Lab Alumni

Laura BogarDr. Laura Bogar, Ph.D.
NSF Postdoctoral Fellow (2019-2022)
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 was 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.

An BuiAn Bui
Graduate Student (2018-2022)

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 member of the Stier lab in EEMB.

Grace CasarezGrace Casarez
Undergraduate Researcher (2018-2021)

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.

Ethan1 3.jpgEthan Chau
High School Intern (2017-2019)
Presently: 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!

Ean EberhardEan Eberhard
Technician (2020-2021)

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. His research in the group focused 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’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 (2018-2020)
Presently: Researcher, Cold Regions Research & Engineering Laboratory

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.

Veronica HsuVeronica Hsu
Undergraduate Researcher (2017-2021); Goldwater Scholar (2020)

As the “lab’s first graduate student,” Veronica studied the effect of species arrival order on community composition, known as priority effects. Her work showed how mixotrophy (the ability of a single organism to utilize heterotrophy and photosynthesis) influences priority effects, using a model system of competition between Paramecium bursaria, a mixotroph, and Colpidium, a heterotroph. Her work on this system, and a later project studying management of agricultural pests, also involved ecological modeling. She 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 played club water polo at UCSB and enjoyed the beach. After graduating from UCSB, Veronica began a technician position in immunology at MIT’s Koch Institute.

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.

Jagger JoynerJagger Joyner
Undergraduate Researcher (2020-2022)

Jagger worked 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. Jagger is also interested very generally in ecology and anything that has to do with plants; For example, they were 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 had a project studying nectar quality of plants at Campus Point. They could often be found around campus taking pictures of plants for iNaturalist or reading.

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.

Michelle Lepori-BuiMichelle Lepori-Bui
NSF Graduate Research Fellow (2019-2022)

Michelle’s research investigated the evolutionary response of mixotrophic nanoflagellates to altered temperatures. Her work tested 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.

Ryan MarczakRyan Marczak

Ryan is interested in the biochemical and molecular biology of organisms and how they respond to a changing environment. He is currently conducting research involving mixotrophs. Ryan graduated from UCSB with a B.S. in Biochemistry-Molecular Biology. Throughout his undergraduate career, he had a variety of laboratory experiences ranging from research on the structure and dynamics of food webs to assisting with assay development for SARS-CoV-2 at UCSF. Aside from biology, he enjoys cooking, playing music, surfing, skiing, and hiking.

image (1).pngConner Mertz
Undergraduate Researcher (2018-2019); NSF Graduate Fellow (2020)
Presently: 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

Isobel MifsudIsobel Mifsud
Technician (2021-2022)

Isobel joined the Moeller lab in August 2021 as a lab technician, assisting Team Fungus with any and all aspects of research. Isobel completed her Master’s thesis at Columbia University working with Dr. Duncan Menge, investigating nitrogen fixation in beetle larvae, and working to fix some of the methodological flaws associated with studies of N fixation in insects. Isobel is particularly fascinated by invertebrates and all their strange ways, but thinks all different scientific fields are interesting in their own way! She’s excited to learn and be part of the life sciences community at UCSB.

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.