Spring sprungs again at CBG

Today marks the first day since that frighteningly warm week in February when Abby and I have eaten our lunch outside. We celebrated this landmark day with a meander around some other parts of the garden, where blooms were abound.

A pollinator (I don’t know anything about bugs) visits a magnolia in bloom
The pollinators aren’t the only ones getting all up in the magnolia’s business.

“Sweet and springy and full of hope and longing and wistful and… I’ll leave it at that,” Abby said, when asked to describe how she interpreted the flower’s aroma.

If you take a look below the magnolia in that photo, you’ll see a bunch of green stuff on the ground. Here’s a pic of it up close:

I also don’t know who these are. But aren’t they neat? They look so kind. Each is about the size of a fingernail.

Hopefully this spring is like a garage door spring and not a clicky pen spring. I’m ready for it to hit hard.

Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference 2024

Registration is now open for MEEC! This conference, organized and directed entirely by students, highlights the work of undergraduate and graduate students in poster or oral format.

Many, many Team Echinacea members have presented their research at MEEC in the past (just search MEEC here on the flog). In fact, I presented a poster on aphids with Allie Radin in 2022! Will I be submitting an abstract this year? Only time will tell. But you should!


  • Location: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
  • Abstracts due: 15 March, 2024
  • Conference begins: 6 April, 2024
  • Note: The total solar eclipse is on April 8th, not too far away from the conference…

wm thesis update 2024-02-05

Function function what’s your function?

You know, I can’t remember if I’ve posted any updates or info on my thesis to the flog before. So, I’ll do a more in depth update at some point in the near future explaining the background of the project, what work has gone on, etc. For now, I just want to make more of a celebratory post for making my first ever semi-complex function in R!

For the mathematical work of my thesis, I have multiple different datasets, measures of reproductive effort, and ways of quantifying a phenotype related to fire-stimulated flowering. Different combinations of these variables can significantly change what the end plots looks like. Again, a more in depth explanation is to come, for now, just function.

I developed a function where you can input these arguments as variables and it spits out several plots, the last of which is a parent-offspring regression for both my shared and distinct cohorts. (Did I mention there’s more context to come? This is in media res storytelling.) Check it out:

simplest metrics

most complex metrics

remEa 2023 making its way through ACE!

Most of the hundreds (or thousands!) of Echinacea heads we harvest every year are from our common garden experimental plots. But not all of them! We also harvest heads from local prairie remnants to learn about isolated natural Echinacea populations of different sizes. This year, we harvested 125 heads from the remnants, and they’ve begun their journey through our ACE process at CBG!

Next step next time?

The remnant heads are almost all through the first batch in our process, cleaning. By the end of the ACE process, we’ll be able to quantify multiple components of fitness, such as achene count and seed set, for each individual. But for now, one thing at a time!

Morris Area Schools Science Expo

This week, Abby and I designed a poster, packed our bags, and headed to Minnesota to attend a science expo at Morris Area High School. The event was organized by Britney House (Team Echinacea RET 2022) and provided students of all grade levels an opportunity to explore different career paths and opportunities in science. There were folks with fancy robots and all the newest engineering tech in attendance, but we weren’t the only environmental sciencey group there; we were happy to see the MN DNR, USDA NRCS, and others in attendance.

Abby shows off our poster before the expo begins.

Our goals at the event were to inform people of our work in the area, get kids interested in conservation, and advertise our RET and RAHSS opportunities to local high school students and teachers. We got the opportunity to talk to lots of different people, from kids to community members to other exhibitors!

Wyatt sows seeds of conservation-mindedness in the youth. Future Echinacea Project members?

Many thanks to Britney and the rest of the crew at Morris for organizing such a great experience for students, the community, and orgs like us alike. After the event, we revisited some of our favorite spots around town before heading home the next morning. The jury has concluded that the prairie is just as pretty covered in a layer of snow, even if there’s not that much.

Until next time, quad-county area.

2023 Update: Aphid addition and exclusion

The aphid addition and exclusion experiment was started in 2011 by Katherine Muller. The original experiment included 100 plants selected from exPt01 which were each assigned to have aphids either added or excluded through multiple years. The intention is to assess the impact of the specialist herbivore Aphis echinaceae on Echinacea fitness.

Last summer (2022), team members Emma Reineke and Kennedy Porter were in charge of the experiment and did not find any aphids in exPt01, so they introduced a new population of Aphid echinaeceae into ExPt1. Learn more in the 2022 summer aphid update. During summer 2023, we did not do any fieldwork for this experiment and we didn’t see any aphids while measuring exPt01.

Aphids spotted by Abby VanKempen in 2016
  • Start year: 2011
  • Location: exPt01
  • Overlaps with: Phenology and fitness in P1
  • Data collected: 
    • none in 2023
  • Samples collected: NA
  • Products:
    • Andy Hoyt’s poster presented at the Fall 2018 Research Symposium at Carleton College
    • 2016 paper by Katherine Muller and Stuart on aphids and foliar herbivory damage on Echinacea
    • 2015 paper by Ruth Shaw and Stuart on fitness and demographic consequences of aphid loads

You can read more about the aphid addition and exclusion experiment, as well as links to prior flog entries mentioning the experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2023 Update: Echinacea hybrids (exPt 6,7,9) and Echinacea pallida flowering phenology

Harrison Aakre (RET 2023) decapitates E. Pallida with grim satisfaction

Echinacea pallida flowering: 

Location: Hegg Lake WMA. Start year: 2011. 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 plant. 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, collect precise GPS points for each individual, and cut off all the heads before they produce fruits.

This year, we cut E. pallida heads on June 22nd. We installed pollinator exclusion bags on select heads of 10 plants rather than immediately cutting them as a part of our quantity and quality of Echinacea pollen and nectar experiment. Overall, we found and shot 73 flowering E. pallida plants, and 193 heads in total, averaging 2.6 heads per plant. These non-native plants were hearty with an average rosette count of 6 rosettes and an individual with a maximum of 20 rosettes! We only did surv on plants with new tags this year, a total of 4. We did not take phenology data on E. pallida this year.

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


Location: near exPt8. Start year: Crossing in 2011, planting in 2012. 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 individuals have E. angustifolia dams and E. pallida sires. In 2023, we visited 23 positions and found 17 living plants. This year, 3 plants flowered in this plot; this is the first year any plants have flowered in p6! These were allowed to reach day one or two of flowering in order to assess their pollen color before we decapitated them.

Flowering plant in exPt06! Note the paler pollen color compared to the typical E. Angustifolia

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


Location: Hegg Lake WMA. Start year: Crossing in 2012, planting in 2013. Experimental plot 7 is the second E. pallida E. angustifolia plot. It contains conspecific crosses of each species as well as reciprocal hybrids, totaling 294 individuals. This summer, we visited 150 positions, and of these plants, we found evidence of 121 living plants. We did not use pollinator exclusion bags in exPt07 this year. There were 19 flowering plants this year; from these we harvested 32 heads. We have not yet used the pedigree data to see what number of these plants are hybrids or not.

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


Location: Hegg Lake WMA. Start year: 2014. 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). We did not use pollinator exclusion bags in exPt09 this year. There were originally 745 seedlings planted in exPt9. We searched at 292 positions and found evidence of 238 living plants in 2023. Of these individuals, 30 were flowering. We harvested 39 heads from this plot!

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

Overlaps with: demographic census in remnants

Data collected for exp679: For all three plots, we collected flowering status, rosette count, leaf length, head count and head height. All measuring data can be found in the cgdata repository (~/cgdata/summer2023/measureGood). Measuring data should be uploaded to SQL database eventually, but it is not currently there for 2023. For experimental plots 7 and 9, we also took phenology data starting on July 7th and ending on July 12th, which we scaled back from previous years. This data can be found in the cgdata repository (~cgdata/summer2023/p79phenology).

Data collected for E. pallida demography: Demography data, head counts, rosette counts, GPS points shot for each E. pallida with a new tag. Find demo and surv records as well as GPS points in demap.

2023 Update: Quantity and quality of Echinacea pollen and nectar

We’re interested in investigating what resources are available to Echinacea visitors and learning more about the pollen and nectar Echinacea produces. We hope to learn if the nutritional resources available differ before and after burns. In 2022, Britney House developed methods for collecting nectar from Echinacea using microcapillary tubes. Read more about her methods here.

During the summer of 2023, the team collected pollen and nectar samples from Echinacea angustifolia at 19 sites in and around Solem Township, MN (plants at Hegg Lake were Echinacea pallida). We searched for and shot the ~20 plants (or, if few were available, as many as we could find) at each site that were closest to a random point. We then selected ten of those plants to bag up to three of their heads with pollinator exclusion bags. Throughout the duration of their flowering, we collected pollen from all bagged plants and nectar from five of them per site.

Stuart collects nectar from an Echinacea head

Midway through the experiment (mid-July), we removed bags from some of the pollen only plants to adjust our sample size to only the five pollen/nectar plants plus two backups per site. We removed bags from pollen/nectar plants and backup plants when they were done flowering, we’d collected a cumulative 50 mm of nectar from them, or we had received less than 15 mm of nectar from the plant in the last three visits (the latter was more of a guideline than a rule, used to save time by eliminating plants that were unlikely to provide us with enough nectar for analysis). At the Hegg pallida restoration, any heads that were not originally bagged were decapitated, and all heads were decapitated upon the final removal of their bags.

Following some experimentation, we conducted nectar collection only in the afternoons, while pollen collection could be done any time of day. In total, we collected 856 vials of pollen and 580 vials of nectar from 104 plants. These were given to Rahul Roy and Margaret Medini at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, who will be doing data analysis.

Data entry for collection datasheets is complete, and verified csvs for each site can be found at: Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/z.pollenNectarDataEntry/coreVerified. Scans can be found at: Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/z.pollenNectarDataEntry/scans.

  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: Various prairie remnants and one restoration (Hegg Pallida) around Solem Township, MN
  • Overlaps with: bbFood, nectar experiment
  • Data collected: 
    • plant IDs (tag), location, flowering status, assessments for selection for study
      • Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/z.pollenNectarDataEntry/scans/metaScans
    • flowering day, male floret count, pollen from N anthers in tube, pollen tube ID, tt color, nectar tube ID, quantity of nectar (mm) per floret
      • Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/z.pollenNectarDataEntry/scans/coreScans
      • Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/z.pollenNectarDataEntry/coreVerified
      • Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/z.pollenNectarDataEntry/summaryData
  • Specimens collected: 
    • 856 pollen tubes (at St. Kate’s)
    • 580 nectar tubes (at St. Kate’s)
  • Team members involved with this project: Summer team 2023, Rahul Roy (St. Kate’s) , Margaret Medini (St. Kate’s)
  • Products: pending
  • Funding: ENRTF

2023 Update: Pollinators on roadsides

In 2023, Team Echinacea did not conduct any fieldwork for this experiment.

Pollinator populations are declining worldwide, and pollinator habitat in western Minnesota has diminished over the years, but it is unclear whether the native bee community is changing as well. The Pollinators on Roadsides project, also known as the Yellow Pan Trap (YPT) study, is investigating how native bee diversity and abundance have changed from 2004-2022 and learning about whether the amount of agricultural land and grassland correspond to the nearby bee community.

In the lab, rock star pinner and volunteer Mike Humphrey finished pinning all 789 bees from 2022 on 6 April, 2023. Intern Alex Carroll brought the bees to Zach Portman, the bee taxonomist at the University of Minnesota, for identification on 6 June, 2023. Zach recently reported that he’s all done with our 2022 bees, and we will be picking them up from UMN next chance we get!

Mike shows off a finished bee case

Alex worked to put datasets together (view in Dropbox/ypt2004in2017/yptDatasets/) for this experiment to prepare us for when Zach finishes his identifications. Alex also created this to-do list of next steps:

  • When Zach finishes identifying the 2022 specimens, fill in zachGenus, zachSpecies, and zachSex for 2022 spids.
  • Remove 2022 spids that are nonbees.
  • Update 2017 collectDate. In 2017, traps were put out one day and then collected the next day.
    Some of the 2017 dates are the day the trap was put out and some are the collection day. These should be standardized.
    MAS figured out most of the timeline here: ypt2004in2017/yptDataAnalysis2022/collectionDatesAndMowedTraps/2017listOfCollectionDatesAndMowedTraps-11-May-2022.csv
    These dates are based on the 2017 summer datasheets: ypt2004in2017\YPT2017\YPTsummer2017\ypt2017FieldDatasheets.pdf
  • Locate missing trap numbers for 35 bees, all collected on 07/26/2004.
    There is a memo for half of the traps collected on 07/26/2004, but half (the outerloop) are missing.
    See ypt2004in2017/YPT2004/yptMemos2004/ypt04-js.doc
  • Determine what to do about missing specimens.
    Some specimens were identified by Sam Drogee in the past, but we couldn’t find the bee.
    SW remembers that Sam took some specimens, so he may still have them.
    A few specimens have gone missing. See the notes column.


  • Start year: 2004, rebooted in 2017
  • Location: Roadsides and ditches around Solem Township, Minnesota. GPS coordinates for each trap are located here: ~Dropbox\teamEchinacea2022\YPTsummer2022\yptTrapLocations2022.csv
  • Overlaps with: Ground nesting bees
  • Data collected: All YPT data can be found in ~Dropbox\ypt2004in2017
    • Most recent update on state of data/experiment, including metadata and to-do list: Dropbox/ypt2004in2017/yptDatasets/readMe.txt
    • Most current YPT specimen data with Zach’s IDs
      • Dropbox/ypt2004in2017/yptDatasets/yptDataIncludingNonbees2023.10.25.csv
      • Dropbox/ypt2004in2017/yptDatasets/yptDataBeesOnly2023.10.25.csv
  • Specimens collected: 
    • Zach Portman identified all specimens from 2004-2019, and the specimens are stored in eight cases at the CBG lab.
    • Mike finished pinning specimens from 2022 on April 6th, 2023. Alex delivered 2 cases of specimen to Zach on June 6th 2023. A little over a month ago, Zach said he had a backlog and wouldn’t get to them for a month. So, hopefully he’ll be working on them soon!
  • Team members involved with this project: Geena Zebrasky (2022), Mia Stevens (2020-2023), Alex Carroll (2021-2023), Erin Eichenberger (2019-2020), Anna Stehlik (2020), Shea Issendorf (2019), Mike Humphrey (2018-2021), John Van Kampen (2018-2019), Kristen Manion (2017-2018), Evan Jackson (2018), Alex Hajek (2017), and Steph Pimm Lyon (2004)
  • Products: Mia and Alex presented preliminary results at the Midwest Ecology and Evolution Conference (MEEC) and at The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) conference in spring 2022.

Funding for this project was provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources
Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources
(LCCMR). The Trust Fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by the citizens of Minnesota to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. Currently 40% of net Minnesota State Lottery proceeds are dedicated to growing the Trust Fund and ensuring future benefits for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.

You can read more information about the pollinators on roadsides project here.

Chupy 2: The Demopup

On this sweltering day, Lindsey and I worked on developing a system for keeping track of demopup, the process of mopping up any mistakes, mishaps, and general instances of misses. We collected a list of every site and made a poster to keep a close eye on the process, and have some fun. Chupy the chupacabra/badger/puppy has made a reappearance.

Lindsey deep in the creative process

We will revisit every site to search, demo, and survey flowering echinacea one more time. Team members will keep track of how many plants they find that aren’t all the way through the process, and once they get back to Hjelm they get to put a corresponding number of their own special sticker next to the site in question. Sticker options to come!

Poster finished. Lindsey’s art degree pending.