Beat the Heat!

To counter expected high temperatures, we started earlier in the morning with GPS points for the ENTRF-funded bee research project and found some cool plants. After lunch, some of the team continued to stake and shoot points, while others planted some green comet milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora) seedlings in a previously burned site. We also saw a baby Pheobe on the deck after it attempted to fledge.

One of our hard-working employees finding points with our handy dandy GPS units.
Pheobe fledgling (or attemptee).
Alumroot (Heuchera richardsonii) at one of our sites.

Hi milkweed, bye Alex, what’s an emergence trap?

On a hill planting milkweed

We know each plant’s mother.

From every milkweed seed,

Distinct one from one another.


Chocolate cake and thin mints

For Alex’s last day!

We’ll try to follow in her footprints

And maybe make her stay.


Experiments in efficiency-

Catching bugs the best way

Practice until proficiency

How do you catch bugs and make them stay…?


Emergence traps! are tents for bugs

That they can not get out of

So we can see each fuzzy mug

And identify and count them up all up so we know which ones appreciate a post fire environment and which ones do not.

Hulzebos CRP North Unit Burn

Smokey but successful burn today in a prairie restoration! Looks like a nice rain will follow and hopefully jump start some new plant growth.

Smoke in many forms

Plants often flower vigorously after a fire, but what aspect of fire causes these increases in flowering? Today, we are one step closer to finding out if smoke is the culprit. In the fall, we applied liquid smoke to 110 plants, and today, we applied the remaining 110 treatments for the smoke experiment!

Last summer, we flagged all of the Echinacea plants for the experiment and assigned a number to each plant. However, we weren’t sure if any of our flags survived after the profusion of snow this winter. With help from El and Jan, we revisited all of the smoke plants using the GPS units. Surprisingly, most of the flags were still present, but we relabeled any illegible, faded, or ripped flags.

Next, Lindsey and I measured and mixed our 11 concentrations of liquid smoke. Thanks to Allen for supplying us with more empty jugs! Back in the field, we applied half of the smoke treatments in the morning and half in the afternoon, following the same protocol as in the fall. The ground was very dry after recent windy days, so the liquid rapidly soaked into the soil in most places.

Our experiment was not the only source of smoke today. There wasn’t enough wind to burn at prairie remnants near roads, so instead, we burned an area that Stuart is restoring nearing P1, called Center Field. There wasn’t a lot of fuel, but the grass and oak leaves were very dry and crispy, so the burn went much better than expected. We all got a chance to practice using the drip torch, and the plants will enjoy the fire, too!

Freezing remnant Echinacea

Congratulations, Team Echinacea! We are done processing all of the Echinacea heads that were harvested from prairie remnants in 2020, 2021, and 2022. On Thursday, I completed the final step of the ACE process: freezing. We want to preserve some remnant achenes for future experiments, so we stored them in the seed vault freezer at the Chicago Botanic Garden. They are now documented in the seed bank database. Here’s a summary of the remnant Echinacea stored in the freezer:

  • 2020 and 2021: X-ray sheets (random sample of informative achenes) for all heads harvested in 2020 and 2021. Envelopes (achenes not part of random sample) for paired samples only.
  • 2022: X-ray sheets and envelopes for all heads harvested in 2022.

With efficient packing, I was able to cram all of these achenes into two freezer bags. However, sealing the bags was definitely a two-person job. Echinacea from 2020 and 2021 are in one bag, and 2022 gets a bag all of its own. It feels very satisfying to wrap up these three years of data!

Liatris Project Update #11 (Last one!)

It has been an absolute pleasure getting to work on this project. After many weeks of hard work, I presented the final poster I made, going over the details and findings of everything we did to learn about how Liatris head count affects predation. We did find some evidence that there is an effect on predation rate based on headcount, but the evidence itself was not strong enough. We did fail to reject the null hypothesis, but that did not discourage me from thinking about other things that could have impacted the results we found. I mentioned that confounding variables such as soil richness, fires, and rainfall may have affected our results, especially given the differences found between 2021 and 2022. These confounding variables are worth looking at, making me curious to learn more about how they influence Liatris.

With that, there is so much to learn still, and it does not only apply to Liatris. Other prairie plants, such as the Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) and Milkweed (Asclepias viridiflora), are being looked at by the Echinacea Project, and there is so much to learn about them. Keep up the excellent work with what you do, and most importantly, keep learning how to protect our precious prairie ecosystems and plant species. You are their only hope!

Lastly, I enjoyed getting to know all of you and learned a lot while I was here. Conservation science has been something I have always been interested in, so having the opportunity to research prairie plants was something special. I want to thank Stuart Wagenius, in particular, for letting me intern here and learn the ways of scientific research in a professional setting. I look forward to hearing what comes next from the project, and I sincerely thank you!

Liatris Update #10

Remember when I talked about only having three batches to work with for the 2022 Liatris data? That is now no longer the case. Thanks to several volunteers continuing to chip away at the remaining Liatris plants in 2022, batch four got officially completed last week. Now with the newly completed batch, I managed to update 2022’s Liatris data in the figure above. It might not be noticeable just by looking at the graph, but the slope and p-values changed quantitatively. The p-value for 2022 now sits at roughly 0.09, which is better than what we had prior (I think it was 0.16 if I remember correctly). However, that is still not as good as 2021’s data, and that data still holds the better slope between the two. Outside of adding the fourth batch, I also tweaked the graphs to be more easily read and understood. I added some color to the data points, reworded the axes, and made the linear regression line bolder for all of you to see better. Overall, these were the updates I have to share with you, but I also wanted to inform you that I have started the process of creating the final poster. Over the course of this week, I will focus primarily on completing the poster, and I hope to have it ready to go by the last week of April. I will be presenting it to you all on April 27th (subject to change), so I hope you look forward to it. It has been quite a journey for this project, but it sure has been an interesting one, to say the least.

Don’t do it, it’s a(n emergence) trap!

Two large packages arrived on the doorstep of the Chicago Botanic Garden this week containing 40 (yes, 40!) brand new emergence traps! This summer, we are conducting research on the impacts of prescribed fire and fragmented patch size on ground-nesting bees. This new research is funded by ENRTF!

To make sure the emergence traps were functional, Alex and I decided to assemble one in the lab. The assembly was fairly easy, but we noticed that there were some plastic pieces that connected two fiberglass rods that may fall off or get lost easily; sounds like a job for some super glue! We also realized we will need to purchase a heavy object, like a chain, to lay around the base of the emergence trap to prevent it from flying away in the wind!

Liatris Update #9

We have data! So far, we have seen some fascinating results from the 2022 data we worked on over the past 6-7 weeks and the 2021 data collected last year. The data shown above is still in its preliminary stages, and there is still some additional work to be done, but we can make out some things with what we got so far. First, 2022’s data is on the left, and 2021’s is on the right. Comparing the two, we did find that the predation rate, on average, was higher for the 2021 plants than those in 2022. We also created a linear regression line for both years to examine the correlation between headcount and predation rates. 2021’s data had a higher slope than 2022’s, meaning the data in 2021 had a more substantial representation of the predation rate increasing with a higher headcount than in 2022. Overall, these findings suggest that the plants in 2021 saw much more predation activity than those in 2022. With that in mind, it makes me wonder why predation rates are higher in 2021 than in 2022 and what the results would look like if we were to combine the data. This is only the beginning of our data collecting and interpretation, so I’m looking forward to learning more about the results we got and if we can reject the null hypothesis in the end. Note that the null hypothesis states no relationship between headcount and predation rate.

O frabjous day: YPT pinning complete!

And hast thou pinned the pan trap bees? O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Today, Mike finished pinning all the bees that we collected in summer 2022 for the Pollinators on Roadsides (aka Yellow Pan Trap) project! We started out with seven coolers full of vials, and Mike has been diligently pinning pollinators since late September. In total, he pinned 789 insects! We are very grateful for his help.

The next step is to add informative labels to record collection date and location for each specimen. Then, we’ll send the bees to Zach Portman, the bee taxonomist at the University of Minnesota, for identification. Overall, we collected more bees than I expected based on the last three years. I’m very curious whether there are any differences in species diversity between years. Stay tuned!

year# bees collected# traps# collection daysavg # bees/trap/day

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.