This was the first week for the Growing Green crew on the MMMILC Project. We had previously done an all-day training session on Saturday, with time to practice the measurements and ask questions, and everyone in attendance was certified to collect data in the field by the end of the day. On Tuesday, it was time for the real deal. The data collection seemed to go pretty well, though it is always especially challenging on the first day. Everyone seemed pretty observant and careful. It was pretty cool to see some of the returning alums from last year’s GG cohort and the DHS crew – they were fast and knowledgeable. By the end of the day, it seemed like everyone in the GGI was getting the hang of it, and it was a pretty solid first day.
Data entry was another story. Our Chromebooks hadn’t arrived yet, and we’d managed to borrow some iPads temporarily. They put up a valiant effort, but the iPads just didn’t make data entry easy. Add to that some WiFi access issues, and I’d say that folks did a great job under difficult circumstances. There were lots of data entry issues, however, and Kenya and I spend several days cleaning things up, and resolving minor mysteries. We have a few suggestions and ideas to make things faster reduce errors. We also discovered a few oddies that would be good to address sooner than later. So here are 10 things that participants can do to collect and enter data better:
- Be wary of wasps, not bees. We noticed that some teams skipped several plants because of “bees”. There were a couple of plants on the transect that had yellowjacket paper wasp (Polistes sp.) nests nearby, and we did our best to get rid of those safely. If you are uncomfortable around wasps, please let a mentor know when you encounter a wasp nest, so we can help you collect the data. However, you shouldn’t skip plants that just have honeybees on them – they aren’t aggressive, and we don’t want to systematically avoid flowering plants. If you aren’t sure about the difference between bees and wasps, check out this and this.
- Picking 10 random stems. When you find a milkweed with more than 10 stems, you should choose 10 stems to measure randomly – that means choosing long and short stems without any bias. Your sample of 10 stems should reflect the diversity of long and short stems on the plant as a while.
- Count all stems. If you find a plant with 30 stems, you only need to measure 10 of them, but you still need to count all 30 of them.
- NE vs. ERROR. If you find plant tags, but can’t find a plant, record it as NE (“not emerged”). Don’t record it as ERROR unless there is something odd that kept you from collecting any data, like someone dumped a pile of mulch on the plant. Also, be sure to write “NE” under milkweed status and not the notes.
- Record a time for all the plants, even the NE plants. We use these data for several things, and you should just get into the groove of recording a time stamp for each row of data.
- Make sure the number of stems matches the number of data for the stem lengths and diameter. If you have a plant with 5 stems, you should end up with 5 stem lengths and 5 stem diamaters.
- Measure stem lengths to the nearest cm, and measure stem diameters to the nearly 0.1 mm. You shouldn’t measure stem lengths to the nearest 0.1 cm – it is too slow, and overstates the precision of the measurement. However, for stem diameters the calipers can and should record to the nearest 0.1mm.
- Know how to look for monarch eggs. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to identify them with confidence. Check out this and this.
- Be sure you know how to read the calipers for measurements greater than 10 mm; you have to look beyond the dial to distinquish between 2.5 mm and 12.5 mm.
- When in doubt, read the protocol, and ask questions.
And now for the results. So far this season, we’ve measured 3726 milkweeds, representing at least 224 person hours in the field. We are cruising along at about 3 minutes per milkweed, which is great. There is amazingly little evidence of discontinuity between Week 11 and Week 12 in the mean plant measurements, which gives me confidence that we’ve done a good job with the transition between DHS and GGI. There are some cool patterns of eggs and larvae – looks like we might be seeing a new wave of caterpillars. I wonder if it will continue next week. As always, the full overall analysis report and more detailed individual participant reports are available on the shared drive.
The map looks good too. Compared to previous weeks, it seems like we are seeing the monarchs in different places along the transect, and the plant sizes on the southwest end might be starting to get large enough to support caterpillars.
A quick word about blogging. Given uncertain access to the internet, bloggers should try to write their posts on the Tuesday afternoon after the field work, while others are engaged in data entry.
Ok, that’s it! See ya next week!