Mia Stevens

Echinacea Project 2022

Research Interests

My research interests are in how plants interact with their surrounding organisms and environment. And in this pollination biology perfectly is nesseled quite nicely. I am particularly interested in studying how disturbance affects plant pollinator interactions. I have enjoyed using molecular work to follow where pollen is moving in populations of plants. 


I have been working as a research intern with the Echinacea Project since the summer of 2020! Wow how time flies when you are having fun! I will only be on the team for part of the summer this year as I am moving on to a new position at Michigan State! I am very excited to be around for the next month, planning on getting into some good trouble! In my spare time I like to knit, embroider, bake and practice yoga.

Jared, Alex, Lindsey, and I have now been in Douglas county, MN, for around a week give or take getting things ready for the start of the field season tomorrow. This includes a big supply run. Today Alex and I had some fun visiting five different stores in Alexandria (hereafter Alec (I know it is spelled Alex but that gets confusing once Alex (the person) is involved)). The least fruitful of these stops based on items crossed of lists was Fleet Farm. Fleet Farm was the most fruitful in fun! We had some good fun with their “big hat” selection. Lindsey is the only one in the Elk Lake house who didn’t have a “big hat” so Alex and I picked one up for her. But we wouldn’t dare choose for her so I modeled the different “big hats” and Alex sent photos to Lindsey and she chose which of the big hats she wanted. Now all members of the Elk Lake House have big hats and we all can be protected from the sun in style.

THEN when we were leaving in the parking lot we ran into Sophia! (not literally everyone is ok) What a funny coincidence I guess Alec isn’t that big but still hilarious!

Moral of the story: let your big hat be a personality trait, and post silly things on the Flog

What we need in a data collection system:

Our current data collection system software is pendragon forms run on Handspring Visors. This system works well, we love the visors, they are cheap and do the job. However, the Visors are 2000’s technology and the system is starting to become somewhat precarious. So we are starting to consider alternative systems. Gretel looked into potential new systems in 2016 with minimal luck.

We are hoping in the past six or so years that technology has devolved that will allow us to potentially replace the visors!

What we need in a Data Collection System:

  • allow for pre-loading data (list of positions to be measured)
  • allow for fast and efficient data entry (including ability to switch between records using a back or next button)
  • allow for parent-child form relationship (plant — heads)
  • auto-repeat of child form
  • safeguard against data loss
  • allow viewing of form/data entry in record view vs. field view
  • include dropdown, multi-selection boxes
  • ability to hold more than 250 records without slowing down
  • physical hardware is backlight making it easy to read in the field

E. pallida & hybrid heads 2020

A note to future Team Echinacea members: Are you still wearing masks all the time? Are you still 3 years behind on cleaning Echinacea heads or have you caught up a little bit?

Anyway, in the summer of 2020 there were 18 heads of Echinacea pallida that were harvested. 11 of these heads were a part of Anna Meehan’s hybrid compatibility experiment. All of the pallida heads are NOT going through the ACE process; they are in the lab all together nice and neat. These 18 pallida heads will not be a part of hh2020. EXCEPT the hybrid plant head (AP-772) who will stay apart of hh.2020 since we need achene count eventually but for now it will stay here until it is dissected.

The heads are in a box labeled “Anna Meehan’s Hybrid Compatibility experiment & E. pallida heads 2020″ in the glass cabinets right as you enter the ecology lab.

The hybrid compatibility experiment would be a perfect project for a student in the lab for a few weeks. They could asses the compatibility of the hybrid with not only the E. angustifolia but also the E. pallida. The experiment is designed with backcrosses (hybrid to parent) and forward crosses (parent to hybrid don’t know if this is the right word I just made it up). The student would be able to access seed set on the hybrid, E. angustifolia, & E. pallida heads. The sample size is fairly small but this would conclude a good pilot study for further studies of the hybrid compatibilities. We also need achene count of the hybrid plant (AP-227)!

2021 Update: Pollen addition and exclusion

Reproduction in plants can be limited by access to pollen and resources. We previously found that Echinacea plants in the remnants are pollen limited, meaning that if they had access to more pollen, they would produce more seeds. However, the long-term effects of pollen limitation are unknown. Do plants that are super pollen saturated and have high amounts of pollen have a higher lifetime fitness than plants that are pollen limited? Also, we know that the plants in the remnants are pollen limited, but are the plants in the common garden environment also pollen limited? To answer these questions and more, 13 years ago Gretel randomly selected __ plants from p1; half of these plants were randomly assigned to the pollen addition group, and the others were assigned to pollen exclusion. Every year, plants in the pollen exclusion have their heads bagged and they are not pollinated, while we hand cross every style in the pollen addition group.

In the summer of 2021, 23 of the original 39 plants were found to be basal. There were no flowering plants this year, so no crosses occurred.

Start year: 2012

Location: exPt1

Physical specimens: No heads were harvested in 2021.

Data collected: Plant survival and measurements were recorded as part of our annual surveys in P1 and eventually will be found in the R package EchinaceaLab. Data sheets were scanned and entered and can be found here: “~/Dropbox/CGData/115_pollenLimitation/pollenLimitation2021”

You can find more information about the pollen addition and exclusion experiment and links to previous flog posts regarding this experiment at the background page for the experiment.

2020 Update: Pollen addition and exclusion

Reproduction in plants can be limited by access to pollen and resources. We previously found that Echinacea plants in the remnants are pollen limited, meaning that if they had access to more pollen they would produce more seeds. However, the long-term effects of pollen limitation are unknown. Do plants that are super pollen saturated and have high amounts of pollen have a higher lifetime fitness than plants that are pollen limited? Also, we know that the plants in the remnants are pollen limited but are the plants in the common garden environment also pollen limited? To answer these questions and more 13 years ago Gretel randomly selected __ plants from p1 half of these plants were randomly assigned to the pollen addition group and the others were assigned to pollen exclusion. Every year, plants in the pollen exclusion have their heads bagged and they are not pollinate, where we hand cross every style in the pollen addition group.

In the summer of 2020, 27 of the original 39 plants were found to be alive 13 of the alive plants were in the pollen exclusion treatment and 14 were in the pollen addition treatment. There were nine plants that flowered, 5 were in the addition group with 12 heads, and 4 in the exclusion group with 6 heads.

Start year: 2012

Location: exPt1

Physical specimens: We harvested 18 heads, these heads are at CBG and have been inventoried and are waiting to be cleaned.

Data collected: Plants survival and measurements were recorded as part of our annual surveys in P1 and eventually will be found in the R package EchinaceaLab. Data sheets were scanned and entered and can be found here: “~/Dropbox/CGData/115_pollenLimitation/pollenLimitation2020”

You can find more information about the pollen addition and exclusion experiment and links to previous flog posts regarding this experiment at the background page for the experiment.

2021 Update: Common garden experiments

Since 1996, members of Team Echinacea have walked, crawled, and ~sometimes~ run next to rows of Echinacea angustifolia planted in common garden experiments. Although protocol varies depending on the experimental plot, every year team members record flowering phenology data, measuring data, and harvest the heads of the thousands of plants we have in common garden experiments.

Note that these experiments are not really gardens. “Common garden” refers to the experimental design. Most of our experimental plots are prairie restorations, a few are abandoned ag fields that are manged as grassland habitat. Some plots have multiple experiments within. The Echinacea Project currently has 10 established experimental plots:

exPts01-10. To avoid repetitiveness of reports on yearly phenology, measuring, and harvesting, this project status report will include updates on all experimental plots 1, 4, 5, and 8. Reports for the others will be elsewhere: Jennifer’s plot (exPt02) Amy Dykstra’s plot (exPt03), the hybrid plots (exPt06, exPt07, exPt09), and the West Central Area common garden (exPt10).

exPt01: Experimental plot 1 was first planted in 1996 (cleverly termed the 1996 cohort), and has been planted with nine other experiments in subsequent years, with the most recent planting being Amy Waananen’s inter-remnant crosses. It is the largest of the experimental plots, with over 10,000 planted positions; experiments in the plot include testing fitness differences between remnants (1996, 1997, 1999), quantifying effects of inbreeding (inb1inb2), and assessing quantitative genetic variation (qgen1). There are also a number of smaller experiments in it, including fitness of Hesperostipa sparteaaphid addition and exclusion, and pollen addition and exclusion. In 2021, we visited 6,673 of the original 10,673 planted and found 3,085 alive. Only 79 plants were classified as “flowering” in exPt01 this year. This is a drastic decrease from the 484 plants that flowered in summer 2020 – perhaps it is a testament to the benefits of controlled burning (we burned in spring 2020 but not in 2021). In summer 2021, we harvested 77 total Echinacea heads in exPt01 (we have not finished the inventory process). In the fall, we added 403 staples to positions where plants were gone for three straight years. We also converted the flaple>s (pin flags bent in half in spots where we ran out of staples) into regular old staples. There are no more flaples in p1!

exPt04: Experimental plot 4 was planted to gauge whether Echinacea from small remnant populations could be genetically rescued via an outcross to larger, more genetically diverse populations. Caroline Ridley and other members planted this plot in 2008. We did not measure exPt04 this year, but there were no flowering plants. Location: Hegg Lake WMA

exPt05: The only experimental plot planted at Staffanson Prairie Preserve (SPP), exPt05, was planted to compare progeny of maternal plants from burned and unburned sections of SPP. There were 2800 plants planted originally, but high mortality made it impractical to visit the plot row-by-row. Now, we and treat the plot like demography. We use our survey-grade GPS to find plants in exPt05 that have previously flowered and add more plants to the stake file if new plants in the plot flower. In 2021 we found 11 living plants, three of which were flowering! There was only two head to collect, one head was toppled. Location: Staffanson Prairie Preserve

exPt08: Team Echinacea established quantitative genetics experiments to quantify additive genetic variance of fitness in Echinacea, with the idea that we can estimate evolutionary potential of study populations. The maternal parents of qGen2 and qGen3 are plants in the 1996, 1997, and 1999 cohorts. These plants were crossed with pollen from plants in remnants to produce seed for qGen2 and qGen3, which now inhabit exPt08. Originally, 12,813 seeds were sown in the common garden. Seeds from the same cross (shared maternal and paternal plants) were sown in meter-long segments between nails. A total of 3,253 seedlings were originally found, but only 443 plants were found alive in 2021. There were 28 flowering plants in 2021, and 32 heads. This is the most flowering heads in p8 we have ever seen, the first year plants flowered in p8 was 2019 and in 2020 five plants flowered. Note that there were an additional 14 heads collected from transplant plot.

Plot management: To ensure that the common garden environment is as similar as possible to the prairie environment we must actively manage it. This management includes removing foreign species and supplementing with natives. One of our main management methods is through fire. We were able to burn burn p8 this spring and hope to burn p1 this spring. We also collected seed to spread after burns including Schizachyrium scoparium, Bouteloua curtipendula, along with multiple species of Solidago and quite a few Asters.

Asclepias viridiflora in p1: In 2019, plugs of an uncommon prairie milkweed, Asclepias viridiflora, were planted in Experimental plot 1. The purpose of this experiment is to assess the survival and fitness of A. viridiflora. Assessing vitality will also provide a frame of reference for species conservation across modern prairies. We did not assess the A. viridiflora plants this year.

Hesperostipa demography:  In 2009 and 2010, porcupine grass (Hesperostipa spartea, a.k.a. “stipa”) was planted in experimental plot 1. In total, 4417 seeds were planted, 1 m apart from each other and all 10 cm north of Echinacea plants. Between 2010 and 2013, each position was checked, and the plant status recorded. Since 2014, we have searched for flowering plants. The data from this summer can be found here cgdata/summer2021/stipaSearch & Dropbox/CGData/Stipa/225_measure/measure2021 in addition to data in these locations there may be paper data sheets that may or may not have been entered yet. These data have not been processed yet.

Inb1: The INB1 experiment investigates the relationship between inbreeding level and fitness in Echinacea angustifolia. Each plant in experiment INB1 originates from one of three cross types, depending on the relatedness of the parents: between maternal half siblings; between plants from the same remnant, but not sharing a maternal or paternal parent; and between individuals from different remnants. We continued to measure fitness and flowering phenology in these plants. In 2021, of the original 557 plants in INB1, 95 were still alive. Of the plants that were alive this year, there was only one flowering plant. All individuals were planted in 2001.

qgen: The qGen1 (quantitative genetics) experiment in p1 was designed to quantify the heritability of traits in Echinacea angustifolia. We are especially interested in Darwinian fitness. Could fitness be heritable? During the summer of 2002 we crossed plants from the 1996 & 1997 cohorts of exPt01. We harvested heads, dissected achenes, and germinated seeds over the winter. In the Spring of 2003 we planted the resulting 4468 seedlings (this great number gave rise to this experiment’s nickname “big batch”). In 2021 we assessed survival and fitness measures of the qGen1 plants. 1,519 plants in qGen1 were alive in 2021. Of those, 2.4% flowered in 2021, this is down from 17% last year. All were planted in 2003.

Team moral: Measuring experimental plot 1 is a large task for the team, it takes many days, usually hot days, with a project as large as this it is hard for the team to feel a sense of progress each day. So this year in hopes to keep the team more motivated I(Mia) took two strategies. First, we constructed a physical progress tracker, each square represented a segment in the plot A segment is a section of a row, rows are too big so we break them into sections for ease of measuring. After each day of measuring the team was able to count how many segments they completed and color in each square. The team had fun with their square decoration and got creative with it, there was various themes, fruits, names for peoples last days etc. I also made maps of the plot for each day of measuring that were color coded with what positions have been measured and which ones haven’t. Lastly, I do believe I may have bribed the team with cookies. Having multiple different forms of motivation, really kept the team motived and made the project less daunting. It was also added some excitement into measuring p1, a task that isn’t known for being too exciting.

For more information on survival in common garden experiments, see this flog post about survival in common gardens.

Start year: Various, see individual listings above. First ever planting was 1996.

Location: Various, see above

Overlaps with: Pretty much everything we do.

Data/ materials collected: Measure data for all plots. All raw measure data available in cgData repository. Processed data should eventually be available in SQL database; ask GK for status of SQL database.

  • new p79 stake file: Jared made a cleaned up stake file for p7 and p9 that can be found here
  • p2 stake file/points shot: Amy shot points in p2 this year the points can be found in these 3 jobs
    • “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/convertedXML2021/P2_20210715_DARW.xml”
    • “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/convertedXML2021/P2_20210722_DARW.xml”
    • “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/convertedXML2021/P2_20210802_COLL.xml”
  • exPt5 stake file: plants is here: “~Dropbox/geospatialDataBackup2021/stakeFiles2021/exPt05stakeFile2021.csv”

Products: Many publications and independent projects.

2021 Update: Insects on Echinacea heads

We know that burning has a positive effect on flowering in Echinacea. However, fire effects on insects are highly variable. There is very little known about how fire affects insect abundance, particularly how fire affects beneficial insects and their predators. Insect predators such as robber flies, ambush bugs, and crab spiders tend to hunt on Echinacea heads or other inflorescences. The increase in flowering heads may increase the prevalence of bee predators. In addition, the 2021 field crew had a high interest in insects. Therefore, we decided to investigate the abundance of beneficial and insect predators on Echinacea heads.

We were able to take advantage of the burned and unburned remnants to investigate this. Starting on July 7th, during phenology we recorded if any insects were present on each head. If any insects were present, we filled out a multi-selection list preloaded with common insects seen on Echinacea heads. Since we were utilizing the phenology data set, we have data on insects from approximately 2,292 heads every three days from July 7th until the end of the season. We ended up having a MASSIVE data set: 11,941 observations of whether insects were present on Echinacea heads or not.

  • Start year: 2021
  • Location: All remnant prairie sites (n=32) where phenology was taken
  • Overlaps with: Maris’s bee project, Liatris insects on flowering heads, Miyauna’s mark and recapture experiment
  • Data collected: Presence/absence data of insects on Echinacea heads. This data has not been cleaned yet, but all the data are in the aiisummer2021/phen folder
  • Samples or specimens collected: no samples were collected
  • Products: Stay tuned!

2021 Update: Heritability of flowering time

To examine the role flowering phenology plays in the reproduction of Echinacea angustifolia, Jennifer Ison planted this plot in 2006 with 3,961 individuals selected for extreme (early or late) flowering timing, or phenology. Using the phenological data collected this summer, we explore how flowering phenology influences reproductive fitness and estimate the heritability of flowering time in E. angustifolia.

In summer 2021, we visited 2,010 positions of the 3,961 positions originally planted. We measured 1,591 living plants, of which 681 were flowering, with a total of 1,283 flowering heads. In the fall, we harvested ~615 heads from exPt02. We do not have an exact number of heads harvested from exPt02 yet because we have not had time to complete head inventory. The large difference between the number of heads and the number harvested has to do with high levels of seed predation, mainly by ground squirrels.

Measuring p2 involved 9 different people working a total of 4295 minutes (71.58 hours) on 4 separate days.

To learn more about flowering phenology in exPt02 in 2021, see the PSR on phenology in experimental plots.

The team poses for a photo after a successful day of hazy measuring

Start year: 2006

Location: Experimental Plot 2, Hegg Lake WMA

Overlaps with: phenology in experimental plots, phenology in the remnants

Physical specimens: We harvested approximately 615 heads from exPt 2. Many heads were harvested by ground squirrels, so our number of heads does not match the number harvested. We brought the harvested heads back to the lab, where we will count fruits and assess seed set for each head.

Data collected: We collected data on each position planted. We recorded whether the plant was alive; if it was alive, whether it was flowering or basal. Basal plants had information about number of basal rosettes, number of basal leaves, and length of longest leaf. For flowering plants, we collected rosette counts and the height of each flowering head. When harvesting, we collected samples of loose achenes and recorded where they were from. Next spring, we will search for seedlings at these positions to ensure that there are not any rouge plants.

Products: Will and Jennifer are working on a manuscript using the flowering phenology data from this plot.

You can find more information about the heritability of flowering time and links to previous flog posts at the background page for the experiment.

2021 Update: Echinacea hybrids (exPts 6,7,9) and Echinacea pallida flowering phenology

Echinacea pallida flowering phenology: Echinacea pallida is a species of Echinacea that is not native to Minnesota. It was mistakenly introduced to our study area during a restoration of Hegg Lake WMA. Since 2011, Team Echinacea has visited the pallida restoration, taken flowering phenology, and collected demography on the non-native. We have decapitated all flowering E. pallida each year to avoid cross-pollination with the local Echinacea angustifolia. Each year, we record the number of heads on each plant and the number of rosettes. We also get precise gps coordinates of all plants and then chop the flowering heads off! This year, we cut E. pallida heads off on July 6th and 8th. We shot gps points as they were found; in the fall, we revisited the plants and did not find any stragglers.

Overall, we found and shot 143 flowering E. pallida plants, and 433 heads in total, averaging 3.02 heads per plant. The average rosette count was 5, the maximum was 27 rosettes — absolutely massive!! When recording data on E. pallida, we forgot that we needed phenology data, so the data from the 6th does not have any phen at all, and the data from the 8th is in the demo form in notes as a string. We do not have very accurate data on phenology of E. pallida this year, but our estimated first day flowering is June 22nd.

Pallida demo/cut/surv involved 7 different people working a total of 1170 minutes (19.5 hours) on 3 separate days.

Location: Hegg Lake WMA Start year: 2011

You can find more information about E. pallida flowering phenology and previous flog posts on the background page for the experiment.

exPt6: Experimental plot 6 was the first E. angustifolia x E. pallida hybrid plot planted by Team Echinacea. A total of 66 Echinacea hybrids were originally planted; all have E. angustifolia dams and E. pallida sires. In 2021, we visited 31 positions and found 15 living plants. No plants have flowered in this plot yet. 

Location: near exPt8 Start year: Crossing in 2011, planting in 2012

You can find more information about experimental plot 6 and previous flog posts about it on the background page for the experiment.

exPt7: Planted in 2013, experimental plot #7 was the second E. pallida E. angustifolia plot. It contains conspecific crosses of each species as well as reciprocal hybrids. There were 294 plants planted. This summer, we visited 176, and of these plants, only 136 plants were still alive. There were 13 flowering plants this year! This is the most flowering plants that this plot has produced. These 26 flowering plants produced 26 heads. We have not yet used the pedigree data to see what number of these plants are hybrids or not.

Location: Hegg Lake WMA Start year: Crossing in 2012, planting in 2013

You can find more information about experimental plot 7 and previous flog posts about it on the background page for the experiment.

exPt9: Experimental plot 9 is a hybrid plot, but, unlike the other two hybrid plots, we do not have a perfect pedigree of the plants. That is because the E. angustifolia and E. pallida maternal plants used to generate seedlings for exPt9 were open-pollinated. We need to do paternity analysis to find the true hybrid nature of these crosses (assuming there are any hybrids). There were originally 745 seedlings planted in exPt9. We found 261 living plants in 2021, 20 of which were flowering, with 42 heads! There were 138 plants that we searched for but could not find.

Location: Hegg Lake WMA Start year: 2014

You can find out more information about experimental plot 9 and flog posts mentioning the experiment on the background page for the experiment.

Measuring p6/7/9 involved 8 different people working a total of 1380 minutes (23 hours) on 2 separate days.

Experimental plots 6, 7, and 9 all burned this year. The peak in number of flowering plants in both p7 and p9 this year is indicative of the effect fire can have on flowering in Echinacea. In the past we have bagged heads in these plots but this year we did not.

Overlaps with: demographic census in remnants

Data collected for exp679: For all three plots, we collected rosette number, length of all leaves, and herbivory for each plant. We used visors to collect data electronically, and it is still being processed to be put into our SQL database.

Data collected for E. pallida demography and phenology: Demography data, head counts, rosette counts, gps points shot for each E. pallida. Find demo and phenology visor records in the aiisummer2021 repository. GPS coordinates can be found in demap. As mentioned above, all phenology data from July 8th can be found in demo. For more details, see aiiSummer2021/demo/pallidaPhen.R.

Roadkill Birthday

Hi Flog

Yesterday was my birthday, this is the second birthday that I have celebrated out here in Western Minnesota. The work day started with some sling (seedling re-finds), Alex and I did sling at Steven’s Approach and then we set off to Nessman. We quickly discovered that part of the site was mowed, and we had to go back to Hjelm to get the GPS to re-find the circles we needed to visit. We were driving away from Nessman at the corner of Dairy drive and 27 I saw something on the road. I asked Alex what it was, and she peeked out the passenger side window and said, “it’s a zucchini!” As we drove back to get the GPS, we contemplated whether we should rescue the zucchini or not. Once we saw the zucchini again, we knew we had to rescue it. After we finished at Nessman, we set of to procure our roadkill! We decided that it was most likely fell of a truck and then was run over. We scooped it up and removed the ant and millipede then buckled it into the back seat.

We then set off to Staffanson to visit two more sling circles, the two circles are on complete opposite ends of the prairie preserve. Neither circle was fairly straight forward so after we finished the last circle Alex flopped down onto the ground, I quickly joined her, and we just laid there for 10 minutes staring up at the sky taking it all in. We eventually decided that we should probably head back for lunch, and after a bit of a hike back to the car we were shocked to see the zucchini since we had forgotten all about it.

After lunch I set of two experimental plot 1 to try and sort out some issues with the measuring data. Alex and Jared worked on sorting out some demo problems. It got up to 84 degrees Fahrenheit which might be the record high for September 28th (or at least it is based on my working memory).

For dinner Jared made spring rolls, he even had ripe avocados! Spring rolls have been a staple/highlight of the summer meals. After a yummy dinner Alex and I set out to turn our roadkill into cake. We quickly determined that the zucchini was in fact not zucchini but some other sort of squash. We decided out of impatience to not peel the squash. After making the cake and very patiently waiting for it to cool, we tasted it and it was surprisingly slightly crunchy. Overall it was a wonderful day, spent in a great place, with good friends, and good food.

Moral of the story: Always peel the roadkill