For the archive of past lab members, click here.
Scroll down for Postdocs, Graduate Students, Key Collaborators, Undergraduate Thesis Students, and Societies & Affiliations.
INGRID M. PARKER, P.I.
Office: CBB 260
Email: imparker<at> ucsc.edu
My research interests include biological invasions, plant-pathogen interactions, the evolution of domestication in the tropics, and conserving endangered plants. For more information, check out my RESEARCH page!
SARA GROVE, POSTDOC
Email: sgrove <at> ucsc.edu
My research broadly addresses the ecology of plants and the application of science to improve invasive species management and restoration success. I investigate the impacts of introduced invasive plants on native plant populations, communities, and ecosystem processes. My current work examines the abiotic and biotic mechanisms by which a widespread invasive shrub, Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), limits reforestation success. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that changes in nutrient availability, allelopathy, and the disruption of the mycorrhizal mutualism that result from Scotch broom invasion, remain as soil legacies that ultimately hinder Douglas-fir establishment. A major component of my research examines the temporal dynamics of these invasive species impacts and I am currently investigating both the development of soil legacies over time following invasion as well as their persistence with time following invader removal. My research is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
NICKY LUSTENHOUWER, POSTDOC
Office: CBB 164
Email: nlustenh <at> ucsc.edu
I am fascinated by how populations grow and evolve in the spatially and temporally varying environments emerging under global change. My main research focus is on spreading plant populations, in the context of both invasions by exotic species introduced to a new continent, and range shifts by native species in response to climate change. I am currently studying Dittrichia graveolens (stinkwort), an annual plant species that is rapidly expanding its native range in Europe as well as its exotic range in California, where it was first observed in 1984. Together with Miranda Melen, I am studying these two range expansion gradients to better understand how spreading plant populations evolve in response to novel abiotic conditions (phenology), novel biotic interactions (the soil microbial community), and the spread process itself (dispersal). My research is funded by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation.
KAREN E. TANNER
Office: CBB 261
Email: karen.e.tanner <at> gmail.com
I study the effects of anthropogenic change on annual plant demography and community composition in California’s Mojave Desert, currently undergoing a renewable energy boom. This region is home to many rare and special-status species – how can we detect these species, avoid impacting them, and mitigate impacts when they can’t be avoided? I combine observational and experimental approaches to gain insight into desert annual performance in natural and human-modified landscapes. Desert annuals exhibit strong response to microsite heterogeneity and moisture availability; can the response of plants to these sources of natural variation help us predict demographic response in human-modified landscapes? I use matrix models to compare performance of closely related rare and common annuals (Eriophyllum mohavense and Eriophyllum wallacei) in different microsites and in an experimental shade treatment mimicking the effects of a photovoltaic array. For more information, check out my RESEARCH page!
Office: CBB 164
Email: zshearin <at> ucsc.edu
I study pathogen spillover from plants of one species to another as a function of the phylogenetic relatedness of the host plants. Plant pathogens play a critical role in plant community structure and diversity, and I am interested in how proximity, abundance, and phylogenetic distance of one host can affect the level and severity of disease of others. I am also interested in how these pathogen communities regulate the introduction of non-native species, and how plant community composition can facilitate this interaction. My current work takes place in the Great Meadow and the Forest Ecology Research Plot on the UCSC campus, and is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
MIRANDA K. MELEN
Office: CBB 164
Email: mkmelen <at> ucsc.edu
I study dispersal mechanisms of invasive plant species and their potential for invading native plant communities and restoration sites. I’m currently assisting Dr. Nicky Lustenhouwer, a post doc in our lab, to assess the impact of the invasive plant Dittrichia graveloens (stinkwort) on California’s ecosystems when compared to its Mediterranean home range in Europe. We are building a seed library of populations from the home range in Europe, the epicenter of arrival in Alviso, CA, and populations on the invading eastern front which are moving up the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. For more information, check out my RESEARCH page!
ERIN L. AIELLO
Office: CBB 261
Email: eaiello <at> ucsc.edu
I’m most interested in mycorrhizae, botany, and restoration. I received an NSF graduate research fellowship award in 2017, studying abiotic and biotic parameters influencing the success of eelgrass restoration. I graduated during summer of 2018 and joined the Parker Lab in fall, looking at arbuscular and ectomycorrhizae associated with scotch broom and Douglas fir, respectively. I’m currently most intrigued by the roles of mycorrhizae in plant response to disease, orchid restoration, biological invasions, and forest-wide resource partitioning.
GREGORY S. GILBERT
Department of Environmental Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz
Joint projects: Plant disease ecology, novel plant-pathogen interactions, biological invasions, tropical ecology, forest dynamics, phyloecology, inquiry-based learning, graduate training, salsa dancing, F1.
KAREN A. HAUBENSAK
Department of Forestry, Northern Arizona University
Joint projects: Plant invasion, forest regeneration, soil legacy effects of invasion, allelopathy, plant-microbe interactions, saving the world from Scotch broom.
Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology
Ohio State University
Joint projects: Response of native plant-pollinator interactions to invasive plants, policy and management of the impacts of invasive species, meta-analysis of invasion impacts.
UNDERGRADUATE THESIS STUDENTS
My research in the Parker Lab looks at the effects of cover crops on microbial communities. Although it’s understood that cover crops are used between growing seasons to prevent soil erosion and mitigate disease, little is known about the impact of the cover crops on soil microbe communities. I’m working with environmental DNA (eDNA) extracted from soils collected before and after the introduction of cover crops at the UCSC farm. My research makes use of metabarcoding, next generation sequencing technologies, and bioinformatics to answer the question of how cover crops affect soil microbial communities. I’m a plant molecular biologist in the making!
I worked with Karen Tanner on the Elkhorn Slough salt marsh project and Sara Grove on Douglas Fir and Scotch Broom interactions. My senior thesis was under Karen Tanner and focused on the effects of different saline concentrations and water volumes on halophyte physiology. Some of my favorite memories include getting stuck in the mud while planting Jaumea carnosa, my first tick encounter, and endless bargaining with the Decagon WP4! I graduated in 2018 and am currently working as a research associate at Mendel Biological Solutions, focusing on the effects of applied natural products on crop plant.
Dean’s Award for Undergraduate Research A Widespread Nitrogen-fixing Invader Experiences Negative Soil Feedbacks Despite Increased Root Nodulation and Mycorrhizal Colonization. I researched plant-soil feedbacks in the invader Cytisus scoparius predominantly focused on the interactions between C. scoparius and soil biota. Currently I am continuing to collaborate with Ingrid Parker and Sara Grove to publish our research on plant-soil feedbacks.
I am currently working on a project at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve with Karen Tanner to look into the feasibility of using Biochar (basically charcoal!) as a restoration tool to increase transplant success of five native salt marsh plant species. The benefit of biochar is well studied in agriculture but not so much under a restoration context in salt marsh ecosystems. I use observational techniques to assess differences in long term plant growth between treatments of varying additions of biochar to salt marsh soil.