2021 Update: Community flowering phenology in remnants

In 2021, Lea Richardson conceived and initiated a 2-year study designed to test how fire affects community flowering phenology in remnant prairies in MN. We randomly sampled points in burned and unburned remnants for a total of 294 points. In a 1m radius around each random point, the number of flowering stems were counted for every plant species present in the circle twice a week from July 1-August 31. For some species, the radius extended past 1m. Random points used in this study were the same points used in the stipa project as well as other projects associated with Jared Beck’s postdoc studying fire in remnants. Lea also obtained estimates of total number of flowering plants of certain species for the whole site if the species in question was not in any of the random circles placed on the site (these additional observations should allow for more accurate flowering abundance curves to be obtained). Sites were divided into two driving routes with roughly half of the points visited on Monday and Thursday, and the other half visited Tuesday and Friday. This sampling protocol for the same sites will be repeated in 2022 to be able to compare points with and without fire across two years and among sites. Over 100 flowering species were identified within the circles. Data analysis will proceed on this first year of data in Spring 2022 and will be included as Chapter 4 of Lea’s dissertation.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: Remnants including: eri.n, rrx.w, lc.w, lc.e, yoh.e, yoh.w, aa.s, aa.n, sgc, eelr, kj, nnwlf, lf.w, lf.e, sap.w, sap.e, dog, on27, spp.w, spp.e
  • Overlaps with: Hesperostipa fire and flowering, prescribed fire in remnants, random points in remnants
  • Data collected: community phenology data, using visor form ptPhen (all data in aiiSummer2021 repo in ptPhen folder)
  • Samples or specimens collected: none
  • Products: [eventually] chapter 4 of Lea Richardson’s dissertation and hopefully a manuscript after 2022 data collection

You can read more about the community flowering phenology in remnants experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries about this experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

Spatial mate-limitation in remnants

During the summer of 2020, I designed an observational study to assess the extent to which reproduction in self-incompatible species is limited by spatial proximity to mates. While many researchers assume mate-limited reproduction is common in prairie species, few studies demonstrate this relationship in species other than Echinacea. I hypothesize that many self-incompatible prairie species produce few viable seeds because of small population size and spatial isolation from mates. To test this hypothesis, I selected 8 common self-incompatible native prairie species and 25 remnant sites within which to work. I quantified isolation in meters from the two nearest flowering conspecifics and collected seeds for more than 1,100 individual plants at 25 prairie remnant sites. I hope to complete lab work over the next 6 months where I will be cleaning and counting viable seeds for each individual plant. Results from this study will provide evidence about how widespread mate-limited reproduction is in self-incompatible prairie species.

Start year: 2020

Location: Douglas County, Minnesota; 25 roadside remnant sites Information about how many species of each species were sampled from each site, check out this file ~Dropbox/teamEchinacea2020/leaRichardson/siteCheckList8.29.20.xlsx

Materials collected: Seed heads collected from over 1,100 plants will be stored at the Chicago Botanic Garden but are currently in my Evanston apartment.

Data collected: Find data related to this project in the aiisummer2020 repository in ~aiisummer2020/plasInRems/leaStuff/

Submitting FNC, phenology, crosses, and aphids

Today I only heard about what the team was up to from Mia after her epic day that started at 7:15 and ended around 6:30. Sounds like a lot happened in the field today! I heard about phenology, and how their were a few critical visor malfunctions, although it seems we were still able to get the data we need!

I also heard that people started adding and excluding aphids from Echinacea plants in p1, and that some hand crosses happened with hybrid Echinacea in p7!

All in all it seemed like a good day for the team. Back home at Alpha Tango Hotel, I worked on getting the FNC manuscript ready to resubmit. Over the weekend many Team Echinacea members current and past read the draft and gave me valuable feedback. Today I polished everything up and clicked “Submit”! The study examines how heterospecific co-flowering plants and isolation from conspecific mates affects pollination. Specifically, we quantify how these aspects of the floral neighborhood influence four stages of the pollination process: 1) probability of pollinator visitation, 2) pollen on pollinators that visit Echinacea, 3) pollen on Echinacea styles, and 4) style persistence (pollination success). We are excited to submit this manuscript and are hoping for favorable reviews this second time around!

Busy time in the lab at CBG!

Since Stuart and Team Echinacea have started summer field work in Minnesota, you might guess the lab at CBG slowed down- but you would be wrong! Last week we finished cleaning another bag of Echinacea heads, and this week we’ve gone through over half of the next bag! People counting achenes and classifying x-rays have also been super productive, and some of the newer volunteers finally got their official CBG badges. So even though there’s a lot going on in Minnesota, we’re still busy back in Chicago. Stay tuned for more lab updates throughout the summer.

From right to left, Char is cleaning, Aldo and Alan are counting, Tessa is cleaning, and Art is chatting because he was actually working outside this morning!

2018 update: Fire and flowering in SPP

For her REU project, Brigid gathered data to study the relationship between flowering density and seed set. She worked at Staffanson Prairie Preserve, which appears to have higher flowering density in burn years than non-burn years. This year, 2018, was a burn year on the east side of the preserve. Brigid and Team Echinacea kept track of the style persistence of about ~150 individuals many of  which we have phenology and style persistence information from prior years. These individuals were harvested and their achene count and seed set will be assessed by volunteers  and  interns at the CBG.

Brigid also observed nearest neighbors for many of the plants that she tracked. It might be the cases that echinacea flowers are more successful if they have other flowering plants nearby. Synchrony is a large part of why fire is so important, and, since SPP is our largest remnant prairie, it’s the best place to test the relationship between fire and synchrony. Number of heads, phenology, and head size may also \ interact with fire — we’ll know once we look at the data!

Site: Staffanson Prairie Preserve

Start year: 1996

Overlaps with: Phenology in Remnants, Reproductive Fitness in Remnants

Data and Samples: We shot 90 GPS points for nearest neighbors, many of which were plants that flowered for the first time this year. We also harvested 22 heads that are awaiting cleaning at CBG

Products: None so far

2018 update: Richardson’s Liatris and Solidago phenology

In the summer or 2018, Lea collected data for the third year of her observational study quantifying

Flowering Liatris

flowering phenology and reproductive success (seed set) for Liatris aspera and Solidago speciosa plants located along a transect at Staffanson Prairie Preserve. Staffanson is divided into east and west units. The west unit of Staffanson was burned Spring 2016. In 2016, Lea looked for differences in phenology and reproduction of east vs. west Liatris and Solidago plants. In 2017, neither unit was burned. In 2018, the east unit burned. Data collected this year combined with data collected in 2016 and 2017 will enable us to to see if burns influence phenology or reproduction. To assess phenology, Lea visited plants three times a week and recorded if they were flowering. She took GPS data for each plant included in the study. She also mapped the seven nearest neighbors of all flowering plants within her transect in 2018. Additionally, Lea visited all plants in the 2016 and 2017 datasets to see if they were still present and if they were flowering. To assess reproduction (seed set), plants were harvested and brought back to the Chicago Botanic Garden so that seeds could be removed from the plant and x-rayed. This study helps us understand how fire, phenology, and reproduction are linked in species that are related to Echinacea angustifolia.


Start year: 2016

Location: Staffanson Prairie Preserve

Overlaps with: Fire and fitness of EA, Flowering phenology in remnants

Physical specimens: 

  • ~80 harvested Liatris aspera specimens from summer 2018, located at the CBG
  • ~80 harvested Solidago speciosa specimens from summer 2018, located at the CBG

Data collected: Phenology data was taken on the visors every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the growing season. Paper harvest data sheets were used and brought back to CBG.

GPS points shot: ~543 GPS points were visited or shot, one point was visited for each plant monitored in summer 2016 and 2017, and points were shot for each plant in the 2018 dataset along with its seven nearest neighbors.

Cameo spent the fall with Team Echinacea!

This fall we had the wonderful opportunity to work with Cameo Chilcutt, a student of Northeastern Illinois University. Cameo spent the fall working in the lab and conducted her own growth chamber experiment with seeds from Selena’s summer REU project. Cameo was a great addition to the lab and asked some cool scientific questions about how water stress and maternal competitive environments affect germination in Lasthenia californica. Check out her final report posted below. We’ll miss having Cameo around but wish her luck in her future scientific endeavors!

Cameo Final Paper


Wrap-up in the rain

Today is a rainy day at the Hjelm house. Kristen left early in the morning and Michael and I are cleaning and organizing everything from seeds, to g3, to data sheets. We’ve wrapped up most of the field work and plan to leave Andes after some harvest tomorrow morning! Stay tuned for more progress updates in the fall as we bring everything back to the lab and get started processing all of the data from summer 2018!





New interns back at the CBG lab

Hi, I am Selena a fourth year undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Cruz! GO BANANA SLUGS!!!! I am here at CBG doing a summer internship in the Echinacea lab! I am looking at intraspecific competition between two California Asteraceae species Layia platyglossa and Lasthenia californica! 

I also have a mentee, his name is Steve…

I go to Little Village Lawndale high school in the South Side of Chicago. I am entering my Senior year of high school. I am also studying two California species and testing intraspecific competition with varying water treatments. I am helping Selena collect data, so I am here to help!


Drone Chronicles

If you are an avid reader of the flog, you may remember hearing about a drone joining Team Echinacea in the summer of 2017. Here’s some information about what happened with the drone, and where we stand now.

Prior to the summer of 2017, I applied for and received a Research Grant from Northwestern University to fund a study of floral resources along the roadsides in Douglas County, MN. As part of my research proposal, I planned to use the drone to take photos along roadsides to quantify the floral resources available for pollinators. The first few days I was working with the drone I was hopeful it would provide useful for answering that research question. I was able to get an overhead view encompassing all of p1, and to see some beautiful views of Douglas County.

This is what p1 looks like from above today!

Douglas County, views above p1

But, as time went on, and my trials for surveying roadsides began, I realized the images produced by the drone were not going to be high enough resolution to identify different species and get accurate estimates of flower cover for the different species. This proved to be a frustrating realization, but didn’t prevent me from obtaining measures (by hand) of roadside flowering communities each week for the rest of the summer. In summation, I do not recommend the use of the drone for images where high resolution is critical. Although experts in the world of drones had thought my research questions would be adequately answerable with the resolution offered in the drone I purchased, my experience has taught me that for fine scale work- such as identifying plants and their cover- drones must have higher quality resolution capabilities to provide useful metrics. If, however, the goal is to quantify plant cover generally, estimate the percent bare ground, or look at the overall amount of green in the landscape, drone images at this quality would provide useful.