A Final Friday Many Days Late

Life outside of Kensington has seemed hectic to say the least. I arrived home in Chicago last Thursday, and the next day, Dayvis and I presented our research at the REU symposium at the Field Museum. Shown below is a photo of me in the iconic museum lobby after giving my poster presentation.


The symposium on Friday was a bittersweet culmination of all my work this past summer, and a large part of me wanted to return to the rolling cornfields of Minnesota. I wish Team Echinacea all the best as they begin the long process of wrapping up a summer of research.

Poster pdf:


9 August 2013

Once again, a hearty hello to readers on the flog-o-sphere!

As with many days this week, the morning started off with phenology. Now that more than half of the plants in the common garden have finished flowering, it can be accomplished in a little over an hour. The Sara(h)s measured plants in the 99 garden while Ilse, Lydia, Gretel, and Marie worked on crossing. Dayvis lurked in the basement of the Hjelm house, alone with his collection of pollinators and an insect identification book. Kory visited Hegg Lake and harvested his first Echinacea head for his experiment! At lunch, Marie practiced giving her poster presentation to the group.

After eating, Sara Z, Gretel, Marie, and Ilse stayed at the Hjelm house to finish crossing and measuring. The rest of the group traveled to East Riley for seedling re-finds. In high spirits after finding (although most often not finding) a seedling, Team Echincea adorned themselves with natural hitchhiker jewelry.


Crew members returned home in a timely fashion to enjoy some homemade pad thai prepared by Sara Z. Thai food is the only thing Dayvis has craved more than a machete all summer long – needless to say, he was sated. When Sara Z first arrived at the town hall, she was under the misguided impression that crew members play board games every night after work; the fact that we don’t has been a constant cause for consternation. At her dogged insistence, several of us joined her for a game of Bananagrams and Apples to Apples.

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 4

Today was about as exciting as one could expect an uneventful day to be. If the surface of a lake were as placid as the town hall was today, there wouldn’t be a single ripple of water.

However, that’s not to say that nothing happened. Dayvis bicycled out to Hegg Lake this morning to monitor phenology, and took the long way home (for a total round trip of about 6 miles). Sarah B.’s parents were visiting; the Bakers had lunch at the famous Mi Mexico in Alexandria, and then visited several prairie remnants to practice identifying wildflowers. Kory and Lydia went to Kensington for laundry and groceries. Lydia must have been hungry at the time, because she impulsively bought a large carton of doughnut holes. They probably won’t last long, since Sarah B. has been eyeing them ravenously.


I had a few significant accomplishments of my own today. Shown above is a container of some eggs that I hard-boiled to perfection. The last batch that I made several weeks ago were rather inedible due to an under-cooked center. I have been reluctant to cook eggs ever since that debacle. Because my eggs had exceeded their expiration date, however, I decided to take the plunge and try again – and to what marvelous results! I also succeeded in debugging some R code that had me stumped all of yesterday.

Since yesterday, there has also been significant progress on the puzzle. See if you can guess what it is now!


Dataset: Hybrid Measurements

Hi flog readers,
I have finished collecting my final data for my independent project. Included in this post is the data sheet containing measurements on all one year-old plants in the Hegg plot and their parents.

(updated file)

31 July 2013

Another Wednesday dawned bright, but wet, for Team Echinacea. Mike and Reina left early this morning to go to St. Peter before eventually heading to ESA. Sarah visited several remnants to monitor phenology. Sara Z also worked on her independent project in the morning, identifying ants. Kory and Marie went to Hegg Lake: Marie to assess the phenology of Dayvis’s plants, and Kory to watch pollinators. Both Lydia and Ilse helped with the crossing experiment in the common garden.

After lunch, Nicholas and Marie measured the two-year old hybrids in Josh’s garden. All other team members continued to work on crossing.

Above: A thriving hybrid at Hegg Lake. I decided to check up on my plot while doing phenology for Dayvis.

There are a lot of left-overs from Pam’s party to supplement tonight’s dinner. Lydia is getting creative by mixing bratwurst into black bean soup (expertly pureed to perfection by her Cuisinart). Cheesy Bisquick biscuits will accompany the soup. Yum!

A Typical Monday

Today was a beautiful day in Kensington, with a nice breeze and a high in the upper 70s. The pollinators apparently disagreed with this assessment, as both Dayvis and Kory had trouble finding them at their respective plots in Hegg Lake this morning. Back at the Hjelm House, Marie, Reina, Mike, and Gretel worked on phenology in the common garden. Flowering is finally well under way, although no one has a good estimate for the percentage of flowering heads. The Sara(h)s visited 5 remnants to monitor flowering and capture ants.


In the afternoon, Reina, Mike, and Pam worked on a poster for ESA. Marie and Dayvis went back to Hegg Lake with Sulu to find some well-concealed pallida plants. The rest of the crew worked on crosses in the common garden.

Dinner by Dayvis was delicious as usual, although he complained vociferously about the stove burning the lentils he had planned to serve. Reina donated two blocks of fudge given by her mother (Turtle and Dark Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt). Sara Z went missing, and has no idea of the culinary delights that she missed out on.

A Belated Post for Sunday

It was a quiet weekend in the townhall, as many of its residents were out of town. In the morning, an onslaught of heavy rain foiled Dayvis and Marie’s plans to visit Hegg Lake. Undeterred by the weather, Sarah B braved the elements to collect data on phenology in the remnants – it wasn’t long before she returned with soaking datasheets, though.

In the afternoon, Sarah B, Marie, and Dayvis drove to Alexandria to do laundry and have lunch at their new favorite place to eat: Mi Mexico. If you are ever in need of a place to eat in Alex, I would encourage you to check it out! Dayvis decided to throw caution to the winds, and ordered deep-fried ice cream for desert.


Shown above: The festive interior of Mi Mexico, beloved lunchtime destination

Lucky Friday the Twelfth

Having dodged the misfortune of convening on Friday the thirteenth, Team Echinacea had a fruitful day in the field.

The morning was occupied by independent projects. Kory, Jennifer, and Jon went to CG2 at Hegg Lake to look for pollinators visiting flowering Echinacea. Dayvis and Marie also went to Hegg Lake to gather data for their respective projects. Sarah B. once again visited multiple remnants to monitor flowering dates. Meanwhile, Lydia, Ilse, and Gretel assessed phenology and flowering head count in the Common Garden and ’99 South Garden to gear up for this summer’s pollination experiment.

In the afternoon, Pam and Reina finished taking measurements of plants in INB2 for their study. The progress of their work benefited greatly from the recent acquisition of a Red Flyer wagon. Lydia (shown below) braved the wrath of protective ants in her quest to acquire blue aphids for her addition/ exclusion experiment. The rest of the team returned to CG2 to finish measuring plant fitness traits.


After a long day’s work, Dayvis cooked up a delicious meal of split pea soup and arepas (Venezuelan corn cakes). Many crew members are experiencing discomfort due to chigger bites, although some are more prone to vocalize their displeasure than others.

Monday Movements

Today in Douglas County, Minnesota, Team Echinacea labored under a cloudless sky and oppressively high temperatures and humidity levels.

First thing in the morning, Sarah B. visited the remnants she is monitoring to study flowering phenology. Dayvis also departed to work on his own project, and was not seen again until 1pm. Today is the second day of flowering for Echinacea pallida at Hegg Lake, and Dayvis appeared elated to finally observe pollinators at work. Kory and Jennifer also went to Hegg Lake in the morning to visit Common Garden 2.

Those who did not have morning projects to attend to flagged and twist-tied flowering plants in the Common Garden. After lunch, the team departed to CG2 to measure plants. Throughout the day, Pam and Reina measured photosynthesis rates in the basal leaves of Echinacea in INB2. Marie and Reina also made/improvised pollinator exclusion cages. The technique for doing so remains unperfected.


Happenings on a Windy Friday

Although we are down two team members (Kory left today for the weekend, and Mike will be gone for the next week), the crew accomplished everything on the agenda today.

In the morning, we assessed the flowering status of Echinacea in the ’99 South garden. Because plants are spaced at 33cm, it can be very easy to forget at which position you were last measuring. According to Gretel, however, it is not all about using the meter stick: having a good approximate distance in mind can really boost efficiency.

After we finished in the ’99 South garden, we moved on to assess flowering in the ’96/’97 and ’99 gardens. For each plant, we noted the presence of aphids as well as whether or not the plant was expected to flower. Only 2 plants possessed conspicuous aphids.


In the afternoon, the conditions couldn’t have been better for a third day of Stipa searching! This particular activity seems to be the most polarizing of anything we have done thus far. Out of everyone, Sarah derives the most enjoyment from searching for this elusive grass – this is likely due to the fact that she consistently finds the greatest number of Stipa plants. Today, however, Gretel topped her by two plants. At the end of the day, the whereabouts of 43 Stipa were noted and logged.

Sarah and Gretel drove to Stapphanson later in the afternoon to look for flowering Echinacea. While they were doing that, Dayvis, Lydia, Ise, and I went out to Hegg Lake. Dayvis looked for flowering Echinacea to use in his pollinator experiment, while I flagged the seven angustifolia parents of the one year-old hybrids that I’ll be studying.

On the home front, grilled cheese with tomato and onion is on the dinner menu for tonight. Reina found a loaf of blue, moldy bread in the fridge, and rumors abound regarding the origin of the abandoned walker in the basement.