My Time at The Chicago Botanic Garden

Now that my time at the garden is coming to an end, I wanted to include a summary of the projects that I’ve been working on. These three projects include organizing solitary bees that have been collected from yellow pan traps in Minnesota over the past summer, identifying pollen on Echinacea styles and recording the behavior of solitary bees inside emergence traps.

Last summer, several yellow pan traps were placed on the sides of roads in Minnesota in hopes of collecting solitary bees. Once they were collected, each solitary bee was pinned and tagged with a label that included the date, trap number, location, and an ID code. Before logging any of the information into the Roadside Pollinator spreadsheet (this keeps track all of the solitary bees that were collected over the summer in the pan traps) I grouped the specimen together by taxon. I started grouping more recognizable groups together like Agapostemon virescens before looking at more difficult specimen. Once all grouped together, I would enter the information listed on the label into the spreadsheet. I started with the specimen at the top left corner and worked my way to the bottom right corner of the box. I did it this way to make it easier for anybody to match the information listed in the spreadsheet with that particular specimen in the collection. I was not able to enter every specimen into the spreadsheet, but I did learn key characteristics that will help me distinguish solitary bees when I’m out in the field in Minnesota this summer.

Another project that I worked on while at the garden was looking at images  of Echinacea styles to see whether or not foreign pollen grains were present. Every style had three images at varying depths. This was done to get a better look at the pollen present (or absent) on the styles. Over the three weeks that I’ve been at the garden I’ve checked 646 styles for foreign pollen and since each style has three different images, I’ve looked at over 1930 images. You may think I’m an expert by now at recognizing foreign pollen, but I’m still very uncertain about what’s present. However, thanks to Tracie, a system was set up to gauge this uncertainty of whether or not there is foreign pollen present. 

Even though it sounds like I spent most of my time in the lab, I was actually outside collecting solitary bees and testing them in emergence traps majority of the day. Once I come into the lab in the morning, I immediately grab the bee-catching net and plastic vials that are in the lab. I also grab my lucky bucket hat before heading out. I head over to the prairie area in the gardens and try to look for areas that have a dense population of golden-rods. When I first started out this summer I had trouble catching bees, but now with a few weeks of experience underneath my belt I’m able to catch solitary bees with and without the net. I’m able to catch the bees without the net by closing the top of the vial around it while it’s resting atop of flowers. Once I’ve caught a few bees (I catch about four to six solitary bees per day) I head back to the lab and grab the emergence traps. I return back to the prairie area and set up a trap on a south facing slope in order to record the behavior of the bee. I either record footage of the bee or record my observations in a notebook, it all depends on how well I’m able to see through the trap. Once I have my observations/film for the day I return back to the lab and share my findings with Stuart.

On a typical day I would be rotating through these three projects, but I’ve also been able to sit in on a few presentations, including a master thesis defense and a PhD seminar. While at the garden I’ve learned many skills that I hope to continue using this summer in Minnesota!


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