Lab Members

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


An BuiAn Bui
Graduate Student
an.bui ‘at’

Website / Google Scholar

An’s research lies at the intersection of community and theoretical ecology. She uses empirical field methods to parameterize models describing the effects of interacting environmental stressors on community composition. With her current project, she asks how land use and aridity affect functional communities of ectomycorrizal fungi and the strength of their relationships with oak (Quercus spp.) tree hosts at Tejon Ranch 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.

Ethan1 3.jpgEthan Chau
High School Intern

Ethan has a passion for the life sciences and assists with several laboratory techniques in the Moeller lab including data collection for photophysiology measurements and protist growth curves. He is currently assisting 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 next year.

Sevan at YosemiteSevan Esaian
Graduate Student
sevan.esaian ‘at’

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.

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.

Michelle Lepori-BuiMichelle Lepori-Bui
Lab Manager
mleporibui ‘at’

Michelle handles day-to-day operations and organization in the Moeller lab. Her primary focus is a project investigating the evolutionary response of mixotrophic nanoflagellates to altered temperatures. 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.

image (1).pngConner Mertz
Undergraduate Researcher
cmmertz ‘at’

Conner Mae Mertz is a senior at UCSB majoring in Biological Sciences. Conner met Dr. Moeller during an ecology course Dr. Holly Moeller taught the previous academic year and subsequently joined the Moeller laboratory. Conner plays 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

IMG_4636Holly Moeller
Principal Investigator
holly.moeller ‘at’
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.

Edward SweeneyEdward Sweeney
Research Affiliate
esweeney ‘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. 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 Program Coordinator at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center.

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