Planting a new experiment in P1*

* well, adjacent to P1.

This past Friday I planted the seeds from the inter-remnant crossing experiment I completed over the summer. The goal of this experiment is to understand how the distance between plants that live in little fragmented remnants and the difference in their timing of flowering influences the fitness of their offspring. The expectation is that if plants that are close together and/or flowering at the same time are closely related, their offspring might be more closely related (i.e., inbred) and have lower fitness than plants that are far apart and/or flowering more asynchronously. If this is true, then it would suggest that individuals in small, fragmented habitats would benefit from reaching more distant or dissimilar mates, such as by introducing seeds from faraway populations to remnants, creating corridors that promote pollinator movement, or managing habitat to increase heterogeneity in flowering time.

Plot location & layout:

The plot is located directly to the east of P1, spanning 12 m east to west and 30 m north to south, between positions 860 and 890. See Mia’s flog post from September for more information about how we prepared the plot by clipping the grass and treating the sumac with Garlon. Mia also used Darwin to shoot points within and along the edges of P1 so that I could generate coordinates for each position in my planting that aligned with P1’s crooked grid. This was a good exercise in geometry. I figured it out, but not before googling how to find the intersection of two lines. Oh well!

When I laid down the meter tapes based on the end points of the rows in this grid, it matched pretty well (the rows were supposed to be exactly 30 m long), but they were off a bit due to topography and the vegetation keeping the tape from laying perfectly flat. It was right on for row 58 and off by ~5cm in rows 62 and 65. We lined up meter sticks with the flags placed ever two meters and positioned achenes relative to according to the flag positions, rather than the tape. We placed 4 achenes per meter in positions 860-889.75.


Based on the number of seeds I had, and the expectation that I might want to plant more for this experiment in the future, I randomly chose three rows (58, 62, and 65) to plant out of the twelve total rows that fit in the area that we prepared. I randomly assigned positions to all of the full achenes, based on their weight. Prior to planting, I placed each of these achenes into a 1.5mL microcentrifuge vial and labeled it with its planting position (1-360). I sorted the vials in order of planting position and placed them in vial trays that we brought into the field.


It was a dry and unseasonably warm day. This is lucky because there was 10 inches of snow where the plot is located a week and a half earlier. I was able to convince Matthew and Gooseberry to come along to help. Matthew was extremely helpful, but Goose mostly ate deer poop all day and threw up on the way home. Very yucky! To set up for planting, I staked to the end points for the rows we were planting, set up a meter tape, and then staked to and placed pin flags at positions every two meters along the rows. I started by placing pin flags every meter, but this was time consuming and a pin flag every two meters gave us a sufficient reference point for each meter.

We liked breaking the actual planting into two steps, and working in a pair, because it meant that we had fewer items to fumble around with and it was easy to catch and fix each other’s mistakes, such as accidentally skipping positions. I do not believe we made any actual goofs, which is a first for me with planting! For the first step, one person cleared the duff, and the other placed the corresponding vial. For the second, one person placed the achene and collected the vial, while the other placed the toothpick and carried the clipboard, making any notes, e.g., if the achene was planted a few cm off the row to avoid placing it on a rock or in bunchgrass. The first step took about 10-12 minutes per 50 positions. The second took about 8-10 minutes per 50 positions. We set the achenes on top of the soil so that they had good contact with the soil, but weren’t buried. We finished around 4 PM and were grateful that we did not have to plant in the dark.

I hope the seeds have a good winter and I look forward to seeing them in the spring!

7 September 2015: Labor Day fun

Happy Labor Day from Team Echinacea! We made the most of the long weekend by doing lots of traveling. Danny went to Evanston to move things in before he moves there in a few weeks. He brought lots of the heads we harvested last week in an effort to keep up with the volunteer’s fast-paced processing of our harvest thus far! Meanwhile, Katherine, Ali, and I went up to Ely, MN to visit a friend of mine who works at a camp up there. The camp was hosting a music festival this weekend with artists like Lucy Michelle, Jeremy Messersmith, and The Pines. We were very excited to see the rocks, trees, and varied topography of the region which were all very different from what we’ve been experiencing in Douglas County. On Saturday morning we went mushroom hunting with Jeremy Messersmith, who happens to be a big mushroom enthusiast. Who knew! Later that day we went paddle-boarding and kayaking on the lake, which was really fun. Then we watched the concert! Super good. We capped off the day with some square-dancing with our fellow concert-goers. A great day. Sunday was similar, with more awesome music in the afternoon. We drove back today taking a scenic route through some good Minnesota towns I hadn’t been to before like Hibbing, Grand Rapids, and Akeley, which is the birthplace of Paul Bunyan. Danny is still on his way back from Chicago now. Stuart will be working at the Garden for the week, so it’s just us kids here in charge of getting everything done this week. There’ll be lots of harvesting to do in the experimental plots as well as plenty of refinding the seedlings that Team Echinacea has kept track of over the past 6 years in the remnants.

Us and Paul

Us and Paul

The Echinacea Project Field Log is under construction

We are in the process of moving our field blog. This site will be its new home, but we are still working on technical challenges.
Our old site is still available here:


the ants go marching

This summer, REU student Jill Gall put together a large collection of ants from prairie remnants in Minnesota. Yesterday, Stuart and I headed over to Lakeforest College to seek the advice of resident ant ecologist Sean Menke. Jill left us with two boxes of ants, which she pinned and identified to genus and separated into morphotypes:


Sean was impressed with her identification skills: she was correct in nearly every identification to genus and many of her morphotypes were consistent. He gave us some tips on what traits to look for when identifying ants. Now we have a plan for going through the rest of the collection. This will allow us to compare the species diversity of ants among prairie remnants, and hopefully pave the way for future ant research in the lab.


and the Flog is restored!

Hurrah hurrah!

The flog is back and running! All the links should be working and all pages formatted nicely now!

The credit goes to John, my friend from home, who has been troubleshooting and coming up with the solutions to the problems…..super super indebted to him 🙂

But the flog team is not totally done yet…now that our Twitter account is up, we’ll need to add a Twitter button on the flog. We’ll also continue to sort entries into categories. Also note the new description of the field log (credits to Lee)!

Comments on the flog are most welcome!

Sorry if the flog looks funky…(updated)

Long story. This morning, I managed to put on a Facebook like button, a search box, and a link to the Echinacea website under the Links heading; but later discovered that the Categories links and RSS feed links were not working properly (led to xml files rather than html files), but the Archives and Monthly Archives were fine. Not sure whether this was due to the addition of the Facebook like button or the search box or accidental changes to the rest of the script or due to older changes. Josh backed up the templates and then returned the templates to default settings, but the categories still weren’t working. I also discovered that the formatting for the Monthly Archive pages were lost, and couldn’t figure out how to restore the backup templates. To at least salvage the main page of the flog, I decided to switch to a new style (hence the change in the appearance of the flog), re-added the Facebook like button and search box and clustermap. But rest assured that the content of the flog has not been changed, just that the formatting/appearance may not look so nice right now.

So sorry for the mess-up T_T At this point, I’m not sure what else I can do. Josh suggested posting on the support forum, so I just did that. Hopefully I will be able to get some help from the forum. If anyone reading this has any idea, please do not hesitate to comment. Any help is greatly appreciated!


p/s Are people okay with the current layout? Or is the original layout better? Thanks

New Website

The new website proposal can be found on a google doc page.

New Media Initiative (Facebook Page)

Proposal for Facebook section of New Media Initiative.docx

Here is a proposal for a Facebook page by Callin and Amber. I think we need a logo for the Echinacea Project.

It would also be cool to put a “like box” on the website and on the flog, so people can automatically become fans of The Echinacea Project without finding it on Facebook.

I found an idea for how to do this at this site:

New Media Initiative: The Flog

Hi everyone!
Another aspect of the New Media Initiative for Summer 2011 involves thinking about how the Flog fits in with the other forms of media we’ll be using (Facebook, Twitter, the website), and whether there are changes that would make the Flog more useful to readers. Here is our proposal (Written by Maria, Greg, and I):

New Media Initiative – Flog.doc

*We would like to give credit to Nicholas for some of the formatting and headings, which we copied 🙂

New Media Initiative Proposal: Twitter

We are hard at work preparing various proposals. One aspect we are wanting to work on include our digital presences. We have thus created our New Media Initiatives.

This is our proposal for how the Echinacea Project might utilize Twitter.