2021 Update: WCA Environmental Learning Center (ExPt10)

In 2019, Team Echinacea transplanted over 1400 Echinacea angustifolia plants from three local prairies to 12 plots at the West Central Area (WCA) High School, also known as exPt10. Since then, the West Central Area High School instructors and students have collaborated with members of Team Echinacea to gather data and plan the treatments of the plots, anything from burning to assessing plant fitness. In the fall, WCA students do an individual investigation using the Echinacea plots and then create a poster showing the process and conclusion of their investigation.

Having the Echinacea plots located at West Central Area School has provided many opportunities for the students to be involved in relevant research helping the Echinacea Project and doing individual projects. The plots at the school have also been used for additional research by Echinacea Project team members. Specifically, in the summer of 2021, graduate student Drake Mullett started a research project on prairie parasitic plants at exPt10 and will continue for the next few summers. Amy Waananen also continued an ongoing research project on Echinacea plants’ gene flow in exPt10. In May 2021, Team Echinacea conducted a prescribed burn at exPt10. Read more about the burn here.

  • Start year: 2018
  • Location: West Central Area High School’s Environmental Learning Center, Barrett, MN
  • Overlaps with: Gene flow in remnants, exPt10 Pedicularis planting, prescribed fire in plots
  • Data collected: Survival data for seedlings planted in summer 2019 from Amy W’s gene flow experiment, located in the cgdata bitbucket repository along with recheck data. Data from p10 will not be going into the SQL databases
  • Samples collected: None this year
  • Products: High school posters. Contact John Van Kempen for info.

Echin Ending

We are getting to the part of the season when the Echin are mostly done flowering and we are going through the plots searching for basal plants (measuring). The MWF Phenologing has gone from taking the entire morning to taking 1.5 hours. On Tuesday, we finished measuring P2 and began P1. P1 is about 10% finished and we look forward to keep making progress on that. We are also keeping an eye on plants to see when we can begin harvesting the heads preparing for their transfer to the Chicago Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, we are also getting the part of the season when we are saying goodbye to our coworkers. Last week, Alex needed to back to Florida to begin her middle school teaching duties. This week we say goodbye to a couple of the College of Wooster coworkers, Maris and Miyauna.

Wesley, doing his best imitation as a sword swallower at the end of the day in P2.
Part of the team playing leapfrog as they finish a section of measuring in P1.

Pheno and P10o

The Echinacea Flowers are beginning to all begin flowering at a similar time so the phenology is getting intense. The next few weeks we will be doing phenology Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays adding to the most extensive and accurate data base of Echinacea angustifolia in the world (while also cultivating grit). On Wednesday afternoon about half the crew was able to go to P10 (my favorite) located at West Central Area Schools (WCA) Environmental Learning Center to assess how many of the Echinaceas plants survived from our plantings in 2019. P10 is currently being used by WCA students for research projects and the Echinacea Project to determine how fire affects the prairie. A great opportunity for the students from school in collaboration with future Echinacea Project members.

Kennedy (WCA 2022) and Maris (Wooster College 2022) search for Echin plants on one of the 12 plots located at WCA Schools.

And since I sort of promised a Limerick, here goes:

P1, P10, ologyPhen

Buckthorn, Sumac, Goats in the Pen.

P2,P3, Demography.

What, Wait, Where is P3?

Field Flag Organizer two thouSen.

The members of Team Echin working at P10 (minus Mia as she is taking the pict).

John Van Kempen

Echinacea Project 2021

My Major, Educational Institution expectedGraduationYear – Yikes – no more majors or masters for me.  I will be entering my 33rd or 34th year of teaching nearby at West Central Area Schools.  I teach mainly the physical sciences (chem and physics) but am also fortunate to teach some fun electives.  

Research Interests

I am interested in studying …  The before and after diversity of both plant and insect (bees) species on prescribed burns.  


I am from … In my spare time I like to … etc.  I am originally from Morris, MN but have spent the majority of my life right here on the prairie.  Currently i live in Elbow Lake, about 20 miles north of Echinacea Project base camp.  I am married to Chris who is an elementary teacher.  I have 4 kids ranging in age from 19- 24, two of them currently in college and one of them a two year Team Echin Project member.  In my spare time i enjoy taking out my two dogs (pictured) hitting local prairies or bird watching and finding ice cream shops on our summer road trips in the Bombus — mobile.  I have always been so impressed by the quality of young people the Echin Project has year after year and am looking forward to this season too.  

(Here’s a photo of my dogs Clyde and Lilly and me below)

Here John (RET participant 2018 & 2019) is measuring in one of our experimental plots with two undergraduate researchers, Jay and Avery

P2 and P8 in the Winter

Stopped by P8 this morning and snowshoed out to P2. If you like these plots in the summer, the winter offers a new, unique perspective of the beauty of a prairie. The last few days, all vegetation has been covered in hoarfrost so the prairie lacks all color and seems like a black and white movie scene.

My dog Clyde (official spelling changed to Collyde). If you could meet him, you would understand.

On the south side of the P2, overlooking the plot.


P10 > P2?

My coworkers know that P2 has held a special place for me and that sometimes they may find me staring off into the vastness of it. P2 currently being harvested and most flowering plants were decapitated, but some are still left but not for long. I sometimes daydream in P2 that its a couple hundred years ago and i am just a visitor passing through West Central MN and all i see is acre after acre of prairie. But P10, located at West Central Area Schools with its observation tower where i have spent dark evenings with my Astronomy Class is also special for me. And now P10 with its Echinacea angustifolia plots and plants flourishing in their first full growing season, it may have taken the edge over P2. We’ve been able to check to see how many plants have made it through year one and it’s at about 2/3s. Hopefully those plots can provide many years of students using the plots to collect data and learn to appreciate the prairie.

Abby VK (Echinacea Project alumni from 2015 and 2016 helps 2020 team member John VK measure P10. Abby stated “i was on the A Team for measuring plots and flower phenology back in my days, along with Will and Amy.”

This morning was spent doing P1 rechecks and Emma had 3 search and finds in a row, remarkable. The afternoon had team members help Leah collecting seeds from predetermined plots at Aanenson and East of Town Hall.

Anna, on East of Town Hall balance beam fence, just prior to her double tuck backflip dismount. Incredible.

__X__ To Do List

We began the day doing phenology in P1, assessing the flowering status for each plant in the plot. Soon after we began phenology, the rain started so we regrouped at the Hjelm House and made an alternative plan. We split up into groups because we weren’t sure the Hjelm House could handle maintaining social distancing and the wifi for a Zoom meeting. We took turns discussing several articles posted in Dropbox having to do with racism. A few phrases that have kept me thinking were:
” Status quo is the problem,”
” We are blind to what we don’t know”
“everyone is racist, but not everyone is antiracist”
“my white privledge is having not to have to think about race”.

We also thought it may be a good idea to instead of only discussing racisim, but that we do an activity in the future.

After lunch, we returned to the plots, finishing phenology in P1 and the ’99 gardens.

A bee foraging on the freshly emerged pollen.
Several flowers had these beetles on them in P1
Anna A doing phenology after the rain.

Completing that task left us with finishing up the measuring being done in P8, assessing the Echin plants in each row and position. A very satisfying day as we were able to check off everything as completed for the day. We’ve got a great team with great attitudes. We could have just as easily packed it in after P1 phenology but several team members wanted to cross measuring P8 off the list.

Phenologists Going Strong

The Echinaceas Team has been hitting the phenology of the Echinacea angustifolia on the remnant prairie plots in western Douglas Country. This morning, the team split up, divided and conquered each remnant’s flower’s status . (Latin phrase: Veni, Vidi, Vici – which tranlates to we came, we saw, we conquered). We have been assessing each flower that has been uniquely identified with a number tag and a colored twist tie so that we can be as certain as we can of each of the flowers. The Echinacea Team has been gathering data for 25 years which makes us the world’s foremost authority on Echinacea angustifolia (according to me).

Riley T puts the “f’ in phenology on a site we call on27.

There’s much variation in the flowers, not only in there stages of flowering, but in their differences in color, age and height.

Nearly white petals
Brown petals

The afernoons have been filled getting caught up on Stipa searches in P1, flagging P8 and planning out the execution of our individual projects.

Amy and Allie diligently working on the porch.

Happy 4th of July to everyone.

Week #2

We began week #2 stalking Staffanson Prairie for Echinacea first in the rain and then if the pleasant breeze. We estimated about on 150 flowering plants on the East quadrant and will hopefully get to the West tomorrow morning. It’s simply amazing the variety of species found there and also the colors present. We then spent the afternoon visiting some remnant plots looking for flowering plants.

Prairie Smoke from Staffanson’s Prairie
Wood Lilly
Prairie Turnip – my new favorite this summer, replacing Monarda fistulosa

We then had an afternoon Zoom meeting wth Jarred Beck, Echinacea Project Alumni from 2014 discussing the history and benefits of burning praire. He also discussed upcoming research on burning some remnant prairies starting next spring.

Skeleton (endo) Crew

The Echin Team members divided and conquered today with some of the crew (Julie, Stuart, Gretel, Riley and Drake) migrating to northern MN to access the reproduction of the Prairie Orchid. A biannual trip the team makes with Gretel leading the way.

ThePrairie Orchid

The leftovers consisted of Erin, Shea and John working out of headquarters. Shea and I did phenology at P2, while Erin did phenology in the remnants and P1. The aphid addition/exclusion experiment then proceeded at P2. After lunch, we began measuring P2 and finished a whopping 3% of the total area.

Erin and Shea measuring P2 and fighting off pesky chiggers.
Erin (Chipmunk Whisperer) charms a rodent to feed from her hand.