Pink flower

Amy Waananen

Research Q & A

How did you get started/what drew you to your area of study?

I was drawn to plant biology by a curiosity in bees. I once spent a summer as an undergrad following bumble bees around a prairie.

Why are you focusing your work in that area?

During that summer, I ended up being fascinated by learning about all the plants the bees visited. For my dissertation work, I still focus on plant-pollinator interactions and understanding how bees move pollen around prairie landscapes.

What are you currently working on?

This summer I did an experiment to investigate how dust affects plant reproduction. Dust is a ubiquitous feature of gravel roadsides where, as it turns out, a lot of remnant prairie populations live. Dust is similar to pollen in a lot of ways, and can land on the reproductive structures of flowers, interfering with pollination. What’s more, the tallgrass prairie is expected to get dustier with ongoing land use intensification and climate change. This past summer I did an experiment to test the effects of dust on the reproduction of the narrow-leaved purple coneflower, Echinacea angustifolia. I am currently working on assessing the seed set of the heads in the dust treatment experiment.

How are you working toward that goal?

Echinacea achenes are like sunflower seeds in that they have a external “husk” that forms whether or not the floret it came from was pollinated. If it was pollinated, it will have a seed forming inside. To peek inside the achenes, we use an x-ray machine. Using this, we will assess how well pollinated plants from the dust and no-dust treatments were.

What would be the 5 song soundtrack to your research work/What 5 songs do you listen to most while you work?

  • Another One Bites the Dust by Queen
  • Blowin in the Wind by Bob Dylan
  • Gold Dust Woman by Fleetwood Mac
  • Sandstorm by Darude
  • Easy Wind by Grateful Dead



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