Summer REU Internship 2020

The Echinacea Project is looking for interested and enthusiastic summer researchers for the 2020 summer field season. Our project investigates how small population size and reduced genetic diversity influence individual fitness, population demographics, plant-insect interactions and evolution in the purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia. We are seeking students with interests in plant population biology, evolution and quantitative genetics, pollination biology, plant-insect interactions, and conservation biology. We also encourage statisticians and computer scientists with an interest in ecology and evolution to apply. This REU (research experience for undergraduates) is a great opportunity for aspiring ecologists, conservation biologists, and evolutionary biologists to gain field research experience. This is a great opportunity for those with strong quantitative interests to gain experience managing data, programming, or modeling. All will learn about the ecology and evolution of plants in fragmented prairies! Read more general information about our field season!

Program Details

2019 Team members Erin (left,) Jay (center, REU participant) and Julie (right, REU participant) looking for Echinacea amidst corn.

The main field season runs June through August. The exact start and end dates are negotiable. There is a $550/week stipend plus housing and travel expenses to the research site are covered.

Independent project: You will develop an independent research project in consultation with the two principal investigators of the project, Dr. Stuart Wagenius and Dr. Ruth Shaw. You will also get an opportunity to practice informal and formal science communication with other members of the team. Projects can explore questions about the ecology and evolutionary biology of Echinacea angustifolia, another prairie plant species, pollinators, or herbivores. All work occurs in the context of prairie remnants which allows projects to be directly applicable to conservation challenges of habitat fragmentation. Here are some examples of past projects:

“Insect diversity in prairie remnants”

“The effect of remnant size on the diversity of Echinacea-visiting ant species”

“Effect of inbreeding on symmetry of floral display”

“Competition between Echinacea and thistles for pollinators”

“Pollinating bees of Echinacea angustifolia: who gets the job done?”

“Flowering Phenology of the Prairie Forb E. angustifolia in Fragmented Populations”

“Ant species richness and abundance in Western Minnesotan prairie fragmented by large-scale agriculture”

“Invasion by hybridization between native and non-native purple coneflowers”

“Management of invasive tree species in prairie experimental plots”

“The effect of prairie burns on Echinacea flowering synchrony”

Qualifications: We are looking for undergraduate students who are willing to work outdoors in adverse conditions, exhibit patience, pay attention to detail, possess good hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills, work well independently and as part of a team, and have a strong interest in scientific research. During the summer, REU participants must be enrolled in an undergraduate institution and be a US citizen or permanent resident of the US or its possessions. Members of groups underrepresented in science are particularly encouraged to apply.

No experience is necessary, but you must be enthusiastic and hard-working.

How to apply

Jay along with the rest of the team plants Echinacea seedlings at a local Minnesota high school

If you enjoy working outdoors and you are excited to learn about the ecology and evolution of plants in fragmented prairies, please apply for an REU with the Echinacea Project. To apply, please do the following:

  1. Fill out our online application form.
  2. Send an email with:
    • a cover letter, including the following…
      • why you are interested in this REU
      • what are your future plans
      • a statement that you are eligible for the REU program
      • who will serve as your reference
    • your resume
    • your transcript (unofficial OK)
    • one letter of recommendation (sent by your reference)

Send your application via email to with the subject line “Summer REU intern application” by 1 March 2020. Format your cover letter, resume, and transcript as pdf files. Begin each file name with your surname.

Review of applications will begin on 1 March 2020. We’ll accept applications until positions are filled. Be sure to include an email address and phone number where you can be reached during March.

You are welcome to apply to multiple positions with Team Echinacea with the same application. Please indicate which positions you are interested in on the form you submit with your application.

More information

First, read about our field season! If you have any questions, contact a team member via e-mail. Read about our lab and field activities on the flog and more about the project’s background.

Please note that the REU opportunity through Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Genes to ecosystems” REU program is the SAME as this opportunity.