Sappy (demo crew appreciation) post and Grass Corner


It has been a busy and at times stressful few weeks in and outside of work, but I’m thankful for the supportive and reliable people around me in both aspects of my life who help me stay positive and hopeful.

In terms of work some of the people I’ve been grateful to count on the past few weeks are Allie, Anna M., and Anna A., who’ve been working with me to do demo––we’ve done one or two sites every day the last week and a half, and it’s been going smoothly. It can be kind of a zen time, just me, the GPS, and the point I’m staking to…repetitive, routine, peaceful. I’m really glad to have teammates who do their jobs well, that makes my part easy! Another thing I enjoyed doing this week was ID’ing native milkweed Asclepias viridiflora with Anna M. Something about plant ID is just fun! And fun to see someone learning it for themselves.

Today I also got to work on my independent project some, doing a pilot study out at East Elk Lake Road, a favorite site. I collected microhabitat data around maternal Sling plants, including plant community composition & flowering plants, distance to roads, slope & aspect, and litter depth. The end goal is to learn to what extent microhabitat characteristics are related to Echinacea seedling persistence! I learned a lot on my test run today about my protocol (if anyone knows how to use a clinometer hit me up), and was reminded of how much I love doing community composition sampling! It felt so natural and fun to be doing again, even though it was just a little.

One last thing is a special mention of the apple of my eye, the native grasses in P1. There is awesome species representation and it’s been so fun seeing each one’s phenology as they take turns sending up seedheads throughout the summer. First was porcupine grass (Hesperostipa Sparta), then sideoats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) started, then big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), followed by Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans), and we’re now approaching my favorite grass, little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)’s flowering. So great, so diverse! Thanks for tuning in to this episode of Grass Corner with Emma.

An insect predator-prey interaction? I heard that the green bug at the bottom is a predatory species, so it may be
Sometimes instead of woody encroachment it’s ag field encroachment––a lone Echinacea between the soybean rows
The most beautiful color on this sideoats grama pollen! I’d never seen such bright red pollen before.

The girls do P1

and phen, and demo, and…

Today was a solid day’s work with a small crew––we worked on phenology, demo, and P1 measuring, mostly. Everything went smoothly overall––there’s lots of P1 to go, but flowering is really on its last legs which makes for diminished phenology personnel needs. This meant I got to go and use the GPS (“Darwin” to close friends) and work with Allie and Anna M. on demo at Railroad Crossing! We shot 112 points in about 2-2.5 hours, and there were minimal technical difficulties which was a relief since GPS guru Erin is off to greener (NCSU) pastures! I’m looking forward to continuing to work on some other big sites with people the rest of this week. Thankful for a reliable and hardworking team in the face of adversity!

Found a couple new plants at Loeffler’s Corner today…these surprise Echinacea stragglers to the flowering party keep me young!
Master measurer Allie kicking butt and finding staples in P1 last week. Shoutout to her for coming in clutch to help Anna and I finish our row at the end of the day today!

Phenology winding down and presentations


This morning started with brisk remnant phenology routes for the team—flowering is winding down, so things go more quickly with phenology by the day as more plants shift to being done flowering. In the afternoon everyone worked on independent projects, which included a fruitless search for aphids (and by “fruitless,” I mean aphidless), some pollen collection in P1, and reading up on plant community monitoring methods. 

We ended the workday with a Zoom call where we heard from Scott, a former Echinacea Project team member and current grad student at UC Boulder, and current team members Drake and Devon. Scott gave a practice presentation for a talk he’s giving at the North American Congress for Conservation Biology later in the week about fire and survival, reproduction, and recruitment in small Echinacea populations. The conference is for a conservation and land management audience, which I thought was really cool—I’m always excited when I see science and management coming together because collaboration between these two “sides” is critical to effectively caring for the planet, and is really interesting to me! 

Devon gave a cool update on her project, which involves investigating the probability of Echinacea seedlings occurring at varying distances from maternal plants (“dispersal kernel” was the new phrase I learned today). Amy Dykstra, a researcher who’s been a leader with the Echinacea Project on the Sling project Devon’s analyzing data from, made a good point that if  maternal plants’ stalks tend to falls over, where their seedheads land might determine the distance of many seedlings from that plant. I really liked Devon’s visualizations of her preliminary findings and I’m looking forward to seeing more! 

Drake’s update was good news—the transplanting into P1 stage of his project is finished, and the parasitic plants Pedicularis canadensis and Comandra umbellata are doing okay in their new common garden locations. The overall goal is to determine if these parasites are keystone species in prairies. Among other types of data collection, it sounds like there could be some clipping and sorting of biomass in Drake’s (or someone’s, maybe an extern’s?) future! 

The withered state of many Echinacea angustifolia that are done flowering
This Echinacea purpurea sighted at Yellow Orchid Hill on the other hand is only at the “rays spreading” stage. Its and leaves (and phenology this year) are very distinct from those of Echinacea angustifolia!

Big week—start of measuring

Greetings flog!

Today we kept up the steam that we’ve had going all week, this time with measuring Echinacea in P7 and P9, two experimental plots out by Hegg Lake. This involved working in teams of two to find all the Echinacea plants present in each of these experiments and measuring aspects of their fitness including number of rosettes, number of leaves, and length of the longest leaf. Lots of working methodically down rows and searching for itty-bitty, seven-centimeter-tall, one-leaved Echinacea plants among the grass and litter! Good thing everyone’s “Ech vision,” and work ethic, is strong at this point.

In the afternoon Mia gave an interesting presentation that she’s preparing to record for the Botany conference this year about pollination and genetic structure in naturally fragmented populations of a desert plant, Erythrina flabelliformis (coral bean). It was really cool to hear what she’s been working on!

In non-Echinacea news, I saw my first flowering Dalea purpurea (purple prairie clover) yesterday, along with my first Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) of the season, both in P2!

Stay cool,


An interesting bee pollinating a flower observed during phenology yesterday. ID, anyone?

First week wrap-up

We had a good first week at the Echinacea Project! It’s a good group of caring and dedicated people and I’m looking forward to spending the summer with them. On Friday we discussed our ideas for individual summer projects, which demonstrated the collaborative, supportive, and ecological science-fostering environment that this team cultivates. It was fun hearing about everyone’s projects, which ranged in topics from aphid-ant-plant interactions to the role of parasitic plants in prairies, to Echinacea pallida/angustifolia hybrids, to Echinacea seedling persistence in microhabitats, to planning prairie research projects for a high school class. It will be exciting to see how they develop!

In plant ID this week I’m jazzed to share that I figured out what the plant Amy and I were trying to identify at the Landfill site on Friday was! It was Amorpha nana, aka fragrant false indigo or dwarf false indigo. It’s a relative of Amorpha canescens (leadplant) and looks similar, but has distinctive red stems.

Next week I look forward to more monitoring of Echinacea phenology as its flowers develop, getting more practice with GPS data collection, and working on my project idea. I’m thankful for the patience of more experienced team members showing me how it’s done!

What I believe is Amorpha nana, seen at the Landfill prairie remnant. Surrounded by brome grass and litter–maybe this site would benefit from a burn!
A brilliant tiger beetle also seen at Landfill

Echinacea Project first few days update


Just checking in after the first few days of fieldwork this summer! I’m getting used to fieldwork that’s individual-plant oriented rather than surveying an entire community, since the EP focuses on long-term monitoring of individual Echinacea plants.

That said, I did like getting a prairie community refresher through the diverse range of plants we saw at Staffanson Prairie, a Nature Conservancy preserve we explored yesterday. Mia, Lea, and I had a good time looking at some plant field guides after work to remember what they all were. (Featured species: bracted spiderwort Tradescantia bracteata, below!)

Besides Staffanson, it was interesting getting a sense of the range of prairie fragments––along roadsides, on hillsides, next to a landfill, etc., anywhere that isn’t in use for agriculture––that we’ll be monitoring this summer. Right now there’s lots phenology monitoring, which starts with flagging Echinacea plants that are already starting to flower. Today Erin started showing me how to use the GPS that we’ll use for surveying the flowering plants. Lots to come FLOG!

Long-bracted spiderwort, Tradescantia bracteata
Fun fact: this plant is called spiderwort because the juice in its stem is sticky and apparently looks like a spider’s thread!

The landfill prairie site––landfill in background

Emma Greenlee

Echinacea Project 2020

Biology Major; Spanish minor, Carleton College 2021

Research Interests

Hi! I’m Emma, a senior biology major at Carleton College. I did a mini-internship with the Echinacea Project in December 2019 and I’m excited to spend the summer as a part of the team in the field! I am passionate about prairie ecology and I’m especially interested in prairie plant communities. I’m looking forward to learning more about population ecology this summer, and finding out how my community ecology interests fit into the Echinacea Project’s research.


I’m from Aurora, a small town on northeast Minnesota’s Iron Range, and this spring I spent time at home while finishing my spring term classes online. I’m also on Carleton’s cross country and track teams and am a Spanish minor. Besides plants, I like to run, read, explore, spend time outside, and hang out with friends and family. 

This picture of me is from last summer which I spent doing restoration monitoring with the Nature Conservancy in prairies across the Dakotas and Minnesota!

Final FLOG Post

Today is the end of what has been a really cool externship! I’ve had a really nice time the last three weeks––Stuart, Riley, and Erin did a great job of helping us get a sense of what it’s like working in an ecology research lab and introducing us to what’s going on in the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Science building. Some of the highlights for me were attending Echinacea Project lab meetings, getting a sense of what the building’s and lab’s culture is like through the office holiday party and an after-work get-together at Stuart and Gretel’s house, and doing a small independent research project. My project was on the impacts of inbreeding on survival and reproduction in Echinacea, and it was a great chance to get some practice using R, developing a project, and presenting it, and I learned a lot both about the study system and about doing research in general! 

Working on the Echinacea Project also helped me further pinpoint what’s important to me in a career––doing something that makes a tangible positive impact on the environment and on the planet––and helped me better understand how a career in research might allow me to accomplish that. I’m really thankful to all the people I met here for making it a good experience, especially Erin, Riley, and Stuart, and I would be thrilled to work with them again in the future! Every time I do work on prairies I like them even more.

Now it’s time for everyone to take off for the holidays. I’m looking forward to my family coming to pick me up tomorrow on the way to celebrate Christmas with relatives in Indianapolis. Working for the Echinacea Project was a great way to spend my winter break and it’s given me a lot to think about going forward! 

Thanks and take care,


Plenty of R practice!

Externship update part 2

This week we’ve continued working towards generating achene data from the Pulse-Steady experiment. It takes time, and care is needed every step of the way to make sure the final product is something we can learn something from! Besides this, we’ve had time for research and thinking about our independent projects. I’m investigating whether there’s a difference in Echinacea offspring success when parent plants come from the same population or different populations, Jack’s working on whether climate factors like rainfall and temperature affect Echinacea flowering phenology, and Eli’s studying pollinator data from experimental plots to determine if any patterns in pollinator populations emerge.

Now we’re all reaching the “data analysis in R” step, which none of us are extremely familiar with, so we’ll be learning a lot about the kinds of questions we can ask and answer with this tool. Erin, Riley, and Stuart have been super helpful in leading us through the research process, and the last two weeks as a whole have been really informative for me on the ins and outs of scientific research and working in a plant ecology lab.

Finally, I can tell the Plant Sciences building at the CBG would be a good place to work based on the office holiday party we got to go to yesterday. From the potluck aspect to the trivia, everyone put in a lot of effort and it’s always a good time when there’s a game of White Elephant involved (I brought a box of Echinacea Plus tea and got a funky clock made out of shells in exchange! That will go great in my dorm room)!

Extern update

The sun’s going down at the CBG, and Jack, Eli, and I are wrapping up sorting the Echinacea heads for Pulse-Steady! We’ve been pretty focused on it the last few days, with some breaks for learning about the project and meeting people around the lab. Erin, Riley, and Stuart have been good about showing us the ropes and giving us chances to get exposed to what’s going on with Echinacea project and other researchers in the building. Earlier in the week we got to meet a volunteer who sets pollinators (mostly different types of bees) to send to the University of Minnesota for identification, which was really cool. We’re also working on ideas for small independent projects we get the chance to do, and we’re looking forward to tomorrow’s lab meeting where we’ll get to participate in a discussion of a CBG scientist’s research paper in progress, focusing on the effects of fire on the reproductive success of several different prairie plants. It’s been cool to see the lab side of prairie research so far, and to be exposed to so many people studying it! And now that cleaning heads is wrapping up, I’m excited to see what we do next in the process.

Above: an Echinacea head before being taken apart very carefully! We’ve all been able to get into some music/podcasts while cleaning seedheads, so here are some recs––Emma: I’ve been listening to some podcasts––mainly Nancy and a new season of Limetown; Jack: Drilled, a true-crime podcast; Eli: some Radiolab podcasts and Earl Sweatshirt.