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From fire, glory?

It’s burn season in the Chicago area and prescribed fire has gotten lots of attention in the media recently! Check out this front pager in Thursday’s issue of the Chicago Tribune focusing on prescribed fire at Nachusa Grasslands.

Stuart prescribed some light reading today.

There was also a Sunday feature on prescribed burns in Kane County. It’s a lot less wet and snowy here than up north, and for those of us that burn in western Minnesota, we are used to waiting our turn. But we are antsy for our season to start!

Wyatt wonders when she will next be able to step onto the fire line as she reads these articles. Soon, Wyatt. Soon!

CBG Science Fair

Chicago Botanic Garden has a new logo! To celebrate its launch, we got to relive the good old days of science fairs. Stationed in the atrium of the plant science center, Wyatt, Stuart, and I chatted with all kinds of people about the work we do!

“Is this prairie healthy?” “How would we know?” These questions helped us engage visitors with discussions on reproductive fitness of populations in fragmented habitats. As Wyatt and I participate in more events like this, we are learning a lot about how to be more effective communicators and how to engage others.

Many curious eyes perused a case of bees from our yellow pan trap experiment

This event was also a great excuse to pull out the column blower, a crowd favorite. Wyatt, donning a t-shirt with our department’s new logo, demonstrated how we use it to separate full and empty achenes.

Pi Day

Today is pi day and we are posing some of our most burning questions for consideration. Here are a few:

How far could you go if you multiplied the number of bb points in our study area by pi? If you took the actual length of the Pomme de Terre River and divided it by its length as the crow flies, would it be pi? If we flipped a coin pi times, would the number of heads be equivalent to bee abundance in a square meter?

Importantly, if you give members of team echinacea a pan, when does pi equal the number of pies made during the field season?

Strawberry Rhubarb!
Raspberry Peach Balsamic

Join the Echi-nation!

Team Echinacea seeks undergrads, graduate students, recent grads, high schoolers and teachers to join our summer team! Come hone your skills as an ecologist, conservationist, and evolutionary biologist while engaging in research in western Minnesota’s tallgrass prairies. There will be watermelon!

Check out our employment opportunities and read about what it’s like to work with Team Echinacea!

Members of Team Echinacea summer 2023 team enjoy a snack on the porch after a day of field work

We strive to create an inclusive, collaborative, stimulating, positive, fun, and productive environment for all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and economic background. We welcome and encourage individuals from groups historically excluded from sciences and conservation. If you are interested in learning about and contributing to science and conservation, please join our team. We are committed to recruiting, training, and supporting individuals interested in science, education, and conservation from diverse backgrounds.

PB&Js to fuel Team Echinacea during summer field work?

Team Echinacea has a lot of ongoing projects. A lot! Some of them have been running for decades, and some are relatively new. Each project has a unique set of needs in terms of preparation, fieldwork, and post field management. We want to be efficient as each project progresses through the field season and we also want new team members to be able to pick up on the workflows.

PB&Js might be just the thing to answer all our FAQs…

Here are some FAQs on an abstract ggplot PB&J.

This week, Stuart, Wyatt and I are experimenting with the PBJ format (project blueprint and journey). We hope to make easily digestible roadmaps for every project we have going on. These will keep our field season running smoothly (or not, if you like crunchy peanut butter… We have not discussed this yet). This also makes me wonder, what kind of jelly (or jam?!) is best for our PB&Js? I like Bonne Maman fig preserves. I will pitch that to Stuart and Wyatt.

2023 Update: Jak’s fire and pollinator fidelity experiment

We know that prescribed fire is beneficial to native prairie plant species, but summer 2023 REU participant, Jak Davis, is also curious about how fires impact native pollinators. Their project this summer, investigated the effects of prescribed fire on pollinator fidelity/visitation to Echinacea. Jak collected bees in the field (Agopostemen virescens, Halictus and Augochlorella) and scraped pollen off their bodies. They counted and identified pollen grains under the microscope and calculated total proportion of Echinacea pollen grains.

Jak is continuing this work at part of their senior thesis! She has started data analysis and will have results to share soon!

Jak has been hard at work in the lab at College of Wooster post-field season!
A closer look at pollen grains through the microscope! Jak is able to tell which grains are Echinacea- impressive!
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: Remnant prairies in Solem township, MN and the lab at College of Wooster
  • Overlaps with: other projects in prairie remnants
  • Data collected: N/A
  • Samples or specimens collected: pollen scrapes from bees, floral specimens
  • Products: Senior thesis in the works! Stay tuned!

What’s New in Demap?

It feels like forever ago that our summer team of plant demographers were taking demo and surv records on thousands of flowering and non-flowering Echinacea plants in the field! But for me, demo and surv work is still front and center, and it gets more exciting every day!

A few weeks ago, I cleaned up the 2023 data that Stuart and Jared kindly loaded into demap. Now, it is time to reconcile entries within years and between years. There is a lot going on in the demap repository where this happens, but luckily, former members of Team Echinacea wrote great protocols and annotated their scripts thoroughly.

On Friday I wrote my first ever “ICE” record (informed census evaluation) for an entry at Kjs. There will be many more to come as I solve little mysteries from data collection. Hopefully soon we will have successfully incorporated 2023 demographic data into our long-term database. Stay tuned!

A very official certification of my first ICE record.

2023 Update: Search for the Leadplant Flower Moth

The Leadplant Flower Moth (Schinia lucens), is a species of special concern in Minnesota. It used to be common and have an extensive range, but now populations are few and far between. Douglas and Grant counties (our study area) are not included on its current range map. Nonetheless, REU participant Liam Poitra thought that it was possible that this moth might persist in some of the remnants in our study area. Liam planned and conducted a systematic search for the leadplant flower moth for his REU project. If Liam found enough moths to estimate populations sizes or density, then he would investigate characteristics of their habitat for his REU project. If not, then he would transition to another project. He found one individual moth and took some great photos. Details of the search are in Liam’s report.

Liam marches through Staffanson Prairie Preserve. This site was included in his systematic search for the leadplant moth.
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: prairie remnants in Solem & Land Townships
  • Overlaps with: other projects in prairie remnants
  • Data collected: see Liam’s report
  • Samples or specimens collected: photos only — see the report
  • Products: Liam’s report also saved here… ~Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/liamPoitra/S.Luscens Sighting.docx

You can read more about Liam’s other REU project: assessing floral resources in remnants & restorations.

We’re hiring for summer 2024!

The Echinacea Project is assembling an enthusiastic team of undergraduates, recent graduates, graduate students, high schoolers and teachers to engage in prairie research during the summer of 2024! Are you an aspiring ecologist, conservation biologist, or evolutionary biologist? Spend time in western Minnesota’s prairies and gain research experience in plant population biology, evolution and quantitative genetics, pollination biology, and plant-insect interactions!

Check out our employment opportunities and read about what it’s like to work with Team Echinacea!

Members of Team Echinacea 2023 measure Echinacea plants in an experimental plot

We strive to create an inclusive, collaborative, stimulating, positive, fun, and productive environment for all regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, and economic background. We welcome and encourage individuals from groups historically excluded from sciences and conservation. If you are interested in learning about and contributing to science and conservation, please join our team. We are committed to recruiting, training, and supporting individuals interested in science, education, and conservation from diverse backgrounds.

2023 Update: Victoria’s ABT format lesson plan

2023 RET participant, Victoria Romero, spent time over the summer designing a lesson plan for using the ABT format. She implemented this in her project-based learning class. Students presented their enzyme research in a “poster conference” style format. Each student had 3 minutes to describe their enzyme models using the ABT format. This project was implemented early in the year so there was hesitation, but Victoria may plan more ABT format presentations throughout the year.

Victoria also plans to implement ecology focused lessons later in the year. She is teaching an English for second language ecology course, so she may modify her lessons to fit that.

Victoria takes GPS points in the field! Team Echinacea had lots of time to think about and discuss ABTs for our work this summer.
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: Western Minnesota and Gwinnet County Public Schools
  • Overlaps with: NA
  • Data collected: NA
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA
  • Products: Victoria’s website to introduce her students to the ABT format project can be found here: Enzyme Project Her presentation to the 2023 summer team is located in “Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/victoriaRomero”