Welcome to the Bellflower Fun page! During Summer 2017, Team Bellflower (Ashley, Jack, Elizabeth, and Sara) posted updates on their research. If you would like to see updates on research during Summer 2018 visit the Echinacea Project field blog (or flog)
This past week has been a busy one. Jack and I have been out to Fern Valley the past seven days working hard at training and testing the bee hive, with Sara splitting her time between data collection and counting for her abiotic project. We’ve had a bumpy ride with the colony, but we’ve managed to get some data from several of our foragers. I am currently sitting at the airport waiting to go home for a few days before the start of the semester, but Jack still has a couple more days out at Fern Valley with the bees so I wish him all the best!
It feels good to be going home at the end of a long week, but I will miss sweating profusely out in the field with everyone in the Ison Lab. This summer has been a great research experience and I feel like I have come away with a lot. Before the bellflower project, I never fully appreciated all the preparation and “behind-the-secenes” work that goes into a research project. I’d like to give a big thank you to Dr. Ison, as well as Matt and Dr. Galloway over at UVA for all of their help and guidance! Also a very big thank you to our excellent sophomore research assistant, Sara!!
Sharing Ashely’s sentiment, I am looking forward to working alongside the Ison Lab in the fall as we continue onto the next phase of I.S.!
The time has come for me to write a farewell as I finish up my research project. I came in without any idea what to expect from field work, just that it was going to be tiresome and I needed to remain flexible because a lot could go wrong. I am happy to say that everything worked out for the most part and I learned valuable lessons that I will be able to use later. Oftentimes, I had to go outside of my comfort-zone but I’m glad I did because I can say I’m no longer completely terrified of bees. I’m not going to be inspecting hives anytime soon but I can now walk next to a group of flowers with bees foraging instead of getting several feet away.
I am excited to see what results I will get this fall and to write up my Independent Study to get my findings out there. I am thankful for being able to have this experience and becoming familiar with a topic so important to our everyday lives. I wanted to take the time to thank my team for helping me along the way and being such great company. You have all been such an integral part of my I.S. and will surely be a continual source of support this upcoming year. I would also like to thank Matt and Laura for their valuable insight and encouragement. Here’s to a great senior year and a successful summer.
P.S. Elizabeth is posting this on my behalf since I am currently back home in Chicago and the page won’t let me post when I am outside Wooster’s VPN.
This past week, Jack and I have been collecting pollinator efficiency data using the flight cage! Following a bit of troubleshooting with the flight cage, we have finally settled on a set-up that seems to be working well. Leaving the hive outside and giving the bees free range of Fern Valley has been a good change of scenery for our bug friends. And because it was a bit too hot and dark in the cabin, we have moved the flight cage outside as well. Although it was a slow start, our bumblebees have proven themselves to be excellent Campanula foragers! By increasing the number of plants we bring and adding sucrose water to the nectaries (of mid-range, non-pollinator efficiency plants), we are on our way to reaching Ashley’s Bombus visitation goal for the pollinator efficiency project. As of today, we have received 30 visits to pollen removal and seed set, with only a handful to go for pollen deposition! Much thanks to the bees, who were raring to go and quickly began foraging on the flowers. It was good for our numbers, but perhaps a bit unlucky for Jack and I, as it was very hectic in the flight cage and we both had a couple close calls with some curious bees. Thankfully, no one was stung…this time.
– Elizabeth T.
Working in Fern Valley has provided the opportunity for very controlled field research. At the College’s Field station, we have been able to allow the pollinators a natural foraging lifestyle, while also giving ourselves the opportunity to work with the pollinator hive for research. After finishing finishing up with pollinator efficiency data collection, we will be attempting to train the Bombus bee hive to recognize pollen color as an indication factor for individual plant qualities. To do this we will be supplementing the already existing nectar by pipetting a very small amount of wither regular or sugar solution water into the nectaries of the plants. Elizabeth, the team and I have been working so hard to ensure that the plants thrive in their natural state for most of the summer, that manipulating them seems a bit out of the norm. Regardless, by adding sugar water to dark pollen phenotype flowers and control “normal” water to the light pollen, we hope to be able to train the bees to use the pollen color as a trigger for decision making when they are foraging.
Elizabeth keeping a close eye on the bees.
Painting forager tags.
The greenhouse at OARDC does more than just provide a place for plant care. It also provides a space in which we can know, much faster than in a natural population, what plants exactly, we have. The process of phenotyping is one that requires a substantial amount of time. You have to catalog plant numbers and catalog IDs and plant stage and pollen color and petal color and any other notes that we deem necessary. It really can take up a lot of time (I’m telling you from experience).
Phenotyping requires the use of these color swatches. As C. americana, has a variety of color that ranges from white to dark purple, there is a great benefit that comes from knowing which color exactly we have in the greenhouse.
There is, as we knew there would be, a large range of color within the greenhouse. The phenotyping has allowed us not just to get an eye for the pollen color itself, but also in sorting the plants within the greenhouse.
The benefits of phenotyping extend beyond the greenhouse, as it gives us experience for when we have to move into phenotyping a natural population; which though may take even more time, will allow us to know exactly (relatively) what plants are in Akron, Killbuck, and the other sites we frequent.
After going back to Akron after doing a week of data collection at Killbuck, I feel like each site has their own advantages and flaws. The first is accessibility. Akron is an hour drive and it takes about 20 minutes to hike up the trail to the area with the most abundant pollinators. Killbuck is about a 20 minutes drive and a five-minute walk to the area with the biggest natural population of Campanula. The second difference is the diversity of pollinators. At Akron, there are always a few bombus that will come to our arrays when we first get there and as the day warms up, the megachile and halictid will be swarming the arrays. At Killbuck, however, no matter what time we get there, there will be at most 2-3 bombus that will hover around the natural population of Campanula but will not actually forge on any of our plants. A plus at Akron is that whenever I go, I don’t get 20 mosquito bites but that’s beside the point.
We have been very fortunate to be able to collect data at both field sites and our data will be better supported because of that. We have a few more days of data collection at both sites before we wrap up so we will definitely take advantage of the remaining flowering plants!
These past four days have been spent collecting data at a new field site in a marsh wildlife area and as Elizabeth mentioned in a previous post, the mosquitoes are OUT. There is a great population along a trail that gives me serious enchanted forest vibes, or horror movie vibes (depending on the weather).
One of the only flaws with this site is that there are about three bombus (bombi?) that are forging around our arrays but they don’t actually forge on our arrays. Because of that, I have fallen behind in terms of bombus visits for pollen deposition, pollen removal, and seed set. A reason could be because it has been pretty humid and sunny when we’ve gone out so they are no longer out. However, we have gotten a lot of megachile and halictid visits and it is a lot closer to Wooster, so it is a useful site to have.
Sidenote: Sara and I are the most nervous around bees out of the whole group so we refuse to get up close and personal with the hive at Fern Valley. I went once with Elizabeth just to check it out but I stayed a very comfortable distance away from the bombus hive. All I’m saying is two of us have been stung and two of us have been spending the most time with the hive…
Raising bees seems like it wouldn’t be that daunting of a task. Considering they have millions of years worth of evolution which has led to a perfectly self sustaining hive system. But so far our rearing of bees has been anything but easy. As a part of this project we will be raising an experimental bee hive in the hopes of using its forager bees to test hypothesis that we have about their color perception in regards to our biological system.
The C. americana has typically purple petals and a pollen that can vary from bright white to dark purple. Because of the plants mechanisms for pollen presentation, the pollen color can have a very significant impact on the appearance of the flower. What we are hoping to achieve through our beehive/flight cage experiments is an understanding of how much bees use color vision in their foraging routine for Campanula.
So far our bees, (who were not likely raised as good foraging pollinators) have learned that flowers are a great source of nectar. Bees need nectar as it is where they get hydration as well as carbohydrates. But putting enough fresh cut flowers in our flight cage to sustain an entire beehive become quite the dilemma.
In an effort to keep the bees as comfortable and adaptable as possible we are allowing them to stay outside with the hive open. The hive sits on the front porch of the Fern Valley Station where it overlooks a garden and a field of wildflowers… Needless to say the bee’s have quite the summer home.
Pictures and videos from the set up of our flight cage experiment can be found on our Youtube page.
Recap of the last abiotic experience.
No Pollinators Allowed! followed the introduction of the abiotic study. A task that requires C. americana, a light meter, UV meter, a tape measure, flower tags, flower racks, data loggers (Sunny Sasha, Sunny Katy, Shady John, Slim Shady, and Universal Donor), pencils, pens, cages, etc. among other things.
Now, as work on the fine-tuning and mastery of the abiotic study progresses, we had help, close inspection, and experienced advice from Dr. Galloway and Matt Koski. They, having worked on a precursor to the study that is being observed today, held great insight on the working and tweaking of the study that is being done at OARDC, concerning the abiotic. They observed the set up, including the de- and re- assemblable cages, the timing and position of the light and UV measurements, the advised measuring UV and light both outside and inside the cages (which was a brilliant move, because who knew that tulle is secretly extremely thick). They also helped with the selection of the flowers that will go into the arrays themselves, in the process, reassuring us that light and dark pollen are on their way. Within the laboratory they also recommended the use of a desk lamp to help aid in the pollen germination period.
We are all very happy that Dr. Galloway and Matt Koski were happy with how all of our studies have been progressing, and we look forward to seeing how the studies will continue to grow (literally and figuratively). Dr. Galloway and Matt are now on their way to China, we wish them a safe trip!
Today, Jack and I spent our day out and about. After stopping by the greenhouse to pick-up flowers and drop off Sara (who worked hard all day collecting data for her project), we headed over to our second field site at the Killbuck Wildlife Area. This was just a quick stop to tag flowers from the natural population to use later for the pollinator efficiency project.
After tagging a handful of flowers, we made our way over to Fern Valley, where we (Jack and Dr. Ison) have set up our bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) hive. On Sunday, when Jack and I had last checked on the bees together, the hive hadn’t been doing so well. Unfortunately, many of the bees had died (RIP) and there was little foraging activity. Since then, we have moved the hive outside in the hopes of rebuilding the colony under better conditions.
The bees seemed much livelier today as we saw several individuals entering and exiting the hive. We were not so lucky in terms of training the bees to Campanula, however. We brought the hive back into the tent (flight cage) inside the cabin to train the bees to forage on a few bellflower plants. We left the open hive inside the flight cage for a couple hours while we collected pollinator efficiency data back at Killbuck, but when we returned the bees were largely inactive.
Thankfully, we were much more successful at Killbuck. We collected a lot of data on Ashley’s pollinator efficiency project (visits were received for seed set, pollen removal, and pollen deposition). Meanwhile, Ashley herself was back on campus perfecting her lab techniques!
Yesterday morning, Matt and Laura Galloway, our collaborators from UVA, joined us at Signal Tree, one of our field sites to see us in action. All our mornings were made when Sara and Elizabeth showed up to Rubbermaid with Dunkin Donuts coffees for all of us and a dozen donuts. Dr. Galloway gave us all valuable suggestions to improve our projects and was overall impressed with how all of our projects are coming along.
In the evening, we had a barbecue at Dr. Ison’s house with Matt, Laura and Dr. Loveless, a retired professor from the College of Wooster. Dr. Loveless didn’t come empty handed, she brought a delicious, homemade blueberry pie that had fresh blueberries she had picked herself and fresh madeleines made from blue cornmeal. Jack started up the grill and cooked some bratwursts while Dr. Loveless told us about the book she’s writing about the Amish and how much they interact with science in their everyday lives. Dr. Ison also made some great side dishes that included pasta salad, chickpea sauce salad, polenta, and Ratatouille.
After a brief silence, while we were eating, Zachary decided he wanted to play ball and he would thoughtfully pick one of us to throw it to. He later realized that he didn’t need any of us to play and could just throw the ball against the wall and get the same results. Elizabeth had a fun time playing with Dr. Ison’s two dogs and since we had another full day of field work the next day, we decided to call it a night.