Final day at CBG

Friday was my last day at the Chicago Botanic Garden (sniff). I bid a final farewell to the wonderful volunteers and cleaned out all of the miscellaneous papers in my desk, including an article about the top ten bagel restaurants in Chicago.

One great Friday accomplishment was finalizing new driving maps with Lindsey. During the field season, we drive to many remnants, restorations, and experimental plots between Kensington and Hoffman, so a map is helpful for finding sites and plotting efficient routes. We crafted two versions, one with the Echinacea sites that we visit frequently and one more complicated map that includes all the sites for the ENRTF project. The previous version of the driving map was missing some remnant sites like Dog, so we made sure to include all of the places that we visit regularly. On the back, we listed the site abbreviations and full names. I think I’ve been to all of the sites on the Echinacea map, but I haven’t seen most of the newly added ENRTF sites. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to visit some of them next week in Minnesota!

Lindsey shares the secrets of lamination

Our crowning achievement was laminating the new maps. I had never used a laminator machine before, but fortunately Lindsey is an expert, and she taught me the tricks of the trade. We now have a stack of shiny new driving maps, and I’m very excited to try them out!

This past week, Lindsey and I have been organizing the lab so it will be easy for volunteers to find what they need during the summer. I’ve also documented the status of remnant Liatris and Echinacea harvested from 2020-2022. The locations of data, physical specimens, and datasheets are recorded in readMe files in Dropbox. I’ve also updated all of the demap protocols and saved them in the demap repo in a new folder called learnDemap. Hopefully, it will ease the learning curve for future demappers.

Status of remnant Liatris:

  • Dropbox\burnRems\remLiatris\harvestLiatris2021\readMeLiatris2021Status.txt
  • Dropbox\burnRems\remLiatris\harvestLiatris2022\readMeLiatris2022Status.txt

Status of remnant Echinacea:

  • Dropbox\remData\180_store\store2020\readMe.txt
  • Dropbox\remData\180_store\store2021\readMe.txt
  • Dropbox\remData\180_store\store2022\readMe.txt

Mike’s Homecoming Celebration!

The lab was buzzing today as we bee-stowed Mike, one of our loyal volunteers, with an official Achene County of Echinacea Empire Passport! This celebration marks Mike’s return from Bee Land, where he has been residing since this past September.

For the past many months, Mike has been working tirelessly on pinning our bee specimens for the Yellow Pan Trap project. This project tracks the changes over 20 years in bee abundance and species composition along roadsides in western Minnesota. You can read more updates on the Yellow Pan Trap project here!

Mike has been working on the samples we collected during the 2022 field season, and just a few weeks ago he finished pinning 789 bees! I can’t bee-lieve how many specimens that is!

The pinning project required steady hands, an attention to detail and the extensive knowledge of bee identification; all characteristics that Mike has! He spent many hours with the microscope sifting through vials of insects.

No Achene County celebration is complete without, you guessed it, a sweet treat! The most famous baker in all the land, Alex, crafted a beautiful honey cake drizzled with chocolate and surrounded by pear slices. The ornamental bees on the top of the cake are made up pears (for the body) and dark chocolate shards (for the wings).

We are so excited that Mike is no longer a solitary worker bee! We are also excited to send all of Mike’s specimens over to Zach at the University of Minnesota for identification.

If you get the chance, please welcome back Mike to the Echinacea hive!

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!

You’ve got to be (or)chid-ing me!

Last week, the Chicago Botanic Garden ended their annual orchid show and opened up all their plants for purchase to garden members and employees! Alex and I ventured to the sale at 10 am last Thursday to find a long, looping line that weaved throughout the Regenstein center. We waited about 25 minutes to reach the beginning of the line. We were not prepared for the carnage we were about to witness.

Elbows were flying, emotions were high, plants were abundant. There was a good deal on tiny Phalaenopsis, 2 for $10. At one point, a man tried to purloin Alex’s beautiful orchid while she went to return a shopping basket, and I had to protect the plant from danger. Alex described the ordeal as “a mad house” and “chaos”, and I definitely agree with that assessment.

Nobody tell Jared, but I walked (or, more like ran) out of there with 7 orchids (some to give to family and friends, and one or two for myself). Alex ended up with 3 stunning orchids as well!

The line to check out was slightly calmer, though equally as long as the line to enter the sale. Many people were becoming agitated, having to wait in line and carry their heavy load of orchids. Alex noticed that each cash register had a number (as you can see in the photo below) and each number was a different font! How silly!

For anyone wanting to brave the orchid sale in future years, my only advice is to prepare for battle.

The State of the Common Garden Address

Things are movin’ and groovin’ in the lab at the Chicago Botanic Garden!

Now that we’ve wrapped up remnant Echinacea, it’s time to reenter common garden territory. Ah, sweet sweet common garden, where all plants exist neatly* on a grid unlike the unruly remnants.

One of the main things we’ve been tackling is cleaning the 2022 common garden heads. There are 2,116 heads to be cleaned and we’ve already cleaned 561 (or ~27%) of them! Wow, amazing progress! The only remaining and 3 additional bags from 2020. Once those are done, we’re caught up from the backlog that COVID augmented. As for other steps in the ACE process…

After cleaning comes rechecking, and we’ve had students working on rechecking Echinacea heads from experimental plot 1 in 2019 and 2020. Once these have been rechecked, we’ve got scan-master volunteer Marty prepare our achenes for uploading to the ACE website!

Our volunteers have also been catching us up on counting from 2017 through 2019 to get data ready for Wyatt’s masters thesis! I won’t spoil what she’s investigating, but just know it’s a burning question that I’m stoked about!

Alex and I have also been attempting to clean up the Cheerios boxes that line our lab window. These boxes contain achenes from the past 20 years and many different experiments, all at different stages of the ACE process. Volunteers have started assembling some of the achenes into x-ray sheets for the years 2017 and 2018.

We also had Priti help us inventory boxes from 2016. We took seeds out of these boxes for our seed addition experiment, but were unsure what achenes actually remained. These seeds did not germinate, so we will put them in storage. However, we have other seeds that are still viable, so we are hoping to freeze them and put them in the seed bank here at CBG!

We’re hoping to keep moving forward this spring with all steps of the ACE process, and create an efficient system for taking data off the ACE counting and classifying website!

*it would be neatly if it weren’t for those meddling rogue plants!

Liatris Project Update #6

We made it to the third batch for the cleaning procedure! After completing the first batch for randomization last week, we needed to pick things up on cleaning, and we hit another promising milestone. Ultimately, we wanted the cleaning process to stay well ahead of the randomization process, and we did manage to get ahead of ourselves some on randomization last week. We made much more progress in that department than I had envisioned, and we caught up a little too much concerning cleaning progress. We focused on cleaning all this week, and now here is where things stand. There is still much more to go, but we are steadily getting there.

Liatris Project Update #5

Good news! We managed to get through randomizing the first batch! Now we are working our way through the second batch, and so far, things have been going pretty well in terms of pace and efficiency for both cleaning and randomization. Overall, we have seen a considerably wide range of head counts in the Liatris plants, but predation rates have been relatively low compared to what was observed in 2021’s data. Who knows what we will find in the next several batches, but I am pretty excited about the progress made so far and the results we may see. Hopefully, we will complete the next batch within the next few weeks, if not sooner.

Liatris Project Update #4

So far, things are going well in the randomization step, but there is still quite a ways to go to complete the first batch of Liatris plants. However, we have counted a considerable number of achenes that have been eaten, and we are starting to get a rough estimate of the predation rate per Liatris plant. We are finding that there are, on average, 1 to 3 achenes eaten per plant out of a total of at least 30 randomly selected achenes. This equals approximately a 3 to 10 percent range for what has been found, but we have also found a few that have had either none or many achenes eaten. In light of these findings, I think we are heading in the right direction with the project, but hopefully, we will need to get much more work done to get through all five batches. Hopefully, we will have all the plants cleaned and randomized before the burning season (which starts in April), but it will take a lot to get to that goal within a little over a month’s worth of time. However, the good news is whether or not we meet our goal, there will be more than enough data to work with, and ultimately we can come to conclusions at the end.

Liatris Project Update #3

In lab today, I started the process of randomization. This step in the project does take some time and patience, but all of it is worthwhile toward reducing bias and collecting achenes that can be x-rayed or identified as eaten. Similar to the randomization of achenes from Echinacea plants, sheets of randomization and counting grids are used. In addition, we also use plastic bags, white envelopes, stickers, tweezers, and a magnifying glass for this procedure. The first step involves pouring the achenes evenly across the randomization grid and ensuring all the achenes are placed in a specific square on the grid without being on the lines. Then using a randomized list of grid coordinates, we go down the list until we hit a coordinate (an example would be “B2”) with achenes present. We then examined each achene in the selected coordinate to see if there was any predation. If less than 30 achenes were counted in the coordinate, we randomly selected another one going down the randomization list. Once we categorized 30 achenes as either eaten or eligible for x-ray, we took our white envelope and plastic bag and put stickers on them. The envelope will store the eaten achenes while the plastic bag will contain the achenes ready to be x-rayed. On the envelope, we write the date, initials, and the quantities of achenes eaten, not eaten, and uninformative. After putting the achenes in their respective containers, we put them in a pile marked “randomized,” and we move on to the next one. As of today, we managed to get through a little over one third of our first batch, so we still have much work to do before proceeding onward.

Liatris Project Update #2

After cleaning Liatris plants for a week, I am happy to say that the first of five batches are now finished. Now that the first batch is completed, the project’s next step is ready to begin. The process of randomization will be the next step in the project. This step will involve the random selection of achenes from each plant to avoid bias and separation of achenes that are either qualified for being x-rayed or not. Luckily, both groupings will have a role in the project’s studies. X-rayed achenes will inform us about pollination and reproductive outcomes for each head of a Liatris plant. On the other hand, non-x-rayed achenes can be assessed for why they cannot be x-rayed, including what types of damage the achenes have and if any predation occurred toward those achenes. My research question will focus specifically on seed predation, so using the non-x-rayed achenes will be essential. I am still working on a finalized research question relating to seed predation, but seeing the progress made so far has me excited about what will come next in the project and toward finalizing my research question.