexandria for a grocery restock.

Back at Andes again, we had a delicious dinner of more mac ‘n cheese than 3 people could eat and fried jalapeños for Juneteenth.

We closed our evening with a showing of Ratatouille, the beloved animated children’s movie covering topics such as following your dreams, proving the haters wrong, and men who can be controlled by their hair.

Team Echinacea is back at it again!

Team Echinacea is back in full force! With one of the biggest field teams in history, we are all excited to get started on research.

Today was the first day of the field season, full of lots of information. We started the day picking up the iconic fanny packs and some supplies. Then we headed to Staffanson and Hegg Lake to see the prairie.

After lunch, the team split up to visit some remnants to compare burned and unburned sites. I went to Landfill with Kennedy – stay tuned for more details later.

Once back at Hjelm we learned how to make tags for demo tomorrow and then called it a day. Tomorrow we will be ready to go bright and early for more prairie adventures!

Allie Radin

Echinacea Project 2021

Biology and German Studies, Binghamton University, 2022

Research Interests

I am interested in researching insect-plant interactions and invasive species, especially in community ecology. After last year’s lack of aphids in p1, I’m excited to get back out there and see if they have returned!


I am from outside Albany, NY. In my free time I like to bake bread and watch terrible reality TV. I also enjoy collecting fun facts so that one day I can win a trivia game against my friends – specifically Trivia Murder Party from Jackbox Games.

Here’s a picture of me and my family’s dog Teddy, who is very hard to get a good photo of.