Herbicide Transfer through Clonal Milkweed

In this study I propose to use common Milkweed as a study system to understand the impact of clonality and group survival. By intentionally adding a pathogen, such as an herbicide, the spread of the negative effects can be witnessed in a clonally connected plant. The goal of this experiment is to see how far the pathogens travel in a patch, how long it takes for other plants to die, and if there is any preferential sharing.

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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. [Read more…]

Day one of the actual experiment is here!

S1050022So today I finally got the caterpillars! Thanks so much to Rose Franklin in Pennsylvania for shipping them on Saturday so we could get them on time! Here’s a picture of one of our little guys on one of our test plants. Each plant that is in a caterpillar treatment tub was given one caterpillar. They were placed on the plants at 1 this afternoon so we will start sampling the plants at 1 pm tomorrow at the 24 hour mark. It’s interesting working with living creatures. I’ve been working with the plants since last november from when they were just seeds sitting in a fridge, and I’ve become very protective of them. Granted, a lot of that came from me needing the plants to be alive for this week when we are actually running the experiment, so earlier in the summer when some plants started showing signs of distress I got very concerned with their well-being. The caterpillars on the other hand I instantly bonded with, they are so cute! There was only one that I didn’t really like, while I was putting caterpillars onto the plants in the cages the rest I kept in a box. One of the larger caterpillars almost instantly began to eat a smaller caterpillar during the 5 minutes they were without a food source! (I had enough caterpillars so losing one didn’t set us back at all, but caterpillar cannibalism was quite a shock) Once they were on the plants they stopped trying to eat each other! Now all I have to worry about is caterpillars moving from one plant to another, but I am going to be monitoring their movements multiple times a day so if a caterpillar does move to another plant within a tub we will have it recorded. S1050014