Lab Members

Screen Shot 2020-03-17 at 4.13.47 PMSome lab members gathered for a Zoom lab meeting while sheltering in place to #FlattentheCurve of coronavirus transmission. March 2020.

Current Members

Kevin Archibald headshotKevin Archibald, Ph.D.
Postdoctoral Scholar
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.

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.

Laura BogarLaura Bogar, Ph.D.
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow
lbogar ‘at’
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. Her work on fungal portfolio effects is supported by an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology. 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, 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.

An BuiAn Bui
Graduate Student
an.bui ‘at’

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
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.

Ean EberhardEan Eberhard
ean.eberhard ‘at’

Ean is interested in the physiological and molecular responses of organisms to environmental stressors and how these stressors influence the structure and functioning of marine communities. He is currently assisting in research efforts across the lab, focusing on our mixotrophic friends. Before moving to Santa Barbara, Ean worked as a research assistant and technician in multiple labs, studying a wide-range of interest. He received a REU to study the effects of global change stressors on diatoms with Dr. Uta Passow and Dr. Nigel D’souza at UCSB. After graduating from Oakland University with a B.S. in Biology, Ean decided to venture from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Ocean, returning to UCSB to dive deeper into his passion for marine ecology. In his spare time, he fancies diving, hiking, surfing (still working on it), and cooking.

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.

Jagger JoynerJagger Joyner
Undergraduate Researcher

Jagger is working on a model exploring plant-pollinator dynamics during a nonnative plant invasion. Specifically, this model is based on the invasion of Ice Plant (Carpobrotus edulis) at Campus Point. He is also interested very generally in ecology and anything that has to do with plants. He is also head of the UCSBlooms project at CCBER, which uses inaturalist to map the phenology of plants on campus to get a better understanding of floral resources available to pollinators at different times of the year. Jagger also has a project studying nectar quality of plants at Campus Point. Jagger can often be found around campus taking pictures of plants for iNaturalist or reading.

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

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’
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 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.

ChrisHeadshotChristopher 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_compressedFerdinand 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
Graduate Student
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

Ethan1 3.jpgEthan Chau
High School Intern (2017-2019)
Undergraduate, 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!

Logan GonzalezLogan Gonzalez
Undergraduate Researcher (2018-2020)

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

Kelsey HustedKelsey Husted
Undergraduate Researcher (2018-2020)

Kelsey studied the microbiome of Macrocystic pyrifera (giant kelp).  Mentored by graduate student Sevan Esaian, her main focus was on the abiotic factors that affect the microbial population of giant kelp.  Her objective was to better understand the dynamics of giant kelp’s microbial community throughout its lifecycle.  She 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 enjoyed surfing at Coal Oil Point, sailing, and playing with dogs.

IMG_8138Kristen Klitgaard
Undergraduate Researcher (2019-2020)

Kristen is interested in plants, broadly. She worked with us to better understand the mutualistic relationship between trees and mycorrhizal fungi. Using mathematic modeling, she is studied 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 spent her happiest time leading with Cru Santa Barbara, reading, and gazing lovingly at the ocean.

image (1).pngConner Mertz
Undergraduate Researcher (2018-2019)
Ph.D. Student, Univ. of New Mexico

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 worked for a year at Casa de Salud, before joining the UNM Ph.D. program in Biology to work with Dr. Vesbach and Dr. Newsome. For any inquiries please contact

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.