Fieldwork

The month of June was predominantly spent on fieldwork and preparation for fieldwork. Preparation included obtaining materials, packing and planning ahead for the visits. There are 5 sites for field work: Presquile National Wildlife Reserve (PWR), Blandy Meadows (BLD-M), Blandy Thistle Thicket (BLD-T), Sky Meadows (SKY), and Greenspring (GRN). For PWR, BLD-M, BLD-T, and SKY, overnight visits were required. We were fortunate enough to have access to research housing for all of these. PWR is an island so that required intensive planning as nothing could be forgotten. Once we arrived at each site, we jumped right into fieldwork.

Methods:

First we place a measuring tape between the two flags. Using a 1.5 meter long pvc pipe, with each .5 meter marked, the plants are flagged. Plants that are 0-.5 meters away are given one color flag “in plants”, and plants 0.5-1.5 are given a second different color flag meaning they are “peripheral plants”. Next each plant on the “in” group is tagged and given a number. The in plants then have plant data collected from them: height, leaf length, leaf width, stem diameter, stem damage evidence (present or absent 0 or 1), number of umbels, flowering, number of leaves, and herbivory of each leaf. Following the collection of plant data a spectroradiometer is used to detail levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, cardenolides, and a few other things. Next a PosTex positioning system is used to map the location of each plant in relation to other plants on the transect. This will help with the spatial density analysis later on in the experiment. Additionally the length of each transect is measured, as well as the overall width of the surrounding milkweed patch. Finally one sample from each plant, a single fine specimen leaf, is collected in a labeled bag. In total we collected data for approximately 755 plants.

Milkweed Transect

Milkweed Transect at PWR

Along with us on the trip were a handful of other undergrads as well as a graduate student and a professor. It was really nice to see everyone helping each other with their various projects. Without each others help each task would have taken so much longer. There also was most definitely a learning curve, however with each site we improved. Many of the machines were very finicky too which was slightly problematic. However in the end everything ended up being fine.

Up next, Lab work!

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