Kai Zhu

Associate Professor, Environmental Studies
Affiliated Faculty, Coastal Science and Policy

Kai is interested in global change ecology, ecological modeling, and environmental data science, where he enjoys integrating ecological theory with advanced tools in statistics and computer science. His current research focuses on plant and soil responses to environmental change in the coupled natural and human systems, spanning from meter-scale experiments to global-scale analyses. Kai is a recipient of the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, an elected Ecological Society of America Early Career Fellow, and a winner of the New Phytologist Tansley Medal. Kai received his PhD degree in ecology and master’s degree in statistics from Duke University, and completed his postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University.

CV: link
Google Scholar: link
New Phytologist profile: link
Email: kai dot zhu at ucsc dot edu

Kai Zhu | Zhu Lab UC Santa Cruz

Peter Pellitier

Postdoc, Stanford Biology & UC Santa Cruz Environmental Studies

Peter studies plant and fungal interactions, with a particular fondness for the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis. He is broadly interested in the functional biogeography of fungal communities, determinants of fungal community assembly, and the role of symbiotic fungi in plant response to climate change. Peter employs large scale field surveys, field and laboratory manipulations, and various DNA sequencing approaches to address fundamental questions in fungal ecology. Peter received his PhD in 2020 advised by Don Zak at the University of Michigan and holds an MS in Post-Secondary Science Education, also from Michigan. Peter joined the Peay Lab at Stanford University as a postdoc, and also works with Kai Zhu at UC Santa Cruz and Rob Jackson at Stanford. In 2021 he will start an NSF PRFB, studying the decay attributes of ECM communities at the continental scale.

Email: ptpell at stanford dot edu

Michael Van Nuland

Postdoc, Stanford Biology & UC Santa Cruz Environmental Studies

Michael is an ecologist and evolutionary biologist interested in plant-microbiome relationships. His work combines large-scale observations, mechanistic experiments, and molecular approaches to explore how plants interact with their associated microbes, how these interactions vary under different conditions, and what impact they have on the ecology and evolution of populations, communities, and ecosystems. Michael completed his PhD in the Schweitzer Lab at the University of Tennessee, where he focused on the eco-evolutionary dynamics of plant-soil linkages and their response to global change. Michael is a postdoc in the Peay Lab at Stanford University and working with Kai on the biogeography of plant-fungal symbioses and how they influence species geographic distributions and coexistence.

Email: mvannula at stanford dot edu
Website: https://www.michaelvannuland.com/

Clara Qin

PhD student, Environmental Studies

Clara is an ecologist, statistician, and sociologist of science with a broad interest in the macroecology of soil microbiota. Her ecological research combines organismal and environmental datasets to examine how traits can inform a more mechanistic understanding of the variation in soil fungal species’ distributions. Her sociological research explores the kinds of onto-epistemological shifts that are made possible – or precluded – by the turn towards organic forms of plant disease management in the agronomic sciences. Clara completed her bachelor’s degree in biology with Kabir Peay at Stanford University, where she also completed her master’s degree in statistics.

CV: link
Email: claraqin at ucsc dot edu

Yiluan Song

PhD student, Environmental Studies

Yiluan is broadly interested in the impacts of climate change and disturbance regime shift on vegetation. Funded by the Hammett Fellowship, she currently focuses on comparing the pace of plant phenological shift to that of climate change using satellite remote sensing data. She is also interested in using statistical and mechanistic models to forecast the future of the earth’s vegetation under global change, in terms of phenology, carbon storage, and distribution. She graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2016 with a Bachelor of Science (Honors) in Life Sciences, with a specialization in Environmental Biology.

CV: link
Email: ysong67 at ucsc dot edu

Hayes Devaney

PhD student, Earth and Planetary Sciences

Hayes is broadly interested in the interactions between climate change and terrestrial ecosystems at a global scale, particularly eco-climate feedbacks. Hayes aims to use climate dynamics models to study how those feedbacks could be utilized towards positive climate change mitigation. They are especially enthusiastic about elevating indigenous and other minority voices within the climate science discipline. Hayes completed their bachelor’s degree in Astrophysics at Barnard College. They are working on their PhD with Nicole Feldl and Kai Zhu as a Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship recipient at UCSC.

Email: hayes_dev at ucsc dot edu

Sarah Lummis

PhD student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Sarah’s research focuses on community ecology and coastal sustainability. She studies seagrass ecosystems, and how the function and services of these ecosystems will be impacted by climate change and anthropogenic impacts to the coast. She is committed to sharing her results with resource managers, and with local schools and communities. She received her bachelor’s degree from Stanford University. Sarah is currently co-advised by Kristy Kroeker.

Email: slummis at ucsc dot edu

Luke Hamilton

Undergraduate, Environmental Studies

Luke’s research focuses primarily on the use of social media as a platform for communicating information regarding phenology and possibly other ecological concepts. He is also involved in collecting phenological data through social media posts and users.

Email: lahamilt at ucsc dot edu

Former members

  • Megan Cao, undergraduate, 2021. Social media and environmental impacts.
  • Priscilla Lam, undergraduate, 2019-2020. Climate change and wildfire.
  • William Jiajie Li, undergraduate, 2018. Urban ecology and remote sensing.
  • Lan Liu, visiting postdoc, 2018. Plant-microbe interaction.
  • Nicky Lustenhouwer, postdoc, 2018-2021. Plant invasion ecology.
  • Noa Mills, undergraduate, 2020-2021. Wildfire trends in the US.
  • Brian Steidinger, postdoc, 2019. Biogeography of soil fungi.
  • Cait Schilt, undergraduate, 2020. Phenology and social media.
  • Cong Wang, postdoc, 2017-2018. Remote sensing and vegetation phenology.
  • Benji Weaver, undergraduate, 2021. Post-fire forest regrowth and regeneration.
  • Chris Zajic, undergraduate, 2018-2021. Climate change and plant phenology.