Flog Post

Hello Flog-beasts! We’ve been busy here at the Echinacea project. This Tuesday we finished measuring P1, which was the final big hurdle in our quest to finish measuring. That’s right: we’ve now visited every position in our experimental plots at which we’ve found a plant in the last three years! Very exciting.

The other two big tasks we’re working on finishing is finding Liatris and harvesting Echinacea heads. We’re making great progress on both! Every few days we revisit Echinacea in our plots and in the remnants to see if they’re ready to harvest. Once we harvest the heads, we put them into an H-bag which goes into a G-bag which goes in the seed drier which goes in G-3. That reminds me of a certain song about a bog…

This summer there’s been an unprecedented amount of Liatris flowering, so it’s been a huge task to map it all. We’ve had to put in transects at certain plots because there’s just too many to surv!

Spiral staircase Liatrus!

One other thing we’ve been spending a lot of time doing is total demography. This is when we use the GPS to revisit every location where there’s been a flowering plant in the past. When we find flowering plants we also surv(ey) them. Geena, Daytona, and I had lots of fun at Hegg Lake today surving plants…and also serving looks!!

One thing we are all about at the Echinacea project is innovation. Which is why I am happy to share some cutting-edge creativity Geena demonstrated today by using a Capri Sun straw as a Visor stylus:

It works!

See you next time, flog-fanatics!

Mid-week Shenanigans Update

Hello all you flog-readers! We’ve had quite a fun week at the Echinacea Project, and it’s only Thursday!

This past Tuesday, we had the team social at Hjelm. The highlights of the dinner were fresh corn on the cob and S’mores- thanks, Stuart! We also finally got to see the fruits of our tree-hauling labor as we (Jared) ignited one of the bonfire piles (which we stacked less than 20 feet tall, as per regulation).

The team has spent a lot of time this week measuring P1, our nearest and dearest plot. We are definitely making progress! My favorite pastime during P1 measuring is catching grasshoppers and katydids, and unleashing them on other team members. We also got some help measuring today from Team Echinacea alum Riley and our favorite recurring guest star Ruth!

P1 resident biting me so bad.

One great interpersonal disagreement we must overcome at Team Echinacea is differences in opinions on field clothes. Some people are never seen outside without their wide-brimmed hat with sun flaps. A few prefer long sleeves and long pants for sun protection to avoid cuts from grass. Many enjoy t-shirts and long pants. Some even wear shorts (as I did, once, but was quickly deterred). However, I truly believe this may be a first for Team Echinacea: Geena braved P1 with no shoes! “Socks are just enough protection for me,” she told us.

Geena goes primal.

On a more bittersweet note, our beloved team member Kennedy had her second-to-last day of work today. This was Kennedy’s second summer with the team, and we loved hearing her talk about aphids, dust, goats, and her cow Ollie. Alex baked a delicious cake to commemorate Kennedy’s leaving. Thanks Kennedy for being such an awesome, sweet, kind, and funny person to work with this summer! We wish you the best of luck in South Dakota 🙂

Friday: Stormy Staffanson (& more!)

This morning the crew split up, heading out to work on various tasks: remnant phenology, p7&9 phenology, and p2 measuring. P2 was peaceful, and measuring is like a game of I-spy: can you spot the echinacea in this picture?

Echinacea hidden in the grass, likely around position 47

After lunch and a successful goat herding (they love a new pasture!), the team got to head to Staffanson, where we got to see how the rolling prairie has changed since we first visited in early June. One of my favorite plants to see was Allium stellatum, or the prairie onion! The team spread out across the prairie, searching for flowering echinacea and following speedy Emma as she staked to a subset of the plants for total demo. Staffanson was stunning, and even more fun was watching the afternoon storm roll in. Eventually, we had to head back for fear of getting soaked – but we didn’t made it, so we got a quick shower before heading home for the day.

Overall, Friday was a breeze, and filled with beautiful prairies and as usual, lots of echinacea. 🙂

Cake and Bugs!

This morning, the crew headed out to do phenology as usual, and we found that we were able to finish phen in record time. Because much of the flowers in the remnant plots are finishing up the flowering portion of their lifecycle, we were left wondering: what could we do in the extra time before lunch?

The answer: bug hunt.

(Actually, we headed to do phen in experimental plots 7 & 9 while the rest of the crew headed to do total demo.)

During the bug hunt, instead of us finding the bug, the bug found us. The recent cicada hatch has turned the tables for us, with cicadas often deciding that we are the best tree sized object to land on in the fields. Today a cicada landed on me, so naturally, a photoshoot ensued.

After the exciting insect of the morning, lunch brought an even better surprise: a Team Echinacea cake brought by Britney. The cake presented the crew with their second challenge of the day: Were the flowers also made of cake? (No, but don’t worry, it was Echinacea purpurea, not angustifolia.)

So pretty, and even tastier than it looks!

After lunch, we headed out to P2 to start our measuring journey. This meant we got to use the biggest measuring tape that G3 can fit. It also doubles as a very high fashion scarf (so camp!), demonstrated here by Daytona.

While measuring, we also discovered several gopher holes (discovered is synonymous with fell into, depending on who you are). These gopher holes had the capability of shrinking people, so we decided to shrink Joey.

To end our afternoon of measuring, we had another insect photoshoot. This time, a katydid came to visit!

POV: An Echinacea during demo and surv

As I watch the sun rise, I wonder what type of day it will be. Will I have ants crawling on me, or will I have a shield bug perched upon my head? As the sun grows higher, I see a group of large animals walking on two feet, carrying lots of brightly colored items. I watch as they come closer to me and my other plant friends. They start marking all the other plants that look like me, I wonder what they are doing. I even get a blue flappy thing of my own. They finally leave, but soon after these big creatures return. They take their time looking at each of us, recording strange data and replacing the flappy thing for another colored one. I wonder what is going on. Finally they get to me, I am the only one left with a blue flag, the others all have a neon. First the creature bends down and places something around the base of my head. I feel pretty, like I was accessorized. Then I feel them dig around near my roots and they find something sharp and metallic. It was placed there years ago and had grown into the dirt around me as time had passed. They dig it out and look closely at it, talking to the other creatures as they examine. Then they start to prod at me, feeling my rosettes and counting my heads. It feels weird, why am I getting all of this special attention? And what do they want from me? Will I be okay? Finally, they stand up, but I see the creature reach around their back to grab something. I fear the worst as they bend down with a sharp pin, but they don’t hit me. Instead, they replace my blue flag with a neon one like the rest had received, and walk away.

I start to relax, thinking it is all over. The creatures had gotten what they had come for. Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to be done. A group of two of them started working their way through all of us who were marked, along with a tall stick they seemed to keep looking at. I worry what they are doing. I think that it may be the end. When the group arrives at me, I can feel the stick being placed next to me, nearly on top of me. I fret that I will be squished. One of the creatures bends down, again looking at the foreign metal object which seemed to be assigned to me. The two creatures talk for a moment, then my flag gets replaced again, this time I get a white one. I can’t relax, not when they seem to be coming back so often. But as the sun dips below the horizon, I think that the normal hush of the prairie may have finally returned, and I can again grow to my hearts content.

A Typical Tuesday: Data and Dancing

To start the day, Team Echinacea split into two groups – one group went to Loeffler Corner W and Yellow Orchid Hill to look for flowering echinacea heads, and the other went to Aanenson to collect demographic data on the flowering heads that they worked hard to find the previous day. Some of the Aanenson crew also got to communicate with the International Space Station as they learned to use the GPS unit for survey data.

Utilizing echinacea eyes

After lunch, Team Echinacea regrouped for a team data collection effort at P10, where the wind made it difficult to stand up straight. Squatting to measure the small echinacea planted in these plots was a little less difficult, but we still had to do some hat chasing throughout the afternoon. Despite the wind, we managed to find a record leaf measurement of 21cm tall.

(Let’s pretend like the pink flags don’t mean we couldn’t find a plant)

After measuring P10, the team headed to Andes where a deluxe team dinner of sweet potato tacos was to be served. But the tacos were only the beginning: Sophia made a pineapple upside down (right-side up?) cake that was sweet enough to fuel a Cotton Eyed Joe line dance, porch swinging, and hills exploring that followed. Legend has it that there’s even a bunker we could’ve gone to during the storms last night, but that’s yet to be discovered.

Alex surveying the hills
And finally, the video you’ve all been waiting for: Lindsey, Johanna, Joey, Emma and Alex demonstrating their line dancing skills

Demo & Surv at LCE

Monday 6/20

Today, half of the team went to LCE to get trained in on Demo and Surv. A previous group had identified most of the flowering echinacea with blue pin flags. Some of the demographic information about the plants we logged using our visors included; how many rosettes, how many flowering heads, if it had ants and/or aphids, and what tag number. We removed the previous blue flag and used a neon flag to indicated that the information had been logged. Jared and Alex trained us in using the visors. Later, Emma and I worked with the GPS unit to survey the plants that were already flagged with neon and replaced it with a white flag. We also got to meet the newest member of the team, Joey!

Jared showing us the protocol for demo.
Daytona, Emma, Alex, Sophia, Jared, and Joey working on demo.
Emma and Britney using the GPS unit to Surv.

Ultimate Pictionary

Andes Crew decided to stay in after a wild night of street dancing on K-Town Friday night. Mia and Lindsey representing Elk Lake house competed in the pictionary tournament against the Andes Crew, Sophia, Geena and Johanna. Andes won, however the competition was neck and neck. Check out some of our fan favorite and winning art pieces includes, canary, buffalo, foul line, Marx brothers, paper back, parade. See if you can guess from the pictures! Stay tuned and join the next pictionary tournament hosted by yours truly, Andes Ski Hill and Friends. 

Week 7: X-ray Time

This week I continued to make progress on cleaning and scanning for the lilium project (Figure 2). All the pods have been cleaned and we have established a scanning protocol for lilium pods. These protocols allow for others to replicate our methods in future projects with lilies.

Jared and I conducted a couple trials with x-raying the lilium seeds. We will experiment with adjusting the settings on the x-ray and after effects for the images. Further experimentation is necessary to generate high quality x-ray scans in order to classify the seeds. In the x-ray images, the seeds that contain fertilized embryos will appear bright white (Figure 1). We use this to classify which seeds contain fertilized embryos and which ones are empty. The contrast of appearance in the x-ray is due to the increase in density of the fertilized embryos.

Jul 6 Orchid Trip Adventure Recap

It was a dark and stormy night. Well, really it was morning, but the dark and stormy part is true. Regardless, the inclement weather during Tuesday’s early hours wasn’t enough to keep Team Echinacea from taking a road trip to monitor orchid populations in Fertile, MN.

Eight of us, about half the team, left the field house around 7am and drove north for two and a half hours. We stopped only for the necessities, namely the bathroom and donuts. The rain forced us to wait in our vehicles when we arrived at our site, and we were finally able to get to work around 10:30.

The first location we visited required a short hike to access. Though it’s acres upon acres in size, you’d never find it if you didn’t know where to look, which is why we were fortunate we were joined by Gretel Kiefer, who has worked with these orchids and the Nature Conservancy for over decades. A long-time member of Team Echinacea, Gretel is spending most of her summer at the Chicago Botanic Garden, but was able to join us this week for the trip.

The work itself consisted of moving in groups of four searching 10m by 10m plots for orchid plants. Whenever we found one, we would gather some data on its flowers, give it a numbered flag and use a GPS to mark its exact location. The plots themselves were sometimes a bit difficult to keep track of because many of the markers were fallen over or missing; I can only imagine how difficult it may have beef if there was standing water. Fortunately for us—but perhaps not the plants—this year is a dry one.

After finishing up at the first location, we ate lunch before traveling to the second and final location for the day. Because it would have been a long walk carrying all of our equipment, to get there we all piled in to Stuart’s pickup truck and drove down what I would hesitate to call a road, though we did all make it in one piece.

Our task for the second location was the same as before, but took much longer due to its larger size. By the time we were finishing up, the sun had come up after hiding behind the clouds all day. We were fortunate that it had been cloudy for most of the day; not only does cloud cover provide some relief from the heat, but, somewhat counter-intuitively, direct sunlight also makes it more difficult to spot individual plants. Once we wrapped up our work around 7pm, we headed south, stopping at a pizza place in Ada on the way back for dinner.

Despite the rain in the early hours, the consensus was that the orchid trip was successful, and indisputably a blast.

Some bonus photos: