Winchell Symposium update

Hi Flog!

It’s Emma Greenlee, reporting from Northfield, MN on my presentation at the Winchell Undergraduate Research Symposium! This is a research symposium for students in STEM at Minnesota colleges to present their research, and I presented my work from my independent project with the Echinacea Project last summer (see this flog post for more info!). The symposium was on zoom, naturally this year, and students presented in small groups for 10 minutes each. So pretty low stakes but a really good opportunity to practice presenting to an audience and it held me accountable to finish a few data analysis and visualization things I had been needing to do for my project. This e-conference made me think I could handle and enjoy the real thing, which is cool!

That’s all for me for now, just a month left at Carleton before I’ll be heading to Nevada on a Conservation and Land Management internship doing native seed collection with the Forest Service.

Peace out for now FLOG but I don’t think you’ve heard the last of me yet!

2020 Update: Seedling microhabitat assessment

As an intern with the Echinacea Project in summer 2020, Emma Greenlee conducted fieldwork for an independent project investigating whether microhabitat characteristics differ between 1 m-radius circles where Echinacea angustifolia seedlings have emerged and survived and circles where Echinacea seedlings emerged and died. An existing, long-term Echinacea Project experiment, the seedling establishment project (“Sling” for short) provided the GPS points corresponding to the surviving and dead seedling circles used in this project. Emma collected data on microhabitat characteristics (litter depth, vegetation cover, slope, aspect, distance to roads and fields, and community composition) and the floral neighborhood. Emma visited 69 maternal sling circles containing surviving seedlings and 66 sling circles where all seedlings were dead. In winter 2020, Emma conducted data analysis in R with help from Mia and Stuart, and plans to present findings at an ecology conference in summer 2021. You will have to read the presentation below to learn preliminary results or wait for the poster.

The floral neighborhood at Staffanson Prairie Preserve

Start year: 2020

Location: Remnant prairies in Douglas and Grant County, MN

Sites: East Elk Lake Road, East Riley, East of Town Hall, KJ’s, Landfill, Loeffler’s Corner, Nessman, North of Northwest of Landfill, Northwest of Landfill, Randt, Riley, South of Golf Course, Steven’s Approach, Staffanson Prairie Preserve

Overlaps with: Seedling establishment, EA fire and fitness 

Data collected: GPS files for navigating to sling circles are at Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2020/stakeFiles2020. Microhabitat/floral neighborhood data and R scripts are available at aiisummer2020/emma2020. 

Products: Emma Greenlee’s Powerpoint presentation (below); poster to come!

Read more about seedling establishment on the experiment’s background page, or read more about the microhabitat project in Emma’s flog posts.

2020 update: demographic census in remnants

This summer Team Echinacea did demo and surv in 42 prairie remnants and other sites with Echinacea angustifolia populations. Demo involved measuring traits of individual plants: flowering status, number of flowering heads, and near neighbors. This summer we took 5119 demo records on our handheld data collectors (visors). Surv involved tagging individual plants and recording their location with our super-precise GPS (Darwin). This summer we shot 1494 points for surv. For ‘total demo’, we navigated to adult Echinacea plants that have been previously visited and took demo to generate detailed, long-term records of individual fitness in these fragmented Echinacea populations. At smaller sites we collected data on all adult plants and at larger sites we visited a subset of the adult plants. The demo and survey datasets are in the process of being combined with previous years’ records of flowering plants in “demap,” the spatial dataset of remnant reproductive fitness that the Echinacea Project maintains.

Start year: 1995

Location: Remnant prairie populations of the purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia, in Douglas County, MN. Sites are located between roadsides and fields, in railroad margins, on private land, and in protected natural areas.

Total demo: Bill Thom’s Gate, Common Garden, Dog, East of Town Hall, Golf Course, Hegg Lake, Martinson’s Approach, Nessman, North of Golf Course, REL, RHE, RHP, RHS, RHX, RKE, RKW, Randt, Railroad Crossing Douglas County, South of Golf Course, Sign, Town Hall, Tower, Transplant Plot, West of Aanenson, Woody’s, Yellow Orchid Hill

Annual sample: Aanenson, Around Landfill, East Elk Lake Road, East Riley, KJ’s, Krusemarks, Loeffler’s Corner, Landfill, North of Railroad Crossing, Northwest of Landfill and North of Northwest of Landfill (lumped), On 27, Riley, Railroad Crossing, Steven’s Approach, Staffanson Prairie

Overlaps with: Flowering phenology in remnantsreproductive fitness in remnantsEA fire and fitnessfire and flowering at SPP

Data: Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2020 contains the experiment’s GPS files and the aiisummer2020 repo contains its demo records. The most recent copies of allDemoDemo.RData and allSurv.RData are accessed at Dropbox/demapSupplements/demapInputFiles.

Products: Amy Dykstra’s dissertation included matrix projection modeling using demographic data. The “demap” project merges phenological, spatial and demographic data for remnant plants.

For more information on demographic census in the remnants, visit the experiment’s background page, or explore flog entries that mention the experiment.

Emma using Darwin, our survey-grade GPS, in late August near Hegg Lake

Seedling microhabitat project findings

Hi again, it’s Emma––it’s been three weeks already and I’ve finished the majority of data analysis for my independent project! I presented about it at our lab meeting this morning and it was good to show what I’ve learned to the team and to get some helpful feedback.

To summarize my experiment’s goal, I was investigating whether there are differences in microhabitat between areas with surviving Echinacea seedlings and areas where Echinacea seedlings established but have died. This involved collecting data on site characteristics like litter depth, vegetation cover, slope, aspect, distance to roads and fields, plant community composition, and floral neighborhood at circles where seedlings monitored in the Sling project sprouted between 2007-2013. After analyzing my data, I can report that I found no differences in microhabitat between living and dead seedlings, and that I did not find differences in survival by prairie remnant, either. This suggests that the microhabitat variables I collected data on are likely not the most important factors driving seedling survival and mortality in this long-lived prairie perennial plant. Instead I propose that other factors, like climate, soil moisture & nutrients, pesticide drift, light limitation, herbivory, and genetics, may have greater impact on whether seedlings establish or die. Luckily the Sling project is ongoing and members of Team Echinacea are working to find out what drives seedling fitness in fragmented Echinacea populations!

I learned a LOT about doing data analysis in R during this project. I’m super grateful to Mia and Stuart for all the help they gave me when I had questions about R during the internship! The highlights probably are learning about, and doing, some multivariate analysis and using the R package vegan. It was so cool getting to create my own NMDS and species accumulation graphs after seeing them in many ecology papers I’ve read. From here I plan to do a few final analyses and edits with the intention of presenting my project findings at an ecology conference next summer.

That’s all from me for now! Stay tuned for a groovy poster…


Winter break data analysis

Hi Flog,

It’s Emma Greenlee back for part 2 of my independent project, data analysis! My project draws from the Sling project, in which Team Echinacea annually tracks the survival of Echinacea seedlings that originated between 2006-2013 for an extensive record of survival and mortality in these seedlings. During my internship with the Echinacea Project this past summer I collected data in the hopes of finding out whether Sling seedling survival varies with microhabitat characteristics. Now that Carleton is on our 6-week-long winter break, I’m analyzing that microhabitat data with the goal of putting together a poster to present at an ecology conference next summer.

After a week of working on this, starting from a fairly low level of R knowledge, I have learned a lot and feel like I’m still very early in the process. I started the week doing some R tutorials and lessons and checked in with Mia daily on Zoom to talk about any questions I had. She set up a nice outline to help me get started and has been really helpful, so shout out to Mia! I have spent most of my time cleaning my data, which is separated into two data sets, one containing microhabitat data on litter depth, vegetation cover, slope, aspect, distance to roads and fields, and plant community composition in each sling circle, and the other containing records of all flowering species and number of inflorescences at each sling circle. Once it’s formatted how I want I will start some exploratory data analysis, hopefully at the start of next week.

I also got to go to the Echinacea Project’s zoom lab meeting this morning, where the group discussed an outline for the introduction to the sling paper Lea is working on. It was nice to see everyone, and to hear about how the sling research will translate to papers and the kinds of decisions that are involved in thinking about how to set up a research paper. This morning there was also a seminar put on by the CBG where speakers representing Plants of Concern, restoration research at the garden, the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie seedbank, and Budburst presented a little about their projects and how other collaborators can get involved. A common theme among the presenters was an emphasis on citizen science and even “community science,” a term I hadn’t heard before but thought was awesome.

Just looking at the vegan package for R made me feel like a real ecologist this week, looking forward to continuing to build on what I know next week.

Emma 🙂

Goodbye Flog

Hey Flog, just one more person saying bye! What an awesome experience I had on Team Echinacea this summer. I appreciated the community and learned a lot from the age and experience range of the team. I learned a lot of new skills, from assessing flowering phenology to using a survey-grade GPS to conducting an independent project to becoming familiar with new plant species! The age stratification of the team also got me thinking about both learning from people and being someone others could learn from. With such a variety of work this summer I was never bored, often felt challenged by the responsibilities I was trusted with, and got to enjoy the company of an awesome group of people.

I enjoyed one last day of demo with Mia and Anna 🙂
Living at Andes was great, especially because Lea and Mia were two awesome housemates. Hoping the ATH team compensates me for use of this publicity photo.
I got shocked by electric fences twice this summer. Glad this goat (or a similar-looking friend) got to share one of those moments with me
Not grass corner this week but the last species I made a visor record for on my project (Symphyotrichum laeve), plus a flying Bombus
Aww! Sharing a special moment with my sister when she visited. It’s fun when you have people to share it with!

The next few weeks I’ll be thinking of Mia and Drake as they wrap up harvest and the field season! See you next time!


The grass of the day is…

Sporobolus heterolepis, or prairie dropseed. I included some Sporobolus seedheads in my independent project sampling this morning at Staffanson, and I appreciated seeing a grass that I hadn’t much since last summer. Last summer I learned that S. heterolepis provides good habitat for the endangered Dakota Skipper butterfly, along with other mid-height grasses like Schizachyrium scoparium (heart eyes). It grows in bunches, has many long, thin leaves, and has nice airy seedheads. I’m glad I got to reacquaint myself with an old friend on the prairie! Staffanson is always good for that, and for introducing me to new ones.

I was having some GPS troubles yesterday and this morning, but it turns out it was operator error (to borrow a phrase from my high school ski coach), and I owe it to Lea for helping me figure out what I was doing wrong. Now that I know I need to make sure the GPS is set up to read Ax and Ly coordinates in the same order as they’re set up in my stake file, I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again. Frustrating but a lesson learned and I’m glad there are people willing to help.

After a good morning working on my project, I hung out with John in P1 to harvest some more heads. We had a good time I thought, and we saw a pretty wild looking bug that I did not recognize!! Since I’m not taking an entomology class this fall I don’t know if I ever will…this is going to bother me, I can tell. The tall Sorghastrum nutans grass in P1 was swaying in the wind, creating an effect similar to seasickness as I walked through it. P1 harvest round 2 is almost done, but I couldn’t help thinking about Mia taking it on again next week, possibly solo…

All in all it was a pretty good Monday; it was nice that Stuart was back and shout out to Anna M. for passing her drivers test today!

Monarch on a Liatris aspera (rough blazing star) at RKW, a small site near Kensington that I did demo at on Friday! Getting to the site involved threading the needle between a pond and a patch of trees but it was worth it for all the cool things I saw back there (including the biggest patch of Schiz I’ve ever seen!).
Made me think of the Grass Sea the Dothraki ride in from Game of Thrones 🙂
The view from Yellow Orchid Hill on Friday––how about that red hill of Sorgh!

Independent project updates

It’s my zen moment of the day, my flog update. This week has been tiring, to be honest. The GPS is back up and running, which has been a huge positive, since it’s important for Sling, demo, and my project. I had a good time starting to train Mia in on demo, she will be a pro in no time. Mia, Anna, and I visited some “obscure” sites for the demo training trip this week, including No Tag/No Pla City aka Randt, and the recruit sites near Kensington. I hope I have enough time to go back to Kensington Recruit-W before I leave––it looks like rainboots and some bushwhacking will be necessary but I relish the idea!

Besides that, I’ve been glad to spend some time on my independent project this week. I have about 20 more sling circles with surviving seedlings to survey this week, and my work will be cut out for me next week to finish data collection on the “seedlings dead” half of my sample. I’m collecting microhabitat data, including plant community composition and flowering plant community, within a 1-m radius of sling circles to see if there are differences in microhabitat between sling circles with living and dead seedlings. I’ve learned a lot of new plants that I’ve seen flowering, which is rewarding to me! Jared introduced me to some asters when he was here a few weeks ago, Symphyotrichum ericoides and laeve. I’ve also worked on learning the ins and outs of a rogue’s gallery of goldenrods, including Solidago rigida, canadensis, nemoralis, and speciosa. It’s great to be adding on to the plant species knowledge I gained last summer!

The Hegg restoration’s tallest compass plant! And its tallest GPS
The trek into Staffanson West unit really took it out of me but it was so worth it! So diverse it looks like photoshop
One of the rogues––Solidago speciosa. I like its upright flower stalks
Lea’s favorite––silky aster!
Downy gentian, Gentiana puberulenta. I was taken aback (in a good way) by its bright color! Thanks for the show, Staffanson

Big Stone Lake State Park

This is my first weekend Flog—so it’s a good thing I did something kind of interesting this weekend! After work on Friday I drove out of the storm and into the sunny and windy far western Minnesota evening. I camped for the weekend at Big Stone Lake State Park, right on the MN-SD border. The lake makes up part of the curve of that bump that sticks out of the central west edge of the state, and I could see South Dakota from my campsite.

It doesn’t beat the Boundary Waters but it was a nice change of pace for the weekend. I enjoyed spending time by myself, reading, running a little, and exploring the state park some. The park’s north unit, the “Bonanza area” (Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, anyone?), has some prairie restorations on dry, gravelly hills, and some treed areas near the lake. Not to sound like late-1700s Quaker explorer and botanist William Bartram, but I saw about 40 leopard frogs on one beach and estimated a frog density of 10 per square meter at some parts in the woods! The best thing I saw in the woods there was a spring/groundwater seep with clear, cold water coming out and running in a little stream to the lake. The spring and streambeds were full of reddish buildup, indicating the presence of iron-oxidizing bacteria, just like I learned about in a paleobiology class a few years ago! Sadly, the clear spring water was too good for the green, nutrient-loaded Big Stone Lake. 

Some of the prairie-type areas I saw had lots of native grasses and plants, while others were more weedy, invaded by brome, woody plants, and some thistles—including one plant that towered over my head, yikes! I have always rolled my eyes at the Aldo Leopoldo quote about the ecologist seeing “a world of wounds,” thinking that I still appreciated invaded areas as preferable to concrete, but to my dismay this trip I found myself looking with a disappointed eye at the less healthy and diverse prairie sites I saw. This was probably bound to happen at some point the more time I spend in prairie ecosystems and thinking about their health and vigor, but I did not think I was going to become that person! I guess it’s a good reminder that opinions aren’t set in stone and to make space for yourself and others to learn and change! 

I did learn from a knowledgeable woman who worked for the park that the mass of aquatic plant matter by the swimming beach was made up of mostly native species, so that’s something anyway.

Iron spring––note the red buildup!
Nice evening at the campsite. I finished my book!

Frog on the Flog

Hi Flog! The week is going by fast, and we did some interesting things today in spite of a rainy start to the morning.

I’ll start off with some Grass Corner announcements––two cool P1 updates. The native grasses there continue to take off, with the tallest Andropogon gerardii stem measured this week maxing out the meterstick at 2.02 m! Not to be outdone, the Sorghastrum nutans flowering heads are pretty radiant this week, getting tall and showy in their half of P1. If you ever come across one, try and touch it––they’re very soft.

P1 last Monday (8/3/20)
P1 this Tuesday (8/11/20). A major surge in S. nutans!

This morning Allie and I tackled demo at KJ’s, our second-to-last “annual sample” demo site, meaning it should be one of our last bigger ones. We’ve made so much progress and I’m excited to see where we are with it in another week and a half!

We had some fun and thought-provoking ABT’s and progress updates on summer projects at lunch, which was a nice chance to check in with how things are going for everyone and to practice explaining my own project. The big afternoon project was a whole-team measuring visit to P10, a set of experimental plots by the WCA high school that John uses for teaching his high school classes (sounds like an awesome teacher!!). The difference between plots that had been burned and not was stark, with immense, productive Andro in the burned plots rising feet above the neighboring vegetation. The Echinacea plants here were not as vigorous, though, since they were only planted a few years ago. Their small size made for some quick measuring when we could find them! Hopefully the high school students will think of some interesting ways to take advantage of such a cool resource.

Anna and John finishing a row
Allie and Amy, smiling behind their masks
Mia and Emma, staged photo 😉
A team of prairie measuring pros!

And it would be wrong not to leave you with, as promised, the frog on the flog. I saw this tree frog clambering through P1 yesterday, just a little baby!

Aww! Can you spot him?

That’s it for now––goodnight moon, goodnight grass, goodnight flog.