Friday of my first week I got to head into the field with research scientist Emma Bialecki. We drove to a prairie in Cook County, IL. Emma and I would be monitoring subpopulations of Oenothera Perennis (small sundrop) that had been moniterd in the past. After tucking my pants into my socks, and my shirt into my pants, I was ready to face the ticks. We made our way to subpopulation #1. We searched and searched in the sunny, short grass prairie areas that Oenothera Perennis likes to grow in. Sadly, we found only one small cluster of the plant. From the field notes of passed years, it seemed as though over 40 plants had been counted at subpopulation site #1. I was a little discouraged after all of my marking flags remained in my hand, instead of in the ground to mark the plants. Below is a picture I took of the one lone cluster of plants we found.
We moved to subpopulation #2 and searched and searched. From the field notes, this site should have had over 100 plants. We found none. At this point, I was even more discouraged. Not only had I hoped to practice using the GPS and getting good data for my research project, but I knew that finding no plants when there should have been close to 100 was not a good sign. We did see a lot of the larger sundrop variety, and thought maybe we were mistaking the plants, but after a few quick measurements, we knew that the larger plants we were seeing had petals far too big to be the smaller variety. The third and fourth subpopulation sites were also fruitless. All in all, we found only one cluster of small Oenothera Perennis plants. After hours and hours in the sun, and pulling off some ticks, we decided to call it a day and head pack to the Botanic Gardens. On a positive note, I did get to ask Emma a lot of questions about graduate school, she gave me some pretty good tips. I hope that my next field adventure has a few more plants to count, and a few more GPS points to capture so that I end up actually using the metal flag markers we carried around for so long.