#28: Milkweeds with Dr. Carrie Olson-Manning and Sydney Kreutzmann

#28: Milkweeds with Dr. Carrie Olson-Manning and Sydney Kreutzmann Nature's Archive


My guests in this episode are Dr. Carrie Olson-Manning and Sydney Kreutzmann. Dr. Olson-Manning is an Assistant Professor at Augustana University, has a Ph.D. in Evolutionary Genetics from Duke University, and leads the Olson-Manning Lab which focuses on understanding how biochemical pathways evolve.

Sydney Kreutzmann is a Research Technician in Dr. Olson-Manning’s lab, working on a number of research and outreach efforts.

In today’s episode, we focus on milkweed, and in particular, the Common Milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, of the eastern United States, and the Showy Milkweed, Asclepias speciosa, of the arid west. Dr. Olson-Manning’s lab is studying how these two species hybridize in the transition zone in the Great Plains, where humid eastern climates give way to arid western climates. They discuss some of their initial findings, but as is often the case, each discovery opens up many new questions.

Dr. Olson-Manning

But to do milkweeds justice, we also get deep into many broader aspects of milkweed, discussing their diversity, speciation, and ranges. No discussion of milkweed is complete without coverage of milkweed toxicity, and the unique animals that rely on it despite this toxicity. And of course, this means some Monarch butterfly talk. But did you know that there are at least 10 other species that rely on milkweed as part of their lifecycle?

And one other amazing fact – milkweed produce dopamine. Yes, the same dopamine that you and I rely on. You’ll have to listen to hear how it is put to use.

Monarch on a Common Milkweed, photo courtesy Dr. Olson-Manning

Be sure to check out Dr. Olson-Manning’s lab, milkweedflower.org for more details on the common and showy milkweed hybridization research, and their instagram. You can also follow the Olson-Manning lab on iNaturalist, and join their iNaturalist project that tracks observations of the Showy and Common milkweeds and their hybrids.

And during the episode I mentioned that I promised to share the stem mining insect observation. You can check it out on iNaturalist, where the current thinking is that a Marmara species moth larva created it.

Evidence of a Stem Mine, likely from a Marmara sp. moth, found on milkweed stem

While you are welcome to listen to my show using the above link, you can help me grow my reach by listening through one of the podcast services (Apple, Google, Stitcher, etc) linked on the right. And while you’re there, will you please consider subscribing?

Links To Topics Discussed

Past Episodes Mentioned

Books and Resources

Monarchs and Milkweed by Anurag Agrawal, also available as an audiobook!

Monarch Joint Venture – a resource mentioned by Dr. Olson-Manning

What Milkweed To Plant – PDF showing which species to plan by region of the USA

People, Organizations, and Other Things

Dr. Steven Matzner – collaborator

iNaturalist – anyone can use this wonderful resource to learn about the plants, animals, fungi, and other things living in their area.

Mead’s Milkweed – a milkweed species that is threatened

Tropical Milkweed – is NOT recommended by Xerces Society. We discuss this briefly in the episode.

Note: links to books are affiliate links

Music Credits

Opening – Fearless First by Kevin MacLoed

Closing – Beauty Flow by Kevin MacLoed

Both can be obtained from https://incompetech.filmmusic.io/

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