Lab Members

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Some of the team, Feb. 2019. Left to right: Michelle Lepori-Bui, Lisa Mesrop (Oakley Lab), Sevan Esaian, An Bui, and Holly Moeller.

Current Members

Laura BogarLaura Bogar
Postdoctoral Scholar
lbogar ‘at’ ucsb.edu
Google Scholar

Laura is interested in the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis between land plants and soil fungi. She likes to think about the community ecology of these symbiotic plants and fungi, the physiology that makes their cooperation possible, and how this mutualism has evolved. She joined the Moeller Lab in October of 2019 to start a project examining how ectomycorrhizal fungi contribute to tree seedling success, and looks forward to growing up many hundreds of small trees in the next couple of years. Laura did her PhD at Stanford with her mentor Kabir Peay. Her dissertation used stable isotope enrichment and RNA sequencing to understand resource exchange and host range in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis. She earned her undergraduate degree in 2012 at Lewis & Clark College, getting hooked on ectomycorrhizal symbiosis while doing research with Peter Kennedy. When she’s not doing science, Laura enjoys running, cooking, wondering what shorebird she might be looking at, and foraging for mushrooms.

alexandra_photoAlexandra Brown
Postdoctoral Scholar
alexandra_brown ‘at’ ucsb.edu

Alexandra is interested in mathematical modeling and symbiosis. She works on models of coral symbiosis (with Drs. Holly Moeller, Roger Nisbet, and Ross Cussing) 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.

An BuiAn Bui
Graduate Student
an.bui ‘at’ lifesci.ucsb.edu

Website / Google Scholar

An is a community ecologist driven to understand how interacting anthropogenic stressors alter competitive dynamics between functional groups of species. She uses empirical field methods to gather information on these species’ functions in their communities, and uses these data to parameterize models describing how species relationships will shift given future climate change. For her master’s project, she examined the relationship between climate and functional community composition of soil fungi in the Tehachapi mountains of California. An graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2015 with dual degrees in Ecology and Evolution and English Literature, took time off doing as much field work as she could, and joined the lab in 2018. She relishes being asked for her help identifying birds, and in her spare time dives, knits, and kisses dogs on the forehead. She is a dual member of the Moeller and Stier labs in EEMB.

Grace CasarezGrace Casarez
Undergraduate Researcher

Grace is interested in the intersection between mathematical modeling and biological phenomena. More specifically, she works on modeling species interactions and acquired photosynthesis within plankton populations. Her objective is to better understand how these population dynamics change as a consequence of acquired photosynthesis and other factors, such as light availability. She has previously worked in the Ernst Lab at UCLA during the summer of 2019, developing machine learning approaches to comparative genomics. Outside of research, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, and doing pottery.

RaineRaine Detmer
Undergraduate Researcher

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 has so far focused on modeling the interactions between Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp), benthic macroalgae, and sessile invertebrates and how this system is affected by disturbance from storms.

Sevan at YosemiteSevan Esaian
Graduate Student
sevan.esaian ‘at’ lifesci.ucsb.edu
CV

Sevan’s research is a part of the Santa Barbara Coastal Long Term Ecological Research Project (SBC LTER). He is using molecular biology, mathematical modeling, and geographic information science, to investigate epiphytic microbial population dynamics on Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp). His research focuses broadly on the synergistic effects of environmental factors driving giant kelp microbial abundance, diversity, and recovery throughout its life cycle (primarily senescence). During undergraduate studies at CSU – Los Angeles he studied the gene regulatory network of migratory neural crest cells in chicken embryos. He continued his education there as a MSc student by studying bird population dynamics and foraging preferences throughout the Los Angeles urban forest. Sevan joined the lab in Fall 2018.

Logan GonzalezLogan Gonzalez
Undergraduate Researcher

Logan is a 4th year undergraduate biochemistry major with wide-ranging interests from prebiotic chemistry to global biogeochemical cycling. During his time in the Moeller lab, he has assisted with various projects including ones aimed at understanding the responses of mixotrophic phytoplankton to environmental changes such as light and nutrient concentration. He is currently working on mathematical modeling approaches to better understand the evolutionary dynamics of mixotrophs in response to environmental shifts, and running laboratory experiments using Paramecium bursaria as a model organism to study the competitive outcomes of acquired phototrophy.

Veronica HsuVeronica Hsu
Undergraduate Researcher

Veronica is studying the effect of species arrival order on community composition, known as priority effects. She is particularly interested in how mixotrophy (the ability of a single organism to utilize heterotrophy and photosynthesis) influences priority effects, and is currently working on a project to test the strength of priority effects of Paramecium bursaria, a mixotroph, and Colpidium, a heterotroph, at different light levels. Veronica is also interested finding the mechanisms that drive these outcomes, and analyzing the data using ecological modeling. She has also worked with Dr. Tadashi Fukami at Stanford University for the summer of 2018, studying priority effects in a flower nectar biome system. Aside from research, Veronica plays club water polo at UCSB, enjoys the beach, knits, and loves a good vegan sandwich from Ike’s.

Kelsey HustedKelsey Husted
Undergraduate Researcher

Kelsey’s interest involves studying the microbiome of Macrocystic pyrifera (giant kelp).  Mentored by graduate student Sevan Esaian, her main focus is on the abiotic factors that affect the microbial population of giant kelp.  Her objective is to better understand the dynamics of giant kelp’s microbial community throughout its lifecycle.  She has previously worked within the Miller lab at UCSB as an intern from 2017-2018.  Tasks revolved around assessing the biodiversity of sessile organisms in the Santa Barbara Channel and scientific diving.  In Kelsey’s free time, she enjoys surfing at Coal Oil Point, sailing, and playing with dogs.

IMG_8138Kristen Klitgaard
Undergraduate Researcher

Kristen is interested in plants, broadly. This is currently manifested in trying to better understand the mutualistic relationship between trees and mycorrhizal fungi. Using mathematic modeling, she is studying the optimal investment strategy of a tree with fungal partners whose quality varies by season. She previously worked in Dr. Susan Mazer’s lab at UCSB under PhD candidate Kristen Peach to find how Clarkia unguiculata flowers’ pigment and pattern influenced pollinator visitation. Outside of the lab, Kristen spends her happiest time leading with Cru Santa Barbara, reading, and gazing lovingly at the ocean.

Michelle Lepori-BuiMichelle Lepori-Bui
NSF Graduate Research Fellow
mleporibui ‘at’ ucsb.edu

Michelle’s research investigates the evolutionary response of mixotrophic nanoflagellates to altered temperatures. Her work tests the hypothesis that mixotrophs become more heterotrophic under warmer temperatures, leading to a possible positive climate feedback loop. Before moving to Santa Barbara, Michelle worked as a research assistant with Dr. Tom Fisher at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science studying agricultural nutrient management strategies and water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. She also has experience studying wetlands in Delaware and was an environmental educator in Marin County, CA. She graduated from the University of Delaware with a B.S. in Environmental Science concentrating in Hydrology, and minors in Geography and Wildlife Conservation. Her undergraduate research with Dr. Delphis Levia focused on forest biogeochemistry.

IMG_4636Holly Moeller
Principal Investigator
holly.moeller ‘at’ lifesci.ucsb.edu
Website / Google Scholar

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 the 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.

Gabe RunteGabe Runte
Researcher (incoming graduate student, 2020)
gabe.runte ‘at’ lifesci.ucsb.edu

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. He will start graduate school in 2020. Gabe is co-advised by Ryoko Oono.

Edward SweeneyEdward Sweeney
Research Affiliate
edward.sweeney ‘at’ noaa.gov

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

Ethan1 3.jpgEthan Chau
High School Intern (2017-2019)
Now an undergrad at UCLA

Ethan has a passion for the life sciences and assisted with several laboratory techniques in the Moeller lab including data collection for photophysiology measurements and protist growth curves. He volunteered with the lab from 2017-2019. He assisted in an experiment investigating the effects of temperature on the mixotroph evolutionary response to climate change. Ethan also has experience as a summer intern working at the Laboratory of Integrated Neuroscience at the National Institutes of Health studying the impact of ketones on Parkinson’s Disease using a mouse model. He is looking forward to conducting research in college at UCLA!

image (1).pngConner Mertz
Undergraduate Researcher (2018-2019)
Now Health Apprentice at Casa de Salud

Conner Mae Mertz worked in the Moeller Lab assisting in our mixotroph evolution experiment from 2018-2019. Conner met Dr. Moeller during an ecology course Dr. Holly Moeller taught the previous academic year and subsequently joined the Moeller laboratory. Conner played an important role in the monitoring the predator-prey interactions in the evolution experiments. Following graduation from UCSB, she plans to apply to medical school in order to continue her exploration of bacterial physiology, human physiology, and medicine. For any inquiries please contact cmmertz@ucsb.edu.