June update - Everything

Since arriving in Colorado, my life has been incredibly busy and interesting, which is why I have not updated my blog until now.  This post is a quite poor in terms of topic organization, I apologize.


One of my many research projects is to examine if Mertensia plants with different floral orientation are influenced by rain differently, and one measure of this effect is the number of nutlets (seeds) each plant produce.  To test this, I constructed and placed a rain shelter over a plot with several Mertensia plants, manipulated floral orientation (upward or pendant) of haphazardly chosen plants, supplemented pollen to these plants, and waited until the end of the flowering season to collect the nutlets.

Another project is to see if water can enter the floral tube of Mertensia plants.  Here is a Mertensia brevistyla flower with water filled to the top.  And you can sort of make out the horizontal slit I cut into the floral tube, which allows me to insert a microcapillary tube extracting any water that enter inside.

Kebler Pass
One project I am currently working on is at the contact zone between M. fusiformis and M. brevistyla.  The field at the bottom of the image (separated by the road) is where M. fusiformis are located; in the middle is where both species co-occur (with putative hybrids); and the hill towards the right side of the image is where M. brevistyla are found.  It is a very interesting system/location to work on/at.

Mertensia brevistyla
M. brevistyla plants with an upright floral orientation.

M. brevistyla flowers with stamens and style hidden inside the floral tube.

Mertensia brevistyla
Close-up of a M. brevistyla flower.

Mertensia fusiformis
M. fusiformis with a pendant floral orientation.

Mertensia fusiformis
Another M. fusiformis with a pendant floral orientation.

Inside M. fusiformis flowers where the stamens (and sometimes the style) extend beyond the floral tube.

Mertensia brevistyla
M. brevistyla

Mertensia brevistyla
M. brevistyla

Mertensia brevistyla
M. brevistyla

One day while conducting pollinator observation on M. fusiformis, I saw this Hemaris thetis visiting many plants.  I saw the same type of pollinator last year, but I got much closer and better photos this time.


Clearwing moth visiting Mertensia fusiformis

One project I am also working on is measuring and comparing morphological traits of several Mertensia species.  From June 21st to 23rd, I traveled to Boulder and visited M. clokeyi, M. brachyloba, and M. longipedunculata.

M. brachyloba growing on a very dry habitat.

Mertensia brachyloba
The flowers are much lighter in colour.


While measuring the flowers, a bee (a Colletes, I think) started to rob the nectar right in front of me.

Plants and insects

Osmia bee
My friend is doing a flight cage experiment with Osmia iridis.  Here is one of the adorable, marked females.

Osmia bee
Female peeking out of a nesting straw.

Bombus sp.

Erythronium grandiflorum
Erythronium grandiflorum at Kebler Pass.

Bumblebee visiting Erythronium grandiflorum
Bombus sp. visiting E. grandiflorum.

While visiting other Mertensia species, I noted other co-flowering species.  At the M. clokeyi site, I saw the following species:

Golden banner flowers (Thermopsis sp.)

Golden banner flowers (Thermopsis sp.)

Shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum)
Shooting stars (Dodecatheon pulchellum)

Penstemon sp.
Penstemon sp.

Penstemon sp.

Near the site, there was a spot next to the creek attracting many species of butterflies.

Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)
Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)

Unknown butterfly (Family Nymphalidae)
Unknown butterfly (Family Nymphalidae)

Unknown butterfly (Family Nymphalidae)

Unknown butterfly (Family Nymphalidae)

At the M. brachyloba site, while measuring plants, I noticed this spider protecting a folded-over Mertensia leaf.

Unknown spider on Mertensia brachyloba
Unknown spider on M. brachyloba

Unknown spider on Mertensia brachyloba

Here are the co-flowering species near M. brachyloba:

Spotted saxifrage (Saxifraga bronchialis)
Spotted saxifrage (Saxifraga bronchialis)

Sunflower (Helianthella sp.)
Sunflower (Helianthella sp.)

Prickly pear (Opuntia polyacantha)
Prickly pear (Opuntia polyacantha)

Miner's candle (Cryptantha virgata)

A Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) flying towards a thistle.

Bombus centralis visiting M. longipedunculata.


Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) on Mertensia longipedunculata
Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon) on M. longipedunculata

The other day at Kebler Pass, I saw this Bombus appositus on the ground and not moving a lot.  I put a dandelion next to it in case it needed some nectar for energy.

Bee bum.

Bombus appositus
The bumblebee drank nectar from the flower, but it did not appreciate me getting close for photographs.

Bombus appositus
What a beautiful bumblebee.

Unknown bee-mimicking fly
Nearby, an unknown bee-mimicking fly landed on a dandelion.

Mertensia ciliata
M. ciliata growing at Kebler Pass.


I have not been doing bird-watching as regularly as I would have liked, but here are some of the birds that I have seen.

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
A beautiful Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis).

Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Taking off!

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)
I encountered this particular Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus) many times while working around my rain shelter plots.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

Broad-tailed Hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus)

A Cordilleran Flycatcher (Empidonax occidentalis), I think.

Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis)
Gray Jay (Perisoreus canadensis) at Kebler Pass.

Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)
Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla) at Kebler Pass.

Wilson's Warbler (Cardellina pusilla)
Singing warbler.

A few rainy days ago, while driving back into Gothic, my friend noticed this grouse sitting by the road.  My friend used my camera to take a picture of it.  I think it is a female Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus).

Other animals and things

On the drive to Kebler Pass, I frequently encounter this Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) sitting on top of a ski-doo.  Here is my friend trying to get a photo of the marmot and its lookout point.

What an interesting sight!

A few days ago, a graduate student showed us the work that she is doing with Tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum nebulosum) and the infectious amphibian chytrid fungus.

Tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum nebulosum)
I love salamanders!

A salamander larvae.

Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum nebulosum)
A very young salamander.

Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans)
My friend found this tiny baby Western terrestrial garter snake (Thamnophis elegans) outside her flight cages the other day.

First rainbow of the field season.

Two days ago, my friend and I took a day-off to climb Gothic Mountain.  The last time I climbed this mountain was almost two years ago.

North-facing bowl of Gothic Mountain with two false summits at the right side of the photo.

At the top!

Gothic townsite from Gothic Mountain
View from the top is spectacular although the climb is quite challenging.

The townsite Gothic.

Top of Gothic Mountain
Panoramic view from the top.  To see the larger image, click here.

From Gothic Mountain

Chalcedon Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona)
It is quite surprising to see organisms thriving at the top of the mountain.  For example, we saw this beautiful Chalcedon Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona).

Fleabane (Erigeron sp.)
And beautiful wildflowers such as Fleabane (Erigeron sp.).

Alpine sunflower (Hymenoxys grandiflora)
And alpine sunflowers (Hymenoxys grandiflora).

I have twenty days left in Colorado before my field season concludes.  Feeling nostalgic already.

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