2023 Update: Jak’s fire and pollinator fidelity experiment

We know that prescribed fire is beneficial to native prairie plant species, but summer 2023 REU participant, Jak Davis, is also curious about how fires impact native pollinators. Their project this summer, investigated the effects of prescribed fire on pollinator fidelity/visitation to Echinacea. Jak collected bees in the field (Agopostemen virescens, Halictus and Augochlorella) and scraped pollen off their bodies. They counted and identified pollen grains under the microscope and calculated total proportion of Echinacea pollen grains.

Jak is continuing this work at part of their senior thesis! She has started data analysis and will have results to share soon!

Jak has been hard at work in the lab at College of Wooster post-field season!
A closer look at pollen grains through the microscope! Jak is able to tell which grains are Echinacea- impressive!
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: Remnant prairies in Solem township, MN and the lab at College of Wooster
  • Overlaps with: other projects in prairie remnants
  • Data collected: N/A
  • Samples or specimens collected: pollen scrapes from bees, floral specimens
  • Products: Senior thesis in the works! Stay tuned!

2023 Update: Search for the Leadplant Flower Moth

The Leadplant Flower Moth (Schinia lucens), is a species of special concern in Minnesota. It used to be common and have an extensive range, but now populations are few and far between. Douglas and Grant counties (our study area) are not included on its current range map. Nonetheless, REU participant Liam Poitra thought that it was possible that this moth might persist in some of the remnants in our study area. Liam planned and conducted a systematic search for the leadplant flower moth for his REU project. If Liam found enough moths to estimate populations sizes or density, then he would investigate characteristics of their habitat for his REU project. If not, then he would transition to another project. He found one individual moth and took some great photos. Details of the search are in Liam’s report.

Liam marches through Staffanson Prairie Preserve. This site was included in his systematic search for the leadplant moth.
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: prairie remnants in Solem & Land Townships
  • Overlaps with: other projects in prairie remnants
  • Data collected: see Liam’s report
  • Samples or specimens collected: photos only — see the report
  • Products: Liam’s report also saved here… ~Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/liamPoitra/S.Luscens Sighting.docx

You can read more about Liam’s other REU project: assessing floral resources in remnants & restorations.

2023 Update: Victoria’s ABT format lesson plan

2023 RET participant, Victoria Romero, spent time over the summer designing a lesson plan for using the ABT format. She implemented this in her project-based learning class. Students presented their enzyme research in a “poster conference” style format. Each student had 3 minutes to describe their enzyme models using the ABT format. This project was implemented early in the year so there was hesitation, but Victoria may plan more ABT format presentations throughout the year.

Victoria also plans to implement ecology focused lessons later in the year. She is teaching an English for second language ecology course, so she may modify her lessons to fit that.

Victoria takes GPS points in the field! Team Echinacea had lots of time to think about and discuss ABTs for our work this summer.
  • Start year: 2023
  • Location: Western Minnesota and Gwinnet County Public Schools
  • Overlaps with: NA
  • Data collected: NA
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA
  • Products: Victoria’s website to introduce her students to the ABT format project can be found here: Enzyme Project Her presentation to the 2023 summer team is located in “Dropbox/teamEchinacea2023/victoriaRomero”

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: Parasitic plants addition experiment in p01

Land managers seek to introduce hemiparasitic plants (plants that steal nutrients from other neighboring plant species but still produce some of their own sugars through their own photosynthesis pathways) to restorations because hemiparasitic plants are associated with higher quality prairie. However, whether or not hemiparasitic plants are the cause of the prairie being high quality or the product of the prairie being high quality is unclear. Therefore, in 2020 we experimentally introduced 72 Pedicularis canadensis and Comandra umbellata into the restoration plot, experimental plot 1.

In 2023, we replanted 40 Pedicularis canadensis that haven’t been seen since they were initially planted in experimental plot 1. Additionally, we took our annual measurements of Liatris ligulistylis and Solidago speciosa size and reproductive effort, as well as counts of seedlings present. This year was the first year since 2019 that we did not harvest aboveground biomass around our 216 total planting locations in experimental plot 1.

  • Start year: 2019
  • Location: experimental plot 1
  • Overlaps with: pedicularis effects on host plants in p10
  • Data collected: size, reproductive effort, and seedling count in  Liatris ligulistylis and Solidago speciosa
  • Samples or specimens collected: NA! This year we did not collect biomass
  • 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: