2019 Update: Pollinators on Roadsides

The diversity and abundance of bees native to the tallgrass prairies of Minnesota are declining; one potential reason is changes in how land is used and managed. Native bees provide vital pollination services to our native prairie plants as well as agricultural crops. It is important to understand the factors involved in the decline of pollinators so they can be combatted and our plants be protected. In summer 2019, the focus of the Pollinators on Roadsides project was to collect bees using yellow pan traps and to take into account the burn history of the collection sites. We investigated the burn history of the collection sites to compare the bee collections from the last three years and determine if there is a relationship between burning and pollinator community composition. Thanks to local government records, inquiry with private land owners, and observation of recent burn evidence we discovered which of the 38 sites had a history of prescribed burning.

In summer 2019 Shea Issendorf and John Van Kampen collected a total of 422 bees from 38 yellow pan traps placed six times throughout the field season (June 28, July 11, July 18, July 31, August 8 and August 19). Trap locations include different land types such as agriculture, restored prairie and developed land. We determined the burn history of the trap locations in the last three years (2019, 2018 and 2017,) and whether the burns occurred in the spring, fall or both. We stored the bees in in vials of ethanol in freezers until they were pinned by Shea Issendorf and Mike Humphrey. We found that a lunchbox with ice packs could comfortably hold all the vials from a collection date for transportation from the field to the CBG.

The design and goal of this experiment is based on the original 2004 experiment by Wagenius and Lyon. They studied the relationship between characteristics of land and the abundance and diversity of pollinators. Using the data that came out of 2004, the reboot in 2017, and the continuation throughout 2018 and 2019, we observe how pollinator abundance and diversity has changed. With this valuable evidence of declining native pollinator communities, there is opportunity to change the way in which natural lands are used and how surrounding lands are treated (such as through burning, herbicide application and fragmentation).

Yellow pan traps resemble the yellow flowers of the Asteraceae family that native bees are attracted to.

 Start Year: 2004, rebooted 2017

Location: Roadsides/ditches around Solem Township. GPS coordinates for each trap are in a Google Map which Stuart Wagenius can share as needed.

Overlaps With: Ground nesting bees

Data/Materials Collected: 386 bee specimens collected; currently dried, pinned and stored at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  Specimens will be classified by Mike Humphrey before being sent to the University of Minnesota for further identification

Pinning records:

~Dropbox\teamEchinacea2019\sheaIssendorf\YPT 2019 Si\Si_YPTdatasheets2019.xlsx

 Land uses/7 traps that have burn history within last 3 years:

~Dropbox\teamEchinacea2019\sheaIssendorf\YPT 2019 Si\YPT trap land uses 1.xlsx

Other files associated with the project can be found in the folder


Team Members involved with this project: Shea Issendorf (2019), Mike Humphrey (2018-2019), John Van Kampen (2018-2019), Kristen Manion (2017-2018), Evan Jackson (2018), Alex Hajek (2017), and Steph Pimm Lyon (2004)

You can read more about pollinators on roadsides, as well as links to prior flog entries mentioning the experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

Rain Rain Go Away

Hello FLOG!

Hope you all had a wonderful Monday. Here, at the Echinacea Project, we had to wait a little bit to get our outside work started. It rained all morning and through lunch but very conveniently stopped as the time came to resume the work day. Since the plots were too wet the team decided to pick up with some demography and search for this year’s flowering plants out at Loeffler’s corner.

Throwing it back to this morning, I think it’d be fair to say that a team Echinacea trapped indoors is still a productive team Echinacea. The rainy morning called for computer time, during which many of us made progress on our independent projects and other various jobs. While the team congregated around a table in the main room of Hjelm, I took to the basement to work at my pinning station. I now have over 100 bees pinned and labeled with specimen IDs. I can use the IDs to trace each bee back to the vial and trap that it came from, along with the date it was collected. My next step was to roughly organize the bees by morphospecies(pictured below). The picture does not do them justice, but these bees are COOL! I’m excited to look at them closer and identify the many unique traits that the different species have. Allison Grecco paid us a visit today as well and it was very nice to get to share with her my project update! Best of luck with your master’s Allison!

John also shared with us at lunch, his summer project update. He has a unique opportunity to take what we do at the Echinacea Project in the summer and incorporate it into his teaching at West Central Area High School. He has a lot of fun and engaging activities planned for his students this coming school year. I’m excited for you all to hear/read more about it!

Until next time,

Shea Issendorf

A little bit of everything!

Yesterday, John and I got started bright and early to set out our yellow pan traps. John takes half the route and I have the other half, and we converge back at Hjelm, but it’s not until the afternoon that the fun stuff happens. When we got back to Hjelm around 9:30 we found the rest of the team had completed the great goat move in which they intricately move the goats to another area to chew down the buckthorn. I believe that job ended with a conversation about which goat Stuart would choose to roast on the large bonfire we plan on having soon. Let’s just say this, Style the Goat has another thing coming, and moving the goats is not Team Echinacea’s easiest task.

As the day commenced, it was time for some Demo and Surv at Around Landfill. There were many plants to make records for so one team took off with Checkov and another with Darwin, our two GPS units, to find our beloved Echinacea plants. We found a lot of flowering plants as we weaved in and out of barbed wire and avoided electric fences. Active searching was in full force as we scoped every likely and unlikely area for Echinacea to inhabit, hoping to find some newly flowering plants.

Over lunch, Drake and Jay updated us on their personal projects/experiments and I’m excited to learn more as they continue to develop. It’s been fun this summer seeing everyone take on their role as a teammate. We often help each other with our personal projects and are always open to asking and answering questions to bounce ideas off one another.

John and I left Surv a little early in the afternoon to collect our pan traps and bees. This was our 5th collection this summer and we have one more to go. There is still a fair amount of bees to be pinned but I have narrowed down my study field so I know which trap collections to prioritize for my personal project and the pinning that relates to that. The rest of the team is off to do more Orchid work tomorrow in Northern Minnesota so we wish them the best of luck and safe travels!

Until next time,

Shea Issendorf.

Battle of the Aphids

Hello FLOG friends,

well, what feels like ages ago (actually about a month ago) Erin and I began the Aphid addition and exclusion experiment for the 2019 season. We volunteered for this task, not knowing a whole lot about what we were getting ourselves into, but we read up on past FLOG posts and procedures and even got a live demonstration from Stuart to learn how to properly remove and transplant aphids. What used to take us over 2 hours, we can now get done in just a little over an hour, so I guess you could say we are no longer novices. You’ll see in a picture or two below but these specialist aphids are not big, at all, and they definitely aren’t good cooperators, but once or twice a week Erin and I take to the field with our petri dishes and paint brushes ready for a fight.

We start each round by checking our 15 exclusion plants for aphids, and if we find any we record the amount and then harvest them for later. The tricky part about aphids is that they don’t like the sun, and they don’t like to move a whole lot unless they have to. So as we turn over leaves, exposing the aphids to the obnoxious UV, and poke at them with brush bristles, trying to agitate them into freeing themselves from the leaf, we wonder why they try to escape our dishes. As this experiment has progressed we’ve seen success in our exclusion efforts, which means that once we remove aphids from a plant we haven’t seen many come back.

Now on the other hand, we have addition. Our addition plants don’t seem too happy with us all the time. At each plant we record how many aphids it has retained and we carefully add some more. The majority of the time we add 10 aphids to each addition plants. With the passing of brushes, wrangling of aphids, and a steady hand, we get the job done. Most days, like today, the sun doesn’t give us a break, but we’ve learned to have some sort of patience as we putz around with bugs in the grass.

The management of Aphids has proven to be a much more complex task than Erin and I initially thought, but it’s been fun. The aphids make good company in the prairie as we like to talk to them, sometimes nicely, and while I can’t speak for Erin, this experiment has taught me a lot about the behind the scenes of field work. While it is a simple project, there’s nothing simple about getting 100+ speck sized bugs from one group of plants to another. This project has taught me a lot about the importance of having patience and finding purpose in our work.

Until next time,

Shea Issendorf.

Would you rather pin or leash a bee?

This chilly Wednesday morning started off in P2 where we completed yet another round of flower phenology. It won’t be long until we are going over end flowering protocol. There are over 1,000 heads in P2 alone this year and we have our hands full trying to keep up with their flowering rate. It rained on and off all day long, but we’re cultivating grit, and the fieldwork must carry on!

John and I have been very grateful to have Jennifer Ison and the Wooster students around this week. Jennifer taught us a lot of helpful tricks today for pinning the bees that we’ve collected in the yellow pan traps. John will attest, however, that old eyes and shaky hands that come as we get older, don’t make pinning any easier.

In other bee news, today Jennifer and Miyauna attempted to attach a string to a bee so they could watch it fly and attempt to recapture it. The idea of putting a bee on a leash was enough to get us laughing, but in the end, the attempt failed. We’ll have to wait and see what tomorrow brings.

Many of us ended the day in P8 where we continued our measuring of Echinacea seedlings. We have yet to find any more flowering plants out there, but we’re hopeful. The search for toothpicks and measuring of leaves went very well and the plants are looking great!

Until next time Flog, stay dry, and just know that we aren’t:) – Shea Issendorf

Plot 2 and Plot 8, Phenology and Measuring

Hello Flog readers,

Today Team Echinacea took on some daunting tasks. We started the morning in P2 where we continued making phenology records, searching for heads of Echinacea Angustifolia and tagging them with twist ties. The visor entries were continuous, and the number of flowering plants was quite impressive. In some rows there was a plant every meter with at least three heads, many were even flowering. Folks, we are in flowering season!

This picture doesn’t do it justice, but the number of flags that we have gone through in order to mark the budding plants is remarkable
& we can’t forget the dog Misty that we saw on our way back to base.

With some spare time in our day, we made a small dent in Stipa rechecks out in P1. We paired up and did our best to search for Stipa that hadn’t been flagged or identified already. Drake and I found a Stipa plant with 12 culms today and we had to make records of the many missing fruits because it’s seed dropping time for Stipa and let me tell ya, finding one in your sock is not very pleasant. After lunch, let’s just say that the sun was making itself known, but there was measuring to be done in P8. So off went team Echinacea (2019), down the gravel road and into P8, ready to crouch down in the tall grass and hunt for some toothpicks. That’s right, we are toothpick hunters, tall grass, green ash, and thick duff has nothing on us. Not only did we find a ton of seedlings but we also got to measure them to add to the records of their growth. Amy even found a FLOWERING ECHINACEA PLANT, IN P8!! Very exciting!

We hope you have a wonderful Fourth of July, & thanks for reading!

-Shea Issendorf

Stipa, Dykstra, and Darwin, oh my!

We dove right into work this Wednesday morning. The first task of the day required our whole team to gear up with flag bags, meter sticks, and visors and trek down to experimental plot 1, where a few of us were taught, and others were reminded, how to actively search for and measure Hesperostipa spartea, or Stipa as we referred to it. We paired up and as small teams did our best to locate either the very small and narrow blades of basal Stipa plants or the more obvious awns of the flowering Stipa. Micheal and I tackled rows 39 and 19, and while hoping to identify more plants, with the help of our active search skills, we were able to spot and measure 1 basal and 4 flowering plants. I learned a lot from Micheal as we “searched for grass in the sea of grass” and I appreciate his willingness to teach. I’m referring to a couple locations when he would abruptly stop his stroll, give me a look out of the corner of his eye, and wait for me to spot the plant that he had just found. Micheal, thank you for your patience! We used our visor to record the location of each plant and the measurements that pertained to it such as culm and fruit count, along with aborted and missing fruit counts. We aim to continue this search in the next day or two in hopes that cloudier conditions and more experienced searchers will result in more Stipa measurements for our 2019 data.

“Searching for grass in a sea of grass” – Micheal LaScaleia
Riley is examining the Stipa plant that him and Erin found with 15 culms.

Amy Dykstra graced us with her presence in the field as well today and gave a post-lunch presentation on her dissertation work and some ongoing studies. Amy asked a lot of great questions in her research and was able to connect them to her findings regarding the future success of Echinacea Angustifolia in fragmented prairie. Her research gave me a lot to think about regarding the Echinacea project’s history as a whole and more specifically, the impact that prairie fragmentation makes on the genetic diversity of our prairie remnants. It’s presentations like Amy’s that are helping me continue to learn and develop my own proposal for this summer.

John rigged up an IMAX quality theater for us out on the porch today. Amy thanks for embracing the ambiance!

Last but not least, John and I were eager to get out and stake this afternoon for our yellow pan trap experiment. We have 38 sites within a 5 mile radius of the Hjelm house, and at each site we will have one flagged stake for catching bees. John and I were excited to take out the infamous Darwin (the Echinacea project’s GPS device) to stake our sites. We got about halfway done and will have to finish up tomorrow, but we’re excited to start catching and eventually pinning and identifying our local pollinators. We’ll keep you updated on what we find, but in the meantime we’ll be cruising the countryside in a van, with Darwin.

Shea Issendorf

Echinacea Project 2019

Alexandria Area High School. Graduating in 2020

Research Interests

I am interested in studying EVERYTHING! I am going into this summer with an open mind since this will be my first exposure to research outside of a high school classroom. Biology has always been my favorite subject in school and I am very excited to get to dive deeper into ecology and evolutionary plant biology. I’m hoping to gain a lot from this summer whether it be collection and analysis techniques, procedure planning, or just an overall better understanding of environmental science. I am eager to learn and can’t wait to get started!


I have lived in the Alexandria area for my whole life and Minnesota summers have always been my favorite part. I love to spend time out on the lake with my family and friends, fishing a lot and tubing as much as I can, but when I’m not on the lake, I’m playing soccer.  Sadly, our summers do only last about three months around here so I also try to travel as much as I can with my family. And lastly, I am still undecided but I would love to pursue Biology at the University of Minnesota in the fall of 2020.

(Here’s a photo of me … I’m on the right)