Week 2 Flog: Introduction to the ACE protocol

In the first two weeks of being at the Echinacea Project Lab, I have become well acquainted with parts of the ACE protocol. I have done counting, cleaning, re-checking, randomizing, and scanning. In my first week, Alex showed me how to clean echinacea heads. During the cleaning process, we press the dried echinacea head into a glass pyrex tray. Usually, the achenes will fall out. However, i’ve gotten some really tough flower heads where the achenes were firmly attached to the bracts and other parts of the head. Alex taught me a good method to gently grab onto the achene with tweezers and wiggle them out of the head. After adapting that hack, things went much smoother. The contents of each head get separated into two envelopes. The achenes are stored in the achene folder and the bracts and dust are stored in the chaff folder. The achenes are ready to be scanned after a round of rechecking to ensure all achenes are accounted for!

I found it fascinating that there is so much variation in achenes between different echinacea heads. On the other hand, there are many similarities between achenes from the same flowering head. I also realized that handling achenes is a very delicate process because they have a tendency to fly away. I was very impressed with the organization system of all the achenes going through the ACE protocol. Different boxes and labels indicate which stage the achenes are currently at in a certain box.

Next week, I will be developing some questions for my own research project. I am excited to start my journey to uncover the secrets of echinacea!


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