Author Archives: Barbara Hoffman

Gareth Jones: A Look into Projects at Station Linné

This is the third in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Pollination Biology in Sweden program this summer with Professor Heidi Dobson. Gareth Jones ’19  is a biology-environmental studies major.

For my blog post, I thought it would be great to provide some insight into one of the major projects assigned over the course of this Pollination Biology class. These work-intensive projects give us (the students) an opportunity to apply what we’re learning in the classroom to a “real” situation in the field and, simultaneously, allow us to practice professional methods of data collection and presentation. In many ways, these reports are an embodiment of what this course is about.

During our five weeks on Öland, we will do three partner projects and one independent final project. In general, we are responsible for the following steps for each project: selecting an appropriate plant species within biking or walking distance, researching the chosen plant, conducting different experiments in the field and observing/recording results over a period of several days. After data collection is complete, we deliver a brief presentation to the class explaining what we discovered in researching our plant and the results of our study. Finally, all of the information listed above is put into a well-manicured report.

Here is an example of a project introduction that blends research and observations in the field in order to provide a detailed description of the selected species:

“The plant Lonicera caprifolium of the family Caprifoliaceae, commonly known as the honeysuckle, is a woody perennial native to Europe. In general, L. caprifolium is a strong-growing, twining deciduous shrub that can reach a height of 4-8m after a period of 5-10 years (Plans for a Future 2017). The leaves are oval, blue-green and approximately 4-6cm in diameter. Most notably, this species is distinctive among Lonicera for being perfoliate, meaning that the upper leaves extend at the base to encircle the node, so that the stem apparently passes through it (Royal Horticultural Society 2017). The flowers of the plant grow in clusters of 4-7 and are attached at the node of the circular leaves. During the budding phase of flower development, the 4-lobed, zygomorphic petals are deep pink and fused together to form a 3-5cm tube terminating in an enclosed pod that encases the sexual whorls (NatureGate 2017). As the flower matures, the pod swells slightly and the external color slowly transitions to lighter hues of white, pink and yellow. Upon anthesis, the fused point at the tip of the flower rips and the petals peel backwards, exposing 5 stamen and one protruding green pistil. The newly inverted petals give the flower face a light cream color, while the outside remains light pink. When the anthers dehisce, their smooth surface explodes like a burst corn kernel and covers the tip of the stamen with a yellow fuzz of pollen. Later, the stigma of the pistil enlarges slightly and becomes sticky, advertising that it is ready to receive pollen. At this point, the hermaphroditic flower is completely sexually active and has the scent to prove it — the common name “honeysuckle” is a reflection of the strong and sweet scent. L. caprifolium is most active in the late afternoon and evening.”

Next, we outline the methods and results of the study using text, photos, tables and graphs. Here is example of each:

TEXT: Time of anthesis (flower bloom)

In general, the flowers of L. caprifolium begin to enter anthesis during the early afternoon and late evening. As shown in Table 1, the calculated average time of anthesis occurs around 18:16 — however the observed times ranged from 17:00 to 19:00. At the research site in Öland, Sweden, sunset during the month of June typically isn’t until 21:30. Therefore, anthesis routinely occurred well before nightfall. A large amount of daytime pollinators (i.e. Apidae bumblebees) were observed buzzing between flowers near the time of anthesis.



Example of bagged inflorescence of Lonicera caprifolium.


Finally, the discussion allows us to interpret results, think about future studies and mention curious/unexplained phenomena observed over the course of the study. Here is a brief excerpt:

“One potential hypothesis for the nocturnal sexual behavior of L. caprifolium is that the late hour of bloom it allows the plant to maximize pollination by nocturnal moths while simultaneously reducing the risk of diurnal parasites. This theory is generally applied to many types of honeysuckle within the Lonicera genus. Additionally, the abundant nectar at the base of the tubular petals corroborates the idea that L. caprifolium is adapted to serving a guild of nocturnal lepidoptera. By the day after bloom, the petals have turned yellow and wilted, perhaps indicating to future pollinators that the flower is no longer supplying rewards. However, the old petals remain on the flowers for several days. This could be done to increase attraction to moths, since old flowers will often be clustered with new flowers or buds. It was difficult to find any scientific literature pertaining specifically to the phenology of the species L. caprifolium, and therefore this research is an important first step in gaining a detailed knowledge of the plant’s sexual development. It would be very interesting to pursue two observations recorded during the study: first, is there an abiotic stimulus that prompts anther dehiscence? And second, is autonomous selfing a prevalent mode of sexual reproduction for for L. caprifolium? Hopefully, more studies will be done to solidify the basic timeline of sexual development charted in this study, in addition to exploring other topics like the two mentioned above.”

Hopefully, this gives you a sense of the kind of work that goes into the projects of this course! I have found these reports to be incredibly interesting and formative experiences. This kind of work is why the idea of a Pollination Biology course was so attractive to me – not to mention the beautiful scenery and amazing cultural excursions that I’m sure my fellow students will write about in their blogs!

Natalie Mutter: A Glimpse of Life at Station Linné

This is the second in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Pollination Biology in Sweden program this summer with Professor Heidi Dobson. Natalie Mutter ’20 plans to major in biology.

Hej hej!

Greetings from Station Linné. We’ve just finished our third day of classes on Ӧland, and the time has flown by. Hearing of the groundbreaking and influential research that has been conducted here in the past, as well as projects that are underway presently, I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to study pollination biology here with great friends, scientists, and mentors. From beginning our first project on plant breeding systems to pinning our first insects, we have leapt into the biological wonderment of Ӧland. Although these projects are the center of the experience here at the station, we have also found that living in a new place provides all kinds of learning opportunities.

Our time at the station is spent mostly in the lecture space, the field, or the lab, and we share meals and conversation in good company in the dining room. Wide, tall windows line three walls, welcoming in an extraordinary amount of light.

The sunsets have encouraged me to go running later in the evening, as the sun sets around 21:30. This image shows the setting sun on the day of our arrival to Ӧland, with one of the three Swedish flags that stand at the front of the station blowing in the wind. The roads surrounding the station wind through strawberry and lucerne fields, with houses dotting the land with red and white. Cows and sheep graze in pastures edged by rock walls, and the nightingales sing incessantly.

In the field, we have been learning to identify members of several plant families we have studied in lab. Students observe and identify the various parts of the flowers on a honeysuckle in the image above.

We are immensely lucky to be present on Ӧland when the orchids in bloom. In the field next to the station, several species of orchids are blooming in columns like these. The orchid family (Orchidaceae) is one of the first families with which we became acquainted during our first lab here at the station.

Frogs and caterpillars lurk in the grasses. As Professor Dobson said in the field yesterday, “if you sit and wait, you can see life unfolding around you”. I must tread carefully as I walk – buttercups and daisies bloom everywhere.

In the above image Professor Heidi Dobson and student Ian Gingerich (‘19) identified members of plant families in the field just outside of the station. We collected flowers from different families to see the variation in the arrangement and design of their sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils.

Back in the lab, we examined the specimens closely under dissecting microscopes, drawing cross-sections and writing detailed notes in our field notebooks for reference to the families we had just learned.

Although we have only been on Ӧland for four days, we have packed an impressive amount of learning and adventure into our time here. I look forward to continuing work on our research projects and learning more about the complex mechanisms that create and sustain so many forms of life in our world.


Melia Matthews on the first few days in Stockholm

This is the first in a series of blog posts from Whitties studying on Whitman’s Crossroads: Pollination Biology in Sweden program this summer with Professor Heidi Dobson. Melia Matthews ’20 plans to major in biology.

Whew! What a start to our trip! The first few days in a new country are always a unique and eye-opening experience, and our few days in Stockholm were no exception.

I came to Sweden 24 hours ahead of the group and I set out to explore the city of Stockholm for a few hours before my jet-lag set in. For me at least, you don’t notice too much out of the ordinary if you aren’t paying close attention…There are cars and streets and buses and people and coffee shops…even if you can’t read the signs very well, it still seems like a normal city that isn’t too strange. So I decided to look a little harder to see what differences I noticed first. Surprisingly, the first big difference I noticed between Sweden and the US were the stoplights! Instead of hanging from wires across the street, they were on poles rising from the ground on the street corners; also the street signs were in white on the sides of buildings instead of green on a pole…so it took a bit of effort to find my way around at first! But anyways, on to more big picture matters…While my overall impression of Stockholm was maybe a bit greener and cleaner that many large US cities, It really wasn’t all that different. There were neighborhoods, tourists, churches and apartment buildings. It was really cool for me to see how different countries can be so different and yet so similar…It was a pretty comforting realization for my first day.

Then the group arrived the next day. We checked into our hostel and spent the next two days touring as much of Stockholm as possible in 48 hours! We rode about every variation of public transportation as possible, buses, subway, ferry, you name it! We saw the sights but also enjoyed the less touristy areas around our hostel which included a huge park with an outdoor gym and lots of awesome trails. We walked an average of 10 miles each day and started getting used to the Swedish food. Most of us were also dealing with jet-lag and some sleepless nights, but starting our 5 week visit to Sweden with a few days in the capital was a great experience and was a fantastic way to understand more of the history and city-culture of Sweden, but I also am looking forward to immersing a bit more directly with the land and the people during our time on Öland at the research station!