Recap of past year & summer 2017 field season

It’s time to prepare annual reports to NSF for our two long-term awards through CBG & through UMN. The period covers 1 April 2017 through 31 March 2018. So, here’s a brief recap of activities from the past 12 months including the summer 2017 field season.

Last spring we were busy in the lab. Led by interns Amy & Scott, volunteer citizen scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden started cleaning heads harvested in summer 2016 to count all of the achenes to generate a detailed and precise dataset of annual plant reproductive fitness. We were way behind because of the huge flowering year in 2015. We worked all fall & winter and we are in good shape now. Led by Tracie, we are cleaning 1148 heads harvested from plots in 2017, which we will finish over this summer.

Several undergraduate students have worked on projects in the lab, including Nicolette, Ashley, Marisol, Nina, Trevor, and now Danielle. They are all gaining experience, learning a lot, and contributing to science! Graduate students are hard at work too. Lea has analyzed all of her summer phenology data on Solidago & Liatris. Kristen is working on the bee collection from last summer with Mike. They are both making research plans for summer 2018.

Last December, we submitted a paper to Oikos titled “Pollinator-Mediated Mechanisms for Increased Reproductive Success in Early Flowering Plants.” We haven’t heard anything for 101 days & wonder if it has disappeared into a black hole.

Our team accomplished a lot in summer 2017! The 2017 summer team, shown below, included three undergraduate students (Ashley, Will & Wes), a high-school student (Anna), two graduate students (Lea & Kristen), and two recent college grads (Tracie & Alex)–not to mention the usual suspects, Gretel, Ruth & Stuart. We summarized progress on many summer projects last fall & made flog posts. Here are links to the updates organized into six groups.

First, we measured survival, growth, and flowering effort of our model plant, Echinacea angustifolia, in several experimental plots. The earliest was established in 1996 and the most recent in 2015:

Second, we measure other traits in these plots, including flowering phenology. We also have some treatments, such as pollen addition and aphid addition, which we apply every year. Will has super-cool estimates of the heritability of flowering timing. He is polishing the manuscript and will submit it soon. Amy W. has a manuscript in review that quantifies reproductive synchrony in the 1996 cohort of plants. She estimated how much within-year synchrony (daily phenology) and among-year synchrony (annual flowering) contribute to long-term mating opportunities.

Third, we make observations of Echinacea plants in natural prairie remnants in our study area, including flowering phenology, survival, reproduction, and incidence of disease. Scott is investigating effects of fire on population growth rates in our remnants using a life-table response experiment approach. While she is on sabbatical, Amy D. is analyzing the seedling establishment dataset.

Fourth, we study plant species other than Echinacea angustifolia and we are very interested in pollinators, including native solitary bees.

Fifth, two REU participants worked on our Team last summer. Here are updates of their projects.

Sixth, we are worried about non-native Echinacea plants that are used in restorations and how they impact populations of the native Echinacea angustifolia. We have several ongoing experiments that investigate a population of Echinacea pallida introduced within our study area.

The Team from summer 2017


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