Farewell Flog

Today is my last flog, and tomorrow is my last field day. It’s a sad ending to an amazing summer. Today we worked on independent projects in the morning & measured P9 in the afternoon. This morning I analyzed my 42nd slide out of 236 slides. My project’s goal was to better understand what pollen loads bees are bringing to Echinacea. With the help of others (huge shoutout to Laura), I captured over 100 pollinators during early, peak, and late flowering. I brought them back to Hjelm house where they were cooled and wiped for pollen. I wiped pollen (separated by body and scope) on fuchsin jelly on glass slides and am currently counting Echinacea pollen grains in comparison to heterospecific pollen. The goal of my research was to look at how pollinator foraging behavior changes over Echinacea’s flowering season. There is still a lot of data analysis left, but thanks to Team Echinacea I gathered so much great data, thank  you!

In honor of my final flog post I wanted to recap what I learned from each team member:

Amy taught me the importance of patience during research. I might not have caught all my bees within the time frame I wanted, but with patience I managed to catch enough bees for my study.

Gretel taught me that field work keeps you young at heart.

James taught me that you can’t always be nice but you should always try.

Alyson taught me that hard work pays off, especially when you cut down 20+ buckthorn trees and end up with significant data within one month! (Congratulations!)

Alex taught me how important passion is in science. When I spent 12 hours catching bees and only caught 8 I had to absolutely love my research just as much as Alex loves his.

Lea taught me the importance of positivity in the field. When you have 6 “can’t find”s in a row, or are counting over 100 stipa seeds, you have to stay positive and excited about field work.

Abby taught me how to make every piece of field work fun; whether it was signing to aphids, chopping off palida, or eating soggy pretzels.

Will taught me the difference between an earned win and a lucky win (example: settlers of catan vs. the lottery).

Scott taught me that the best thing a scientist can do is just listen.

Laura taught me the importance of helping others, because science could not exist without collaboration.

Ruth taught me that humility is a far better sign of a good scientist than any accolade.

Jennifer taught me that a great advisor lets their student struggle just enough to come to a solution on their own, but never lets their advisee drown.

Zachary taught me that you can be a scientist at any age.

Stuart taught me to keep an eye out for everything, whether it’s stipa, a seedling, or a great idea.

Best of luck in all of your future endeavors,


ps: Minnesota was lit

minnesota is lit

July 25th: “The Day the Pollen Dried”: A musical narrative about the day in the life of a pessimistic cone head

Today was xtreme to say the least. We finished phenology and pollinator observations before lunch, but during pollinator observations, the strangest thing happened. The Echinacea head I was watching started singing. It was singing Don McLean, no less! It was crazy.
 Lucky for you all, I caught it on video and transcribed it below.

 The Day the Pollen Dried
 A long long time ago (this morning)
I can still remember how
Those bees used to pollinate me
And I knew if I got a compatible pollen grain
That I could make a seed set
And maybe it’d germinate in a while
But robber flies made me shiver
With all the egg-goo they delivered
White gunk between my bracts
I couldn’t set one more seed
I can’t remember if I cried
When I saw my widowed anther (last day male)
Something changed deep inside
The day the pollen dried (up)
Bye, bye Miss augochlorella guy (*it’s probably a female)
Presented my pollen to the bees but the bees were too shy
And that good ole Team Echinacea would point a camera and cry
Singin’ what if I never see a pollinator guy?
What if I never see a pollinator guy?

Did you find the pollinator reference collection?
And put on sunscreen for protection?
If your sunburn tells you so?
Do you believe in a change in the pollinator communities?
Can andrena composite-specialize in me?
And can you put your bucket in a different row?

Well, I know that you’re interested in me
‘Cause I saw you counting my styles persisting’
You counted back from day sixteen
Man, I dig those styles that are shriveling’

I was a lonely, perennial, long-lived plant
With a cone head and a lots of ants
But I knew I had lost my chance
The  day the pollen dried (up)
I started singin’

Bye, bye Miss agopostemon  guy (*probably female again)
Presented my pollen to the bees but the bees were too shy
And that good ole Team Echinacea would point a camera and cry
Singin’ what if I never see a pollinator guy?
What if I never see a pollinator guy?
Even the caterpillars could get down (or up I suppose up) to this catchy tune.

Even the caterpillars could get down (or up I suppose up) to this catchy tune.

Prescott Pollinator Proposal

Not only did we finish phenology and get a great start on P2 today, I finished my independent project proposal! My research this summer is focused on how pollinator foraging behavior towards Echinacea changes over the course of the season as a result of community changes. I will look at what taxa are exhibiting flower constancy towards Echinacea by conducting observations and I will analyze their pollen loads under a microscope to determine what conspecific pollen bees are carrying to Echinacea and what ratio of their load is Echinacea pollen. My research will hopefully help the Echinacea Project better understand how pollinators could be contributing to Echinacea‘s pollen limitation and reproductive fitness.

Prescott Proposal 2016

July 15th: Phenology Phriday

Dear Flog,

Spotted this Andrena having a snack while doing phenology this morning

Spotted this Andrena having a snack while doing phenology this morning

Today was a good day, beginning with phenology in the morning. I went to the northwest remnant sites with Amy. Although the morning was mostly uneventful, we did encounter the sheriff of Grant County as we were pulling over to check on the plants at Northwest of Landfill. He asked if he could offer us any help, but when we told him that we were studying plants he said that we were on our own! Oh well. We finished up and returned to the Hjelm House for lunch.

At lunch, we spent a while talking about P2 and measuring in the experimental plots. There are 8 experimental plots, so this will be a big job for the rest of the summer. Fortunately, we’ve already measured P8 (plot 8) when we measured the q2 and q3 seedlings. The process for measuring adult plants is pretty similar to what we did earlier in the summer. We went out to p2 this afternoon and worked in pairs to measure the plants there. We work in teams as we go through the rows, position by position. We still have a ways to go, but we made a good dent today.

Since it was rainy earlier this week, those of us living at Town Hall will head out for a quick round of pollinator observations tomorrow morning. I’m heading to bed now so that I will be ready to go then!




Saving phenology for a rainy day

Today we all divided up to complete phenology at all sites but were interrupted by thunder. We all hurried back to the Hjelm house to wait it out. After seeing the closest lightning strike most of us have ever experienced we decided it would be best to wait until 4 to go back out. Some of the taller members of the team were concerned for their safety still & suggested short members go out first because they’re “farther away from a lightning strike”. Ruth visited today to help with phenology and also made tags during our lightning break. During lunch Lea updated us on her independent project. She wants to look at how burn years affect co-flowering species of Echinacea and settled on other composites. Because they aren’t clonal it’s easy to track individual flowers and Lea feels comfortable recognizing when composites are flowering. She’s going to track when composites along a transect in Staffanson begin and end flowering and compare the burned unit to the non-burned unit. Jennifer helped clarify the difference between Andrena and Melissodes to other Lea and me. Although she described their different appearances she told us the biggest difference is their foraging behavior atop Echinacea. Eventually we finished phenology for the day and headed home to eat Amy and Laura’s wild rice soup.


Female Melissodes

Highlights of the day:

Jennifer brought her munchkin, Zachary, to work. It’s never too early to join Team Echinacea.

Ruth brought an amazing rhubarb bundt cake and Amy, Lea and Laura fought over the last piece (James took the second to last all for himself).

Playing “was that thunder or a truck?”

Swim Saturday

So far our weekend has been busy but fun! We started the morning off with a family breakfast of eggs, vegetables & hash browns that other Lea and I cooked. Scott then helped his professor Harmony Dalgleish from the College of William & Mary sample milkweed populations on route 37. The Town Hall group then went to Elbow Lake for swimming, diving, and sunbathing for a few hours. We decided Amy has the best dive and James has the best cannonball. James was also able to touch the bottom of the lake with his feet (granted he is the tallest in the group).

After grabbing lunch back at town hall we headed to Alexandria for a shopping trip at GoodWill and Cub for groceries. Alyson was able to pick up mason jars to collect insects from her bog and Alex found more shirts for field work. Alyson & I also picked up a pitcher from Walmart to make some sun tea this weekend. Half the team (the carnivores) headed to Will’s house to try his ribs while the vegetarians returned to town hall to rest after the long day.


Will’s infamous backyard!

Q3 Day 3

Today we began by presenting some of our independent projects to the group. Alex presented his proposal about studying the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on native solitary bees. His study will analyze soil samples from several of our plots in addition to a behavioral study on the bees. Alex is very excited to be one of the first researchers to look at the effects of pesticides on solitary bees because so much research has been solely focused on honey bees. Alyson taught us about bogs and invasive species. There is approximately 10 acres of bog behind the farmhouse that Alyson is going to use to examine the impacts that non native buckthorn has on the bog ecosystem. She will remove buckthorn from half of her plots and compare them at the end of the season to the untouched plots. Assessing leaf litter, nitrogen levels, sunlight, and soil pH are some of the possible measures Alyson wants to use to compare the two. I presented my project which looks at how pollinator behavior towards Echinacea changes over the flowering season in a community context. I will be looking at the co-flowering densities throughout Echinacea‘s flowering period and comparing this to the pollen loads of several native bees. By collecting bees from several taxa, removing their pollen loads, and analyzing under a microscope I hope to determine what ratios of co-flowering pollen to Echinacea pollen is being carried and how this changes over time. I will also be conducting a behavioral study in which I observe what flower pollinators visit before and after visiting an Echinacea flower.

After our presentations we went out to Q3 to mark seedlings. It was a beautiful sunny day which a cool breeze, perfect for searching for Echinacea! We recorded seedling position in order to update our GPS coordinates, leaf height, and presence of cotyledons. The tallest seedlings we found were 9cm tall, one section had 8 seedlings present! We will return to Q3 tomorrow to continue our data collection and marking. This project will allow us to test Fischer’s Fundamental Theorem of Evolution in nature.

echinacea project

Gretel and Alyson record Echinacea seedling data in Q3

Other notable events from June 16, 2016:

  • We saw a bald eagle fly over us at Q3 and a vulture almost preyed on us. While there is a fine line between speed and accuracy in data collection, the vulture realized we were all alive and moving fast enough.
  • I encountered my first tick and James taught me how to sex them, it was a female and I was not bitten.
  • Jennifer left for the Evolution Conference in Texas and we all wish her the best of luck!


Leah Prescott

Echinacea Project 2016

I’m a double major in biology and English and working on getting a minor in economics. I will be graduating from The College of Wooster in 2017.

Research Interests

I have always loved ecology and conservation biology. My biology Senior Independent Study at Wooster will look at pollinator constancy behavior towards Echinacea by observing pollinator visits and the species composition of pollen loads.


I’m from Rochester, New York. I love sports, play field hockey at Wooster, and am also a huge Syracuse basketball fan. In my free time I like to run so I am super excited about the beautiful hills in Minnesota, but will miss my dog, Chloe, who is my running buddy.