Lab Members

Current Members

beachSafiya Alavi
Undergraduate Researcher

Safiya is a Statistics & Data Science major at UCSB who is interested in applying the technical skills she’s gained through her major studies to ecological topics in order to gain a more broad understanding of the world. Currently, she is building on a project that looks at how the thermal sensitivity of plankton metabolism alters how many plankton there are, and how much photosynthesis and heterotrophy takes place in the sea. Now she will be conducting research on how marine plankton contributes to carbon and nutrient cycling in the world’s oceans by analyzing data that is produced from local-scale and global-scale models, specifically focusing on the effects of global warming in the ocean. Aside from an interest in data analytics, she enjoys traveling, reading and hiking.

Kevin Archibald headshotDr. Kevin Archibald, Ph.D.
Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow
karchibald ‘at’
Google Scholar

Kevin is a biological oceanographer and ecosystem modeler interested in marine plankton and their impacts on global biogeochemistry and climate. He joined the Moeller Lab in December 2020 to model evolutionary change in mixotroph physiology, biogeochemistry, and global distribution in response to climate change. Kevin did his PhD at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution with Scott Doney, Michael Neubert, and Heidi Sosik. During that time, he conducted a variety of modeling and field studies including how zooplankton diel vertical migration contributes to carbon export and how grazer switching promotes diversity in phytoplankton communities. Kevin earned his undergraduate degree in Quantitative Biology at the University of Delaware, where he studied migratory bird ecology with Jeff Buler by tracking movements using National Weather Service radar data. Outside the lab, Kevin’s hobbies include reading, hiking, and learning to cook.

Headshot of Gina Barbaglia, Undergraduate ResearcherGina Barbaglia
Undergraduate Researcher

Gina is currently working on her Biology degree at UCSB. She is interested in studying the effects of climate change on ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles. Gina is assisting in research projects that study the adaptive evolution of mixotrophic species in response to temperature changes. Her individual research tests the hypothesis that Ochromonas cultures pre-acclimated to high-prey environments grow slower than cultures that must suddenly acclimate to high-prey environments. Gina is investigating how this phenomenon may be influenced by bacterial presence and the duration of time that elevated growth rates are sustained. Aside from research, Gina enjoys surfing, yoga and eating sushi.

ethanheadshotEthan Baxter
Undergraduate Researcher

Ethan is interested in mathematical models of all sorts, and wants to learn more about biological systems. He works on modeling and analyzing coral symbiosis.  Further, Ethan’s current goal is to study what conditions and characteristics make a coral symbiont behave in specific ways. He is also interested in the applications of stochastic processes, game theory, and group theory to ecology and biology. In his personal life, Ethan enjoys playing the trumpet and sailing JV for the UCSB Sailing Team.

alexandra_photoDr. Alexandra Brown, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar
alexandra_brown ‘at’

Alexandra is interested in mathematical modeling and symbiosis. She works on models of coral symbiosis (with Drs. Holly Moeller, Roger Nisbet, and Ross Cunning) and on models of symbiosis in changing environments (with Drs. Moeller and Stephen Proulx). Alexandra did her PhD work at the University of Pennsylvania with Dr. Erol Akçay, building mathematical models of conditionally beneficial symbionts. She got her undergraduate degree from Brown University, where she worked in Dr. Dan Weinreich’s lab. Along with mathematical models and symbiosis, Alexandra loves all things Pokémon.

RaineRaine Detmer
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
adetmer ‘at’

Raine is interested in both community ecology and mathematical modeling. She is particularly interested in using models to better understand species interactions in marine communities and how these interactions may be affected by environmental stressors. Her work in the Moeller Lab leverages the Santa Barbara Coastal and Moorea Coral Reef LTER datasets. Raine began her research career by modeling the interactions between Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp), benthic macroalgae, and sessile invertebrates and how this system is affected by disturbance from storms. More recently, she is exploring the incorporation of coral-associated animals into models of coral growth and bleaching.

MeredithHonig.jpgMeredith Honig
mahonig ‘at’

Meredith joined the lab as a technician to work on research focused on understanding the adaptive evolution of mixotrophic species in response to different environmental conditions. She earned her B.S. from UC Davis in Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology. Throughout her undergraduate career and beyond, Meredith has worked in various lab and field research settings, including social behavior in sharks, hummingbird disease ecology, wildlife genetics, and cheetah conservation and management. Meredith is interested in community ecology and how environmental stressors or anthropogenic disturbances influence the structure and functioning of ecological communities. Outside of the lab, Meredith enjoys reading, attempting to teach her cat how to walk on a leash, hiking, petting dogs, and birding.

Jakob Kaare-RasmussenJakob Kaare-Rasmussen
Undergraduate Researcher

Jakob Kaare-Rasmussen is a Biology undergraduate in the College of Creative Studies at UCSB. Jakob is interested in all forms of mathematical models and how they can be used to describe ecological phenomena. Jakob is currently working on developing and analyzing models that can help explain the complex relationship between coral and their symbionts. In particular, Jakob is interested in using mathematics to describe the mechanism that causes coral bleaching and the role the symbionts play in the process.  In the past Jakob has also worked with disease models, to better understand the role mutations can play in the spread of disease. He is also involved in developing the BIODISCOVER machine (BIOlogical specimens Described, Identified, Sorted, Counted, and Observed using Vision-Enabled Robotics) with Dr. Toke T. Høye at Aarhus University, Denmark. In his free time, Jakob can be found exploring the mountains.

IMG_0707Josephine Kaminaga
Undergraduate Researcher

Josephine is a Statistics & Data Science major at UCSB who is fascinated by the beauty and usefulness of mathematical modeling for ecology. Currently, they are synthesizing a corpus of data about marine ciliates in order to model the ciliates’ contributions to carbon cycling in coastal marine ecosystems. Josephine hopes to gain more experience with mathematical modeling, so that they can transform raw data into explanations for how all sorts of marine creatures affect their environments via the power of statistical analysis. Aside from all things data and science, Josephine enjoys fencing, writing poetry, trying new boba places, and playing open-world video games.

Screenshot_20221002-224137_PhotosRonja Keeley (she/her)
Undergraduate Researcher

Ronja is an Environmental Studies major who is interested in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis and community ecology. She is working on a project exploring the relationship between Valley Oaks (Quercus lobata) and fungi. Specifically, her project examines whether microbial communities from arid sites are more helpful to oak seedlings than communities from mesic sites under drought conditions. Ronja’s other interests include Indigenous land management, restoration, and classical music. Outside of an academic setting Ronja enjoys hiking, mushroom hunting, birdwatching, reading, capoeira, and gardening.

su_perfilDr. Suzana Leles, Ph.D.
Simons Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow
leles ‘at’
Google Scholar

Suzana is a biological oceanographer. She studied Oceanography at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) in Brazil. Suzana found herself most curious about what she couldn’t see – the ecological interactions within the microbial world. And she wanted to turn these into mathematical equations. During her Master’s in Ecology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), she worked with Dr Gisela Figueiredo and started applying mathematical models to study plankton trophodynamics. Through the Brazilian program Science Without Borders, she was able to cross the Atlantic to pursue a PhD at Swansea University and the Plymouth Marine laboratory, in the UK, working with Prof Kevin Flynn and Dr Aditee Mitra on models of mixotrophic plankton. After that it was time for the Pacific – Suzana moved to USC to work with Dr Naomi Levine developing proteome allocation models for phytoplankton. Now, also working in the Moeller Lab, Suzana will combine models and experimental evolution to investigate the relationships between mixotrophy, cell size, and warming. Besides science, Suzana likes dogs (hikers or couch potatoes) and enjoys campervan life on the weekends.

IMG_4636Holly Moeller (she/her)
Principal Investigator
holly.moeller ‘at’
Website / Google Scholar
2022 Quanta Magazine profile

Holly is a theoretical ecologist who uses mathematical and empirical approaches to understand acquired metabolism. Originally trained as a photophysiologist and phytoplankton ecologist, she built her mathematical toolkit as a masters student working on marine reserve bioeconomics. As a PhD student with Dr. Tadashi Fukami (and co-advised by Dr. Peter Vitousek),  she studied the ancient and diverse metabolic mutualism between trees and ectomycorrhizal fungi. Holly spent most of her postdoctoral tenure as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, studying acquired metabolism in plankton with Drs. Michael Neubert and Matthew Johnson.  She was also briefly a Biodiversity Research Centre Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of British Columbia, before moving to UCSB. In addition to her scientific work, Holly is a bit of a ‘math evangelist,’ who tells everyone that she meets about the vital role of mathematics in biology.

Andreas Norlin headshotAndreas Norlin
anorlin ‘at’

Andreas joined the lab in October 2021 as a Lab Technician to work on the cryptophyte, Mesodinium, Dinophysis project, assisting both in the modeling aspects and the laboratory aspects. Previously he worked with cryptophyte physiology for his master’s thesis and later worked on modeling other mixotrophic organisms such as Noctiluca and Radiolaria. Andreas has a passion for learning about and researching the natural world, with a special fascination for anything microscopic. In his spare time, he likes experiencing storytelling in all its forms from books, to films, to other electronic media. Lately he has been really engaged in ‘sim-racing’ where he races other people in virtual races online.

ChrisHeadshotDr. Christopher Paight, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar
cpaight ‘at’

Chris is an evolutionary biologist interested in the genetics of adaptation. He started his scientific career working with Dr. Teri Markow at the University of California San Diego, experimenting with Drosophila raised on diets with different carbohydrate ratios. This research explored differences between generalists and specialist species as well as the effect maternal diet has on progeny. He studied biology at the University of Louisiana at Monroe (advised by Dr. Russ Minton) to determine if shell shape in a freshwater snail Elimia potosiensis was phenotypically plastic. His PhD studies at University of Rhode Island (advised by Dr. Christopher Lane) examined the metabolic capabilities of a tripartite symbiosis involving tunicates, apicomplexans, and bacterial endosymbionts using a genomic/transcriptomic approach. As a NRC postdoctoral researcher at NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Lab, he worked on designing long term monitoring projects using eDNA in Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. Finally, as a member of the Moeller lab at UCSB, he is working on the evolution of kleptoplasty in the ciliate genus Mesodinium to determine the genetic entanglements of host and prey, and refine mixotroph models.

portrait_compressedDr. Ferdinand Pfab, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar
ferdinand.pfab ‘at’
Google Scholar

Ferdinand is a mathematical biologist. He started out his career very practically, guiding canoe tours in Turkey on a small river floating from the Taurus Mountains to the Mediterranean Sea. He then went on to study Biology and Mathematics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, and the Çukurova University in Adana, Turkey. For his Masters thesis, he worked with Prof. Wilfried Gabriel on models for phenotypic plasticity. After that, he moved to Italy, where he earned a PhD in Mathematics at the University of Trento. For his PhD thesis he worked with the groups of Prof. Andrea Pugliese (University of Trento), Prof. Gianfranco Anfora (Edmund Mach Foundation, Trento) and Prof. Vaughn Walton (Oregon State University, USA). His thesis was about population dynamics of invasive insect species and biological control programs. He then came to UCSB, where he started working with the groups of Prof. Cherie Briggs and Prof. Roger Nisbet on population and disease dynamics, evolution in changing environments and dynamic energy budget models. Finally, he joined the Moeller lab, where he is modeling the metabolism and epigenetic adaptations of corals and their algal symbionts. When Ferdinand is not working on models, he likes to admire the beauty of nature. He is also always curious to learn about different cultures and languages around the world.

Gabe RunteGabe Runte
Ph.D. Candidate
gabe.runte ‘at’

Gabe is interested in plant-fungal symbioses and their role in creating the plant communities that dominate landscapes. He utilizes greenhouse and landscape studies to investigate mycorrhizal benefit in varying environmental contexts. Gabe’s current work focuses on the Southern California endemic Big Cone Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga macrocarpa), in a collaborative project with the US Forest Service, aiming to understand fungal effects on reforestation success. Prior to joining the lab, Gabe worked under Dr. Carla D’Antonio, also at UCSB, as an undergraduate researcher and as a technician. He received a REU to study mycorrhizas in the wet forests of Hawaii and returned to work with US Geological Survey collaborators the following summer. Gabe is co-advised by Ryoko Oono.

Edward SweeneyEdward Sweeney
Research Affiliate / Surf Scout
edward.sweeney ‘at’

Ed is an oceanographer and educator with research foci in seafloor mapping and biological oceanography. He earned his Bachelors in Geology from Bowdoin College, where he mapped glacial marine sediments in Casco Bay, Maine, and his Masters in Earth Science from the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. Ed has worked as a geologist in both private and governmental sectors, and has extensive experience with outdoor education through his sailing career with the Sea Education Association, and experiential education with the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. In addition to his primary lab duties of oceanographic data analysis and construction of miscellaneous lab equipment, Ed holds down a day job as a Marine Spatial Ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lab Alumni

[[Biographies of some former lab members]]

Postdoctoral Researchers
Laura Bogar
(2019-2022). Presently: Assistant Professor, UC Davis

Graduate Students
An Bui, M.S., 2021. Presently: Ph.D. Student in Stier Lab, UCSB
Sevan Esaian
, Ph.D. Student (2018-2021). Presently: Ph.D. Student in Wilbanks Lab, UCSB
Michelle Lepori-Bui, M.S., 2022. Presently: Marine Water Quality Specialist, Washington Sea Grant

Technical Staff
Ean Eberhard
Ryan Marczak (2021). Presently: Research Associate, Agilent.
Isobel Mifsud (2021-2022). Presently: Field course instructor, Stanford University
Nicole Wallace (2021). Presently: VitroLabs

Undergraduate Researchers
Grace Casarez (2018-2021). Presently: M.S. Student in Mathematics, Stanford University
Carles Falcó i Gandia
 (2018-2019). Presently: Ph.D. Student in Mathematics, Oxford University
Ileana Fenwick, REU Student (2019). Presently: NSF Graduate Fellow and Ph.D. Student in Biology, UNC Chapel Hill
Logan Gonzalez (2018-2020). Presently: Researcher, Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory
Veronica Hsu (2017-2021); Goldwater Scholar (2020). Presently: Technician, Koch Institute at MIT
Kelsey Husted (2018-2020)
Jagger Joyner (2020-2022). Presently: Researcher, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Kristen Klitgaard (2019-2020). Presently: Applied Research Lead, Beeflow
Conner Mertz (2018-2019). Presently: NSF Graduate Fellow and Ph.D. Student in Biology, Univ. of New Mexico
Alex Smith, Undergraduate Researcher (2019-2020) and Technician (2020-2021). Presently: Masters Student in Biology, University of Colorado Denver

High School Interns
Ethan Chau (2017-2019). Presently: Undergraduate, UCLA

Gone But Not Forgotten

MorticiaMorticia (f.k.a. Morty)
Lab Pet (2018-2019)
Now a specimen at the Cheadle Center

Morticia, a dead-leaf mantis, joined the Moeller lab in the summer of 2018. Before that, she had experience in behavioral ecology as part of the Pruitt Lab, where she assisted in teaching undergraduates experimental research techniques. In a study of whether behavior predicted attack rates, her species was the only one whose behavior patterns were significant. Her other interests included hunting and eating crickets, slurping up water droplets, and hanging upside down staring out the window. She went on to be the longest lived of all the mantids in her cohort, passing away surrounded by her friends on March 15, 2019.