2021 Update: Bringing hands-on science into the middle school classroom

This past summer, Team Echinacea took part in filming a video series aimed at highlighting the work being done by The Echinacea Project. These videos are designed to be integrated into a middle school science classroom to enhance a Nature of Science unit. By integrating these videos into a Nature of Science unit, students can see that science and experimental is not just something that they learn about in the classroom, but something that is the backbone of all scientific discoveries and is practiced by scientists every day.

Going forward, these videos will be used to springboard ideas for hands-on research projects to be completed by middle school students as part of the curriculum.

Check out the videos here:


Phriday Phenology

Happy Friday from Team Echinacea! We started off the day a bit early to beat the heat and get started on phenology in the remnants. Kennedy and I tackled the “Wiley loop” and found that the majority of our plants were flowering. Some were even on their last day of flowering or already done! It is so intersting to be able to watch these plants go from bud, to developing its rays, to a fully fledged pollen-producing flower. What a journey these plants undertake year after year, and we get to be a part of it!

After a lunch of t-shirt and team cheer brainstorming, I headed out with Amy to get some video footage for my scientific method video series that I will be developing during my time with Team Echinacea. I shot some fun B role of Amy collecting pollen, and got a special guest star from some cows! After wrapping up for the day, Mia and I were craving some nice and cool AC, so we headed to Copper Trail Brewing in Alexandria to get some computer work done.

Today was an awesome day, a great way to cap off a super productive week! Have a great weekend, echinacea-lovers!

Ready for a Busy Week!

After a nice restful weekend of hammock naps, lake swims, and puppy snuggles with our house guest, Goose, I am ready for the busy week ahead! Tomorrow promises to be filled with first or second day of flowering Echinacea, based on what we were seeing on Friday, which will mean some serious phenology being done going forward!

Team dust is working on calculating how much dust is being deposited on roadsides. We created a contraption that mimics the shape of an Echinacea, with filter paper as the “head”. On Friday, we put out these contraptions at varying distances from the road at two site. We collected them on Saturday, and are looking forward to analyzing how much dust they collected tomorrow! Stay tuned for what promises to be a fun and busy week!

Houston, We Have Some Pollen (and lots and lots of flags)

Today was a successful (and chilly) day for Team Echinacea! We started off the week by visiting the remnants to search for Echinacea. Miyauna, Maris, Laura, Jared, and I headed out to Riley, East Riley, Railroad Crossing, North of Railroad Crossing, and North of North of Railroad Crossing.

As we searched we came across several plants that were producing POLLEN! Several more looked very close. Things are about to get really busy for the team! For now, we marked plans, and collected demo data for some. We will be back soon to start collecting phenology data in earnest!

After lunch, we heard an awesome project proposal for a massive insect investigation from Mia, and brainstormed how to finalize our team norms for the summer.

We finished off the day by finalizing flagging in p8. While flagging, we discovered 32 Echinacea heads. To put that into perspective, there were only 5 last year!

All in all it was an excellent day for the team! I am excited to watch the colors of summer begin to unfold all across the prairie remnants. Team Echinacea is ready!

Day One Takeaways

Day one of the field season is done and we are so excited for what is sure to be a summer full of discovery. On our first observation trip, we visited two site, KJs and East Elk Lake.

The KJs field had trees on the edge of the field yet not inside of the field. Inside of the field there was not a lot of diversity within the plants, it was mostly clump warm season grasses. We saw some Stipa grasses in the field which were seeding. There were a few flowering plants, but on the whole the plants were not flowered. There was also some exposed soil and charcoal present, evidence of a burn.

We finished up at East Elk Lake, and the very first thing we noticed was several Echinacea plants! We counted 5 in total in a small stretch along the road. There were quite a few plants flowering in this plot, and the plants were about double the size as they were over at KJs. One stark difference between the two sites was while KJs had an abundance of clump grasses, East Elk Lake did not. This site has an abundance of the cool weather non-native Brome Grass spread throughout the site. There were also trees with healthy green leaves scattered throughout the site.

We are excited to continue to visit these sites and others throughout the season and watch the changes that occur as we creep further into summer!

Emma and Alex

Alex Wicker

Echinacea Project 2021

B.S. Environmental Science – University of North Carolina Wilmington

7th Grade Science Teacher – Andrew Jackson Middle School, Titusville, FL

Research Interests

I am excited to learn more about how fire affects prairie remnants.


I am from Melbourne, FL, but I grew up in Sun Prairie, WI. In my free time I love to hike with my husband and my dog, cook and bake, read, and anything that involves being on the water!

Here’s a photo of me!