ACE progress update

So far this year, we have sadly not been able to have volunteers in the lab due to the continuing threat of COVID-19. However, over the last few months, we made quite a bit of progress on the remnant Echinacea harvests from 2020 and 2021. In the fall, we had help from volunteers, students from Lake Forest College, and externs from Carleton College. Thanks for your help! In January, Sophia finished cleaning the last head from 2021, which was an exciting accomplishment.

To track our progress in the lab, I created an R script to visualize the various steps of the ACE process for each batch of Echinacea. The figures for rem2020 and rem2021 are included here. Hopefully, this method will work for the cg harvests as well.

The ACE stages are listed along the x-axis, and the number of Echinacea heads are on the y-axis. The light blue shows how much we have completed, and the dark blue shows what remains to be done. The small numbers on each bar indicate the corresponding number of heads, and the width of the bars is roughly proportional to the amount of time each step takes. Along the top, the dates indicate the last day that the totals for each stage were updated.

The script to create these graphs can be found here: echinaceasandbox/oop/trackAceProgressTest.R

updated COVID-19 preparedness plan

Here’s the third version of our COVID-19 preparedness plan. So far, so good.

COVID-19 preparedness plan

We want to be a safe. Here’s the COVID-19 preparedness plan that we developed for summer fieldwork. It’s a work in progress, but we intend for this plan will guide our first week. At the end of the week we will discuss how it works, how it doesn’t, and make modifications for the following week.

Preparing Team Echinacea for a safe summer 2020

Hello Echination! It sure has been a long time since I last flogged, and I really have missed giving fun updates to folks both in the lab and online. Over the past few months, members of Team Echinacea have been stuck at home due to the ongoing global pandemic. We have spent a lot of time working on existing projects, preparing for data collection in the field, and meeting with colleagues over Zoom. However, due to the current situation, there is one project that has taken precedence over all others: our Covid-19 preparedness plan.

Although we have been shut out of the Chicago Botanic Garden for some time, we are fortunate to have been granted permission to conduct field work in Minnesota. Each field season is incredibly important for Team Echinacea, as this is when we collect a large amount of data and harvest specimens to be processed in the lab. Because Echinacea angustifolia is a long-lived plant, it is imperative we conduct field work in MN as much as possible, so we can gather accurate estimates of lifetime fitness in our self-incompatible perennial forb and assess whether remnant populations will persist in West Central MN. That said, there is something even more important than conducting long-term ecological research: the health and safety of humans.

Over the last few weeks, the Echinacea lab core members have assembled a dream team of past, present, and future team members to construct a plan to prioritize safety during the field season while still allowing for the efficient collection of high-quality demographic and fitness data on Echinacea angustifolia. The Covid-preparedness team consists of: Stuart, Ruth, Erin, Riley, Amy D., Amy W., Drake, Lea, Mia Stevens, Jared Beck, and John “Texas” VanKempen. What a team! The first thing we did to prepare for a socially-distant field season was to read interesting articles about Covid transmission, best business practices for Covid, and government recommendations; we then shared these articles with the group. Next, we discussed what we learned from these articles and then broke into small groups to discuss minimizing transmission probability during every-day tasks. For example, I was on teams that discussed how to reduce potential Covid transmission while eating lunch, syncing visors, and engaging in team building activities. From there, we reconvened as a group and shared our optimal plans for each activity. To solidify our ideas, we put all of our ideas into a “Covid-19 Preparedness Plan” – a template created by the State of Minnesota for reopening businesses. We hope to share a draft with all summer 2020 team members soon, and we will certainly document our plan on the flog in the coming weeks!

We learned a lot during this process, and we are looking forward to getting back out into the field with our ever-friendly study species. Many feelings are invoked by the thought of field season, including excitement, stress, adventure, nostalgia, and most importantly, the feeling of community. Obviously, being a part of a community is personally gratifying, but this summer, it is imperative that we come together as a community to keep each other healthy and safe. I can personally say I am incredibly excited to spend part of my summer with Team Echinacea, but I can also say I am nervous about being on a field team in light of the ongoing global situation. However, I know that if I look out for others and if they look out for me, Team Echinacea will be healthy, efficient, and as fun as ever.

Due to the global pandemic, we warned Echinacea that they may actually benefit from isolation in summer 2020. Many responded by purchasing masks from their local party supply store.

Team Echinacea COVID-19 Update

Welcome to the CBG’s Evanston outpost!

In conjunction with the CBG’s current policy, the Echinacea Project’s base of operations has moved out of the Plant Science building and into our living room! The lab is closed to volunteers and staff through the month of March and potentially longer as the situation develops. Despite this hiccup, we are continuing with our work and we’re looking forward to the productivity the next few weeks will offer!

All three species are represented in this tray

Over the last few months we’ve been germinating E. angustifolia, pallida and purpurea for our investigation into Echinacea ploidy. Elif, Riley and myself have been caring for the seedlings and will be working with people at the CBG to determine how we can maintain an appropriate watering schedule and safe social distancing practices.

Fingers crossed the little guys can hang in there til we get a schedule worked out!

Though our ACE head processing protocol is on hold for the foreseeable future, our excellent volunteer force has made great progress in 2020. We’re about 3/4s through cleaning the 2018 heads. Our counters are overflowing with cereal boxes of achene envelopes and with help from the volunteers, Riley cleared up some space by moving our 2015 achenes into the Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank (fancy title for “that big freezer on the other side of the building.”) We’ll be moving 2016 in there too when we return!

There’s plenty of work for us to do outside of the lab, so fear not our idle hands! Riley’s looking ahead to the 2020 field season by preparing for measuring in our common gardens. He’s working on a snappy measuring field checks function to hopefully streamline a process which took us a lot of time in Fall 2019.

Currently I’m working on uniting our 2019 demo and surv records in demap. First I tackled our largest 2019 flowering site (Aanenson,) and now I’m working through sling sites to hopefully have maternal plant data ready for our collaborative sling project.

The superteam of Team Echinacea members and alums working on sling in 2019/20 is hopeful about making some great progress in the coming weeks. Perhaps this cross-country collaboration was the original social distancing initiative? Video calls are the hip new quarantine hangout these days, so we were ahead of the curve on that front!


Since we’re now the masters of the office dress code, we’ve been stretching our fashion wings. I’ve busted out my favorite slippers and jeans, and Riley’s switching up his hat game from baseball to brimmed. Check back in with us in a few weeks– we’re working on getting our Spring 2020 collection ready for debut!