Guard Yourselves. The Jets Are Firing Thunderstorms

Many of you may not have paid too much attention to the forecast for Kensington, Minnesota this morning, but it was a doozy. I have included a very slightly adapted version of the local forecast from this morning.

Hazardous weather statement:


Town hall forecast office precipitable water analysis.

Locally violent and drenching thunderstorms will take aim at the north-central United States into Monday night.  Some communities from the eastern part of the Dakotas to Minnesota and western Wisconsin, southward to Kansas and Missouri will be in the crosshairs of damaging storms. According to local amateur meteorologist, Stuart Wagenius, low level jetstream activity may be firing thunderstorms towards Douglas County, Minnesota. The major threat of these storms will be delayed work, 10:00 AM at the latest, cloud to prairie fragment lighting and musty winds. “A few cities that will have to be on guard [to defend themselves from jets firing thunderstorms] in the afternoon and evening include [Kensington, Hoffman], Minneapolis, Omaha, Nebraska [and a few other extraneous metropolises],” AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda said.

Hour by hour forecast:

10:00 AM. Rain and gusty winds.

11:00 AM. Surprise thunderstorms possible! While monitoring phenology, Team Echinacea members are advised to take cover in their vehicles before their study site is struck by lightning.

12:00 PM. Looks like it might rain, but not enough to keep you in. Precipitable rain is 2 inches. Who knows what that means; we just like the sound of the word precipitable.

1:00 PM. Is that rain on the horizon? Anyone outdoors advised to speed up phenology data collection without losing any accuracy.

2:00 PM. That was rain on the horizon. Might as well eat lunch until the rain stops again.

3:00 PM. Slight chance of rain and cloudy. Winds gusting to over 35 mph from the east, but they’ll feel much faster than that when you have to hold a bag of flags, a visor, a pen and a clipboard with many maps.

4:00 PM. Cloudy and dank.

5:00 PM. Who knows. It doesn’t matter anymore because everyone will be working on dinner and proposals anyway.



The K-town dentists are hard at work on Laura’s wisdom teeth. Once we find some string and a door we’ll be in business.

Happy July!


Is that a cone-headed grasshopper on a cone flower? This is not the pollinator we were looking for.

Today was another eventful day in the great plains. We started the morning bright and early with pollinator observations, and while it wasn’t the busiest day, we still saw a number of solitary bees. Sitting and watching flowers for a few hours provides ample time for deep thoughts, such as wondering how bees can pollinate wild parsnip without getting chemically burned and why all other flowers but the flower I am observing have pollinators on them. Throughout the day, we continued to map Echinacea with GPS, and during the afternoon, our budding detectives, Lea and Will, sorted out all the inaccuracies of the GPS points. Tomorrow we plan to visit all sites to look at flowering phenology and style persistence.

After work, the town hall folks made some pizza and enjoyed some telephone pictionary. As you all know by now, we had planned to play more Farkle tonight, however during our game of telephone pictionary (a game similar to telephone, but with sentences and pictures rather than whispering), it came out that Amy “Farkle Queen” Waananen had been mind controlling us throughout the Farkle game last night. We have yet to discover how that had any effect whatsoever on the game last night, but investigations are under way. Provided is the basic photographic evidence of this event.


Amy, top middle, mind controls us during a game of Farkle

The Flowers Are Coming

Today was another great day on Team Echinacea. This morning we continued our work on Q2, and we continued to make significant progress. We measured many plants and found at least five new plants in the experimental site. After a hearty lunch and a short time marveling at ice formations in a water bottle, Amy Dykstra gave a presentation on her research, which included her study of local adaptation of Echinacea. The afternoon was filled with preparations for IS projects (for the Wooster folks) and independent projects for the rest of us. Leah and Laura quickly became adept at catching pollinators, but were not so successful at transferring the collected pollen to fuchsin jelly. The rest of us hunkered down on our computers, read some literature, prepared project proposals and thought about how hard it would be to use NMR and IR to analyze pollen.


Leah regales us with stories of captured pollinators and attempts at melting fuchsin jelly on a car dashboard.

The exciting news of the day is that we found our first flowering Echinacea in P1 and at Elk Lake Road East! Tomorrow we will find out how many more Echinacea are flowering.

The second flowering Echinacea (found at Elk Lake Road East)!


Travelogue: East Elk Lake Road First Contact

All the first year researchers were assigned a study site to visit and observe. East Elk Lake Road, located in the northwest corner of the study area, is a small reserve that has not been actively maintained. The site lies just off a gravel road and consists of plants by the roadside, with a ditch and hillock that run for around 200 meters alongside the road. A wetland surrounded by trees lies at the western edge of the study site, and the trees are encroaching on the prairie fragment. The study site is across the road from a larger prairie fragment contributing to a larger gene pool. The site south of the road had similar plant diversity suggesting more active management.

This study site was characterized by three different sets of plants. The edge of the gravel road is disturbed and the flora consists of a high abundance of brome as well as dandelion and Poa. Just beyond the disturbed road edge is a shallow ditch and sloping hillside. This area contained the highest diversity of forbs, grasses and legumes, many of which are native. Grasses included big bluestem and needle and thread grass. There were many native forbs, including Canada anemone, goldenrod and bedstraw. This was the only area in which Echinacea (a clump of four individuals) was found. We also found asparagus plants, some of which looked ready to eat! While many legumes are found in most study sites, this site had a surprising few native and nonnative legumes. Leadplant also grew along the hillside.  The top of the hillock was densely covered in nonnative brome, along with some relatively dense dogbane and prairie rose, but this area showed lower diversity than the hillside. This summit also featured tree saplings, no higher than five feet tall.

The size of woody trees and shrubs in the area and the large amount of duff on the hilltop suggests the site had not been burned for many years. Plant cover on the hilltop as well as an overgrown access road (we call this an approach) to the hilltop suggested the area had been used for grazing or farm fields.

View from approach with the brome along the gravel road shown on the left

View West from approach with brome along the gravel road shown on the left


James Eckhardt

Echinacea Project 2016

Rising junior biology major at Gustavus graduating in 2017.

Research Interests

I am excited to be a part of Echinacea Project this summer. I look forward to learning more about the impact habitat fragmentation has on the genetic diversity and fitness of Echinacea Angustifolia and how various phenotypes caused by inbreeding compound to impact fitness.


I am from White Bear Lake, Minnesota and have lived in both Austin, Texas and Saint Mary’s, Montana. At Gustavus, I enjoy studying plant biology and statistics as well as researching the underground longevity of Botrychium gametophytes and gammae.  In my spare time, I enjoy doing most anything in the outdoors including sailing, backpacking, hiking mountains, cross country skiing and biking.