A week into coming to Chicago I went on a research trip to Door Country, Wisconsin. The cabin we stayed in turned into a make shift lab and it was the most authentic field research I have ever experienced. We were collecting data for an ongoing summer project that began around 2011 looking at the impacts of an invasive weevil on Cirsium pitcheri, a threatened endemic thistle native to sand dunes around Lake Michigan. The sand dunes are slowly disappearing as the water levels have been rising leaving less and less habitat for C. pitcheri. We collected weevils in two locations, White Fish Dunes and Ship Canal.
Watching the morning unfold in the dunes was so beautiful that I never felt like I was out there doing work. Besides counting pitcheri seedlings, we also collected weevils for later experimentation. Many other insects were also found on the plants aside from weevils.
After coming back from Door County, I began my research project on Ascelpias syriaca, or common milkweed. It took a couple weeks to reorganize the common garden plots and hash out the protocols, but things are going well so far. I'm collecting phenotypic data on three populations of A. syriaca, and conducting pollinator observations. I'm excited to see what kind of pollinators are most common during different stages of plant development, but especially excited to be able to collect and pin them for further study!