People 2019-09-12T09:17:08-07:00

Kai Zhu

Assistant 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, both spatially and temporally. Recent projects include quantifying climate change impacts on forest geographic distribution and growth in North America; synthesizing multi-factor global change experiment in California grassland; understanding soil fungi and tree mutualism across geographical gradients in the United States; detecting land surface phenology change in Northern Hemisphere. Kai completed his postdoc with Chris Field and Tad Fukami at Stanford University and received his PhD in ecology with Jim Clark and MS in statistics with Alan Gelfand from Duke University.

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

Kai Zhu | Zhu Lab UC Santa Cruz

Brian Steidinger

Postdoc, Stanford Biology & UC Santa Cruz Environmental Studies

Brian is interested in the mechanisms of species coexistence in symbiont communities, particularly mycorrhizal fungi. He wants to know: Why hundreds of species of microbial symbionts associate with a single tree? Why can’t trees select the single best lineage and stop trading resources with all of the others? Why is one type of symbiosis found where it is cold and dry, while another is found where it is warm and wet? How will global climate change impact where these symbioses are found, and how will this redraw the map of forests across the globe? Will plant symbioses put the breaks on climate change, or step down on the accelerator? Brian uses a combination of theory, large datasets, and non-linear statistical and machine-learning models to answer these questions. He got his PhD in 2016 from James Bever (Indiana University) and joined the Peay Lab (Stanford University) at a postdoc later that year. He is currently a postdoctoral researcher with Kabir Peay (Stanford), Kai Zhu (UC Santa Cruz), and a visiting scholar with Mark van Kleunen (University of Konstanz) and Martina Peter (Swiss Federal Institute WSL).

Website: link
Email: bsteidi2 at stanford dot edu

Kai Zhu | Zhu Lab UC Santa Cruz

Nicky Lustenhouwer

Postdoc, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Nicky is fascinated by how populations grow and evolve in the spatially and temporally varying environments emerging under global change. Her main research focus is on spreading plant populations, in the context of both invasions by exotic species introduced to a new continent, and range shifts by native species in response to climate change. She is studying Dittrichia graveolens (stinkwort), an annual plant species that is rapidly expanding its native range in Europe as well as its exotic range in California, where it was first observed in 1984. Together with Miranda Melen, she is studying these two range expansion gradients to better understand how spreading plant populations evolve in response to novel abiotic conditions (phenology), novel biotic interactions (the soil microbial community), and the spread process itself (dispersal). She received her PhD degree from ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich), working with Jonathan Levine. Nicky is currently funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and advised by Ingrid Parker.

CV: link
Email: nlustenh at ucsc dot edu

Kai Zhu | Zhu Lab UC Santa Cruz

Clara Qin

PhD student, Environmental Studies

Clara is an ecologist, statistician, and critical researcher with a broad interest in wildfires and the Anthropocene. Her ecological research examines how changing climates and fire regimes influence soil microbial communities, plant-fungal mutualisms, and carbon storage dynamics in US forests and grasslands. Her sociological research explores the environmental activism of queer and trans Asians and Pacific Islanders in the San Francisco Bay Area. 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

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

Priscilla Lam

Undergraduate, Environmental Studies & Computer Science

Priscilla is studying the effects of climate change on forest fire frequencies. She is also interested in creating visualizations to show patterns in geospatial data over time. She is a recent UCSC graduate in Environmental Studies and Computer Science.

Email: pralam at ucsc dot edu

Chris Zajic

Undergraduate, Biology & Earth Sciences

Chris is interested in questions regarding changes in vegetation growth in response to climate change. He is a recent graduate, having received bachelor’s degrees from UC Santa Cruz in both Biology and Earth Sciences.

Email: czajic at ucsc dot edu

Former members

William Jiajie Li, undergraduate, 2018. Urban ecology and remote sensing.
Lan Liu, visiting postdoc, 2018. Plant-microbe interaction.
Cong Wang, postdoc, 2017-2018. Remote sensing and vegetation phenology.