For an explanation of why I'm doing all this craziness, check out this previous post about my research.
Because one of my major research questions is about inter-annual variation in restoration (a.k.a. if I plant a prairie in 2014, and I plant the same prairie the same way in 2015, will it turn out the same?), I need to replicate what I did last year exactly in order to have good experimental control.
That means that if I mowed the field on April 29 last year, sprayed herbicide on May 5, plowed on May 18 (and so on) last year, I have to try really hard to hit all those dates again this year so that the only difference is the year itself. And by "I," I mostly mean "the people with big equipment that do me big favors." Super shout-out to Mark, the manager at my field site that helps me with these things (and his predecessor Steve)!
Then, when all the "big" preparations are done, I have to get the fields sown and build my rain-out shelters for my experiments. I did this all in about a week last year, which means I had no choice but to do it in that much time this year (and I'll do it the same next year, too)!
The madness started when my prairie seeds arrived in the mail. I ordered the seeds for my experiment from Native Connections, a local Michigan seed supplier. The seeds are all different shapes and sizes-- anything from a grain of sand to a bean-- and they're all individually packaged by species. I have 30 species altogether in my experiment.
I want to achieve a certain seeding rate (in seeds/sqft) for the species that I want in each of my experimental plots. Some plots get a low diversity mix (8 species), and others a high diversity mix (30 species), but the total density of seeds needs to remain the same for both. Also, since I'm sowing the seeds by hand, I need to be careful to distribute the seeds evenly across a large area. To help with this, I divided up my field and seed mixes into smaller parts.
Since I have 6 big prairie plots (each divided into 6 smaller areas for easy sowing) that get one type of mix, and 2 different mixes sown into 4 additional plots each, I needed to weigh out 84 bags of seed mixes. Multiplied by the number of species going into each, I weighed seeds 1008 times. This took me about 20 hours.
The smaller seeded species come in a ziploc bag.
Bouty bouty bouty bouty rockin' everywhere!
The larger seeded species come in a plastic-woven seed bag like the one above.
20 hours sound like a lot, but It's actually nice to once in a while have something to do that doesn't use too much brain power. Plus, I got to catch up on a couple dozen Radiolab podcasts.
The next day, I met my new summer field assistant out at my field site, and started bringing my rain-out shelters out of storage. We will be using these to manipulate how much rainfall the experimental plots receive (to simulate, for example, a rainy year versus a dry year). They were a little grimy after last summer and even grimier after spending the winter in a barn, so we spent a day washing them off.
Meanwhile, my buddy Mark tilled up this year's plots for me.
It took another full day to measure out and flag where the rain-out shelters and seeds needed to go.
Then, it was sowing time! This is always the fun part.
I lied. THIS is the best part. Because I get to ride the cultipacker!!
After the fenceposts are in and the edging installed, the ropes and stakes are added.
Based on how dirty the water looks, you can tell the storm was also quite windy.
Overall, I'd say my crazy week was a great success!
Until next time,