Brian Lovejoy Introduction


I’m Brian Lovejoy and I have the pleasure of joining the Echinacea Project for my spring quarter project assistantship. I am a PhD Candidate with Northwestern University’s Plant Biology and Conservation program. While working as a project assistant is a requirement for my program, I was ecstatic when I saw the description for this project! It is not often that I get the opportunity to work on pollinator studies, and I am greatly looking forward to the experience.

My research involves understanding the connections between human behaviors and perceptions and urban development practices with a focus on lawn ownership and cultivation. I get to work with an incredible team of scientists to find different alternatives to traditional lawn applications in order to find potential solutions to urban ecological issues as well as addressing urban restoration goals. My project specifically focuses on understanding how lawn alternatives might impact urban flood frequency, and the scale at which lawn alternatives might be implemented to have an impact. This work involves interviewing homeowners, a pilot-scale hydrology experiment, and lots of GIS (Geographic Information Systems).

My contribution to the pollinator study will be to use GIS as well as other mapping software applications like google earth to characterize the landscape in which the experiment is taking place in order to shed light on the diversity and abundance of pollinators within the project area. I look forward to working with the team on this project and continuing to learn and grow as a scientist!

new radiographs of Echinacea fruits

For our seed addition experiment, we want to know exactly how many seeds we planted in each 1 m transect. Each transect got seeds from one envelope. Before planting, we took xrays of the fruits in the paper envelopes. With minimal processing, the radiographs look good! We have a batch of 251 images to classify. This sounds like a job for Allen Wagner aka “the Count” (of Achene County).

We used the column blower and other techniques to remove empty fruits. We aimed for about 50 seeds per envelope. How many do you count?

What’s New in Demap?

It feels like forever ago that our summer team of plant demographers were taking demo and surv records on thousands of flowering and non-flowering Echinacea plants in the field! But for me, demo and surv work is still front and center, and it gets more exciting every day!

A few weeks ago, I cleaned up the 2023 data that Stuart and Jared kindly loaded into demap. Now, it is time to reconcile entries within years and between years. There is a lot going on in the demap repository where this happens, but luckily, former members of Team Echinacea wrote great protocols and annotated their scripts thoroughly.

On Friday I wrote my first ever “ICE” record (informed census evaluation) for an entry at Kjs. There will be many more to come as I solve little mysteries from data collection. Hopefully soon we will have successfully incorporated 2023 demographic data into our long-term database. Stay tuned!

A very official certification of my first ICE record.

2023 Update: Pedicularis effects on host plants in p10

 Hemiparasitic plants are associated with higher quality prairies, and many hypothesize that they are fundamental in generating this high-quality prairie potentially by impeding the growth of dominant grasses, allowing non-dominant forb species to establish. Additionally, if this is true, there are likely different effects associated with the abundance of hemiparasites. Therefore, we experimentally introduced Pedicularis canadensis to another restoration plot, experimental plot 10; however, this time we introduced P. canadensis at different densities around 8 different focal species. We measure the size and reproductive effort of these 8 focal species around each of our 66 hemiparasitic plant planting locations.

In 2023, we replanted 32 Pedicularis canadensis that hadn’t been seen since they were initially planted in experimental plot 10. Additionally, we took our annual measurements of our 8 focal species’ size and reproductive effort.

 Pedicularis canadensis in experimental plot 10 at WCA high school. Drake planted this hemiparasite in different densities across the experimental plot.
  • Start year: 2019
  • Location: experimental plot 10
  • Overlaps with:  parasitic plants addition experiment in p01
  • Data collected: size and reproductive effort of 8 focal species
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA
  • Products: This work is part of Drake’s Ph.D research. He will be wrapping up this year, so stay tuned!

2023 Update: Predators in prairie remnants and restorations

Ants are an integral part of ecosystems, playing a role in seed dispersal, detritus removal, pest predation, and nutrient cycling. Because ants nest in the ground, they are particularly susceptible to any process that disturbs the earth and can be heavily impacted by land use practices and management decisions. Diane Roeder, at Augustana University, designed this survey to quantify ant species diversity in remnant and restored prairie patches in western MN. These sites are primarily managed by fire, a type of disturbance that has been hypothesized to impact ant species differently via mortality and/or changes in habitat structure. During the summer, Diane and members of team Echinacea sampled 45 prairie sites (30 remnant, 15 restored), deploying a total of 415 pitfall traps. Diane and her colleagues are in the process of sorting ants from other ground-dwelling invertebrates captured by the traps and will identify specimens to compare abundance, species richness, and community composition from sites under different management regimes. In addition to measuring diversity, They also deployed sentinel prey items to determine whether arthropod communities in these areas remove prey at different rates as a measure of ecosystem services provided by predatory arthropods. To do this, they set out small cages containing moth eggs and recorded the number of eggs removed. In the future, Diane hopes to compare the overall arthropod communities between these types of sites from multiple years of sampling.

Diane traveled all over our study area during her few days in Western Minnesota.
This pitfall trap was set up at a random bb point in our study area.
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: Prairie remnants and restorations in Solem Township, MN.
  • Overlaps with: Ground Nesting Bees
  • Data collected: species identities and richness (all arthropods, with a focus on ants), sentinel prey removal (number moth eggs removed)
  • Samples or specimens collected: All invertebrates collected in pitfall traps (stored at Augustana University, Sioux Falls, SD)
  • Products: Stay tuned!

2023 Update: Dykstra’s local adaptation experiment

This experiment was designed to quantify how well Echinacea angustifolia populations are adapted to their local environments. In 2008, Amy Dykstra collected achenes from Echinacea populations in western South Dakota, central South Dakota, and Minnesota and then sowed seeds from all three sources into experimental plots near each collection site. Each year, Team Echinacea takes a demographic census at the western South Dakota and Minnesota plots; we abandoned the central South Dakota plot after it was inadvertently sprayed in 2009, killing all the Echinacea.

 In 2023, we found a total of 119 basal plants and 8 flowering plants. All of the flowering plants observed in 2023 were in the western South Dakota sowing site. Only 2 plants in the Minnesota site have ever produced flowers. In contrast, 31 plants flowered in the western South Dakota site in 2022 alone. Mortality has been much higher in Minnesota than in western South Dakota; thus, the total number of plants at each sowing site is now about equal.

Surviving plants at GRNG (Grand River National Grassland in western South Dakota) and HL (Hegg Lake in Minnesota) in annual censuses from 2014-2023.
  • Start year: 2008
  • Location: Grand River National Grassland (Western South Dakota), Samuel H. Ordway Prairie (Central South Dakota), Staffanson Prairie Preserve (West Central Minnesota), and Hegg Lake WMA (West Central Minnesota).
  • Overlaps with: Dykstra’s interpopulation crosses
  • Data collected: Plant fitness measurements (plant status, number of rosettes, number of leaves, and length of longest leaf)
  • Samples or specimens collected:  Heads from all flowering plants; Amy stores the heads in her office at Bethel University.
  • Products:  Dykstra, A. B. 2013. Seedling recruitment in fragmented populations of Echinacea angustifolia. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Minnesota. PDF

You can read more about Dykstra’s local adaptation experiment and see a map of the seed source sites on the background page for this experiment.

2023 Update: Dykstra’s interpopulation crosses

Small remnant Echinacea populations may suffer from inbreeding depression. To assess whether gene flow (in the form of pollen) from another population could “rescue” these populations from inbreeding depression, we hand-pollinated Echinacea from six different prairie remnants with pollen from a large prairie remnant (Staffanson Prairie) and from a relatively small population (Northwest Landfill) in 2008. We also performed within-population crosses as a control. Amy Dykstra (with help from Caroline Ridley) planted the achenes (seeds) that resulted from these crosses in an experimental plot at Hegg Lake WMA.

We sowed a total of 15,491 achenes in 2008. 449 of these achenes germinated and emerged as seedlings. Each summer, we census the surviving plants and measure them.

In the 2023 census, Amy found 23 surviving basal plants and no flowering plants. She had observed 26
basal plants in 2022. Mortality was high during the first four years, but has been lower as the
surviving plants have increased in age.

Number of plants observed in annual censuses 2008-2023

  • Start year: 2008
  • Location: Hegg Lake WMA
  • Overlaps with:  Dykstra’s local adaptation
  • Data collected:  Plant fitness measurements (plant status, number of rosettes, number of leaves, and length of longest leaf), and notes about herbivory. Contact Amy Dykstra to access this data.
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA
  • Products: Dykstra, A. B. 2013. Seedling recruitment in fragmented populations of Echinacea angustifolia. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of Minnesota. PDF

You can read more about Dykstra’s interpopulation crosses, as well as links to prior flog entries mentioning the experiment, on the background page for this experiment.

2023 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 39 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 2023, six of the original 39 plants were flowering, three from the addition treatment and three from the exclusion treatment. The exclusion treatment plants were covered with exclusion bags to prevent pollination, and the addition plants were hand-pollinated three times throughout the summer.

Start year: 2012

Location: exPt01

Physical specimens: 6 heads harvested from group receiving treatments, and an additional 18 heads harvested from plants in an open, control treatment. Heads are at the Chicago Botanic Garden awaiting processing

Data collected: Plant survival and measurements were recorded as part of our annual surveys in P1 and eventually will be found in the echinaceaLab R package. Data sheets were scanned and entered and can be found here: “~/Dropbox/CGData/115_pollenLimitation/pollenLimitation2023”

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.

2023 Update: Seedling establishment (aka sling)

In 2023, the team continued the seedling recruitment experiment begun in 2007. The original goal of the project was to determine seedling establishment and growth rates in remnant populations of Echinacea angustifolia. Seedling recruitment rates are rarely studied in the field, and this is one of the few studies tracking recruitment in the tallgrass prairie. From 2007 to 2013 in spring, Team Echinacea visited plants which had flowered in the preceding year, and they searched near these maternal plants to find any emerging seedlings. Each fall since then, the team has searched for the seedlings, then juveniles, and measured them.

This year, we visited 51 focal maternal plants at 10 prairie remnants and searched for 86 sling plants, a subset of the original 955 seedlings. We completed sling in two days: September 15th and September 18th. Like last year, team members used the demo form to collect data on the visors, and we also shot any seedlings we could find that didn’t already have a GPS point. In total, the team found 47 basal plants and 5 flowering plants!

  • Start year: 2007
  • Location: Remnants in Douglas County, MN
  • Sites with seedling searches in 2022: East Elk Lake Road, East Riley, KJ’s, Loeffler’s Corner, Landfill, Nessman, Riley, Steven’s Approach, South of Golf Course, Staffanson Prairie
  • Overlaps with: Demographic census in the remnants
  • Data collected:
    • The data were collected on a visor using the demo form. The team recorded plant status (can’t find, basal, dead this year’s leaves, dead last year’s leaves, flowering), number of rosettes, leaf count, nearest neighbors, and head count, if flowering.
    • Scanned datasheets are in Dropbox: ~Dropbox\remData\115_trackSeedlings\slingRefinds2023
    • Physical copies of datasheets and maps can be found in the “Search For Sling 2023” black binder located currently in Hjelm on the back desk.
  • Samples collected: NA
  • Team members who searched for slings in 2022: Abby Widell, Ellysa Johnson, Jan Anderson, Lindsey Paulson.
  • Products:

2023 Update: Ground-nesting bees in prairie remnants and restorations

During the summer of 2023, Team Echinacea embarked on an ENRTF funded mission to better understand how prescribed fires influences solitary bee nesting habitat, food resources, and diversity is critical for providing recommendations about how prescribed fire should be used to promote pollinator conservation and healthy prairie.

We surveyed solitary bee diversity and nesting habitat before and after prescribed fires in a subset of 30 prairie remnants and 15 prairie restorations to determine how prescribed fire affects solitary bee nesting habitat and abundance. We used emergence traps to investigate composition of solitary bees in prairies. This was complemented by detailed measures of soil and litter to characterize how prescribed burning influences the nesting habitat (read more here).

We deployed emergence traps at our random points (bb points) in prairie remnants and restorations in mid-June – early September. Our deployment spanned three rotations of bb points and we put out a total of ~1,238 emergence traps.

El, Luke, and Jan, 2023 pollinator crew, deploy an emergence trap at a bb point.

As of September 28, members of Team Echinacea had processed 850 vials, 122 of which contained bees. Our preliminary catch rate is 14%! These specimens were pinned and are currently at Chicago Botanic Garden, awaiting transportation to University of Minnesota where Zach Portman, a bee taxonomist, will identify them. Team Echinacea also collected lots of non-bee bycatch while processing specimens collected in the traps. Bycatch is currently stored in our freezer at Chicago Botanic Garden.

Jan pins a bee that they found while processing vials from emergence trapping!

Ian Roberts, a M.S. student with the Echinacea Project, has taken charge of the Emergence trapping project and is currently coordinating data entry. When emergence trapping resumes in the 2024 field season, we will be well set up, thanks to detailed written and videotaped protocols made by our summer 2023 pollinator team. The prtocol can be found here: “~/Dropbox/enrtf/emergenceTrapping2023/Emergence Trap Protocol.pdf”. Video instructions are located in “~/Dropbox/enrtf/emergenceTrapping2023/exampleVideos”.