Categories

Liatris Project Update #6

We made it to the third batch for the cleaning procedure! After completing the first batch for randomization last week, we needed to pick things up on cleaning, and we hit another promising milestone. Ultimately, we wanted the cleaning process to stay well ahead of the randomization process, and we did manage to get ahead of ourselves some on randomization last week. We made much more progress in that department than I had envisioned, and we caught up a little too much concerning cleaning progress. We focused on cleaning all this week, and now here is where things stand. There is still much more to go, but we are steadily getting there.

Liatris Project Update #5

Good news! We managed to get through randomizing the first batch! Now we are working our way through the second batch, and so far, things have been going pretty well in terms of pace and efficiency for both cleaning and randomization. Overall, we have seen a considerably wide range of head counts in the Liatris plants, but predation rates have been relatively low compared to what was observed in 2021’s data. Who knows what we will find in the next several batches, but I am pretty excited about the progress made so far and the results we may see. Hopefully, we will complete the next batch within the next few weeks, if not sooner.

Liatris Project Update #4

So far, things are going well in the randomization step, but there is still quite a ways to go to complete the first batch of Liatris plants. However, we have counted a considerable number of achenes that have been eaten, and we are starting to get a rough estimate of the predation rate per Liatris plant. We are finding that there are, on average, 1 to 3 achenes eaten per plant out of a total of at least 30 randomly selected achenes. This equals approximately a 3 to 10 percent range for what has been found, but we have also found a few that have had either none or many achenes eaten. In light of these findings, I think we are heading in the right direction with the project, but hopefully, we will need to get much more work done to get through all five batches. Hopefully, we will have all the plants cleaned and randomized before the burning season (which starts in April), but it will take a lot to get to that goal within a little over a month’s worth of time. However, the good news is whether or not we meet our goal, there will be more than enough data to work with, and ultimately we can come to conclusions at the end.

Liatris Project Update #3

In lab today, I started the process of randomization. This step in the project does take some time and patience, but all of it is worthwhile toward reducing bias and collecting achenes that can be x-rayed or identified as eaten. Similar to the randomization of achenes from Echinacea plants, sheets of randomization and counting grids are used. In addition, we also use plastic bags, white envelopes, stickers, tweezers, and a magnifying glass for this procedure. The first step involves pouring the achenes evenly across the randomization grid and ensuring all the achenes are placed in a specific square on the grid without being on the lines. Then using a randomized list of grid coordinates, we go down the list until we hit a coordinate (an example would be “B2”) with achenes present. We then examined each achene in the selected coordinate to see if there was any predation. If less than 30 achenes were counted in the coordinate, we randomly selected another one going down the randomization list. Once we categorized 30 achenes as either eaten or eligible for x-ray, we took our white envelope and plastic bag and put stickers on them. The envelope will store the eaten achenes while the plastic bag will contain the achenes ready to be x-rayed. On the envelope, we write the date, initials, and the quantities of achenes eaten, not eaten, and uninformative. After putting the achenes in their respective containers, we put them in a pile marked “randomized,” and we move on to the next one. As of today, we managed to get through a little over one third of our first batch, so we still have much work to do before proceeding onward.

Liatris Project Update #2

After cleaning Liatris plants for a week, I am happy to say that the first of five batches are now finished. Now that the first batch is completed, the project’s next step is ready to begin. The process of randomization will be the next step in the project. This step will involve the random selection of achenes from each plant to avoid bias and separation of achenes that are either qualified for being x-rayed or not. Luckily, both groupings will have a role in the project’s studies. X-rayed achenes will inform us about pollination and reproductive outcomes for each head of a Liatris plant. On the other hand, non-x-rayed achenes can be assessed for why they cannot be x-rayed, including what types of damage the achenes have and if any predation occurred toward those achenes. My research question will focus specifically on seed predation, so using the non-x-rayed achenes will be essential. I am still working on a finalized research question relating to seed predation, but seeing the progress made so far has me excited about what will come next in the project and toward finalizing my research question.

Liatris Project Update #1

I am happy to say that the Liatris Project is off to a good start. After taking inventory of all the Liatris plants this past week, I got to start the cleaning process. A total of 293 Liatris plants have been counted in the inventory, and all have been sorted randomly into 5 different batches. Today, I got to start cleaning the ones in the 1st batch, and while cleaning, I noticed several similarities and differences compared to cleaning Echinacea plants. Overall, I found that Liatris achenes were much easier to extract from the plant than Echinacea achenes, but counting them proved much more challenging. To make things easier, random selection sheets of different numerical ranges were arranged that listed random numbers from left to right down the sheets. Using these sheets, I could randomly pick out a flower head and count the number of achenes associated with that head. I also had to observe if any achenes were missing from each head on a Liatris plant. I recorded the total number of heads per plant and the number of heads with no achenes, some achenes, or all achenes missing. After taking these recordings, I removed all the other achenes present on the Liatris plants and sorted them into an envelope. Any chaff leftover got put into a separate envelope labeled as “chaff.” So far, a handful of plants have been cleaned, but there is still a long way to go.

Beginning of “The Liatris Project”

Today will mark the beginning of a new project that I will conduct analyzing Liatris aspera (Rough Blazing Star). Like with the Echinacea Project, this project will look at reproductive quantities of Liatris and the potential factors for influencing plant reproduction. At the moment, a specific research question is still in the works and the actual project requires some introductory steps that need to be completed. In the lab, I conducted inventory checks for the Liatris plants that have been harvested and made sure their were not any errors in what was taken into inventory. While doing the checking, I had Leah help me make sure everything was accounted for. Trying to do this alone would have been frustrating so I send my absolute thanks for helping me out with this part. As for the next steps in the project, I hope to begin cleaning the Liatris plants next week and start to come up with a potential research question in the near future. Very exciting things to come!

CJ Myers

Echinacea Project 2023

Major: Environmental Studies

Institution: Lake Forest College 

Expected year of graduation: 2023

Research Interests

I’ve always had a keen interest in exploring and learning about the environment, and one of the biggest things I want to study and research are methods in which we can help our environment and promote a better world. 

Hobbies

I like to spend time with my family and watch sports in my spare time. I also like to play games and relax outdoors if the weather is nice.