News

Fall 2019

  • Mike Koontz's paper will appear in Ecology Letters. It looks at >1000 California wildfires to test whether vegetation heterogeneity is associated with lower fire severity (spoiler: yes). 
  • Marina helped organize (again!) the annual Cal-IPC Syposium at UC Riverside.
  • Paige attended an Un-Conference in Boulder on future uses of NEON's data sets.
  • Derek traveled to Singapore as a Mistletoe Foundation Research Fellow to meet with people working on an agricultural startup firm.
  • Emily's project about how wildfire and climate change are affecting giant sequoias got some nice press in the SF Chronicle.
  • Here's a candidate for sweetest field site: Sugar Pine Point State Park at Lake Tahoe.

Summer 2019

  • We are excited to welcome four new lab members this fall! We are dispersing around the world for much of the summer, but will soon converge again in Davis for what we expect will be a full and never-dull school year. Our new lab members: 
  • Joan Dudney, a Smith Postdoctoral Fellow and recent Berkeley grad, will base her ongoing whitebark pine demography and white pine blister rust research at Davis for 2019-2020
  • Nina Venuti will join the lab as a M.S. student, after wrapping up a bunch of projects on fisheries and plastics pollution at Sea Grant in San Diego
  • Emily Purvis will join the lab as a PhD student, after a hardworking summer studying impacts of drought and fire on giant sequoia groves
  • Quinn Sorenson will join us as a postdoctoral researcher who will collaborate on post-disturbance forest community responses with both Latimer and Safford lab groups
  • We are also happy to have several great field researchers with us briefly for the summer to work on the giant sequoia project: Hannah Weinberger, Ian Nilson, Abel Campos, Katie Russell. and Veronica Lourich. 

Spring 2019

  • The CalFire Forest Health Grant Program funded Derek's and Andrew's proposal to use UAVs (drones) and field sampling to develop fine-scale predictive models of postfire tree seedling recruitment 
  • We are working with Kristen Shive, lead scientist at Save the Redwoods League, to study how drought and wildfire are affecting the demography of giant sequoias and the forests they're embedded in
  • Congratulations to Allie Weill who has graduated and moved on to a job as a science writer with USGS in Sacramento
  • Congratulations to Mike Koontz who also graduated and now works at EarthLab at University of Colorado
  • Paige Kouba is mentoring REUs at Harvard Forest and studying seedling dynamics, and the role of seedlings in forest carbon flux, in collaboration with Sydne Record (Bryn Mawr) and Danielle Ignace (Smith College)

Winter 2019

  • Derek Young's paper on the impact of drought on postfire tree regeneration was published in Ecology -- here it is
  • With leadership from Martha Wohlfeil, Jessica Franco, Jan Ng, and Rob Blenk, we again ran the Kids into Discovering Science (KiDS) program at Lower Lake Elementary school, which included classroom teaching about ecology and evolution, a hands-on experiment, and a field trip to McLaughlin UC Natural Reserve. We thank the Pitzer Foundation for their continued support of this program.
  • Mike Koontz has developed methods to reliably use drone photogrammetry to build multispectral 3-D models of forest structure, and has used this to map forest structure around bark beetle outbreak sites in the Sierras

What we're doing

We study how plant populations and communities respond to change, including sudden, major disturbance such as fire and drought, as well as more gradual changes in climate. At the shortest time scales, we are focusing on how communities and populations respond to drought, fire, and competition. Over longer time scales, we study local adaptation to gradients in climatic conditions and to variability in those conditions. We collectively study all kinds of plants (forbs to forests), and things they interact with (beetles, pathogens, fungi, microbes, humans), and aim to learn by comparing the dynamics of different plant systems. We are excited about new tools, including using drone photography and machine learning, that may allow us to extend some of our research methods and ask questions at larger scales. But we stay true to the idea that the core role of scientists is to ask questions and try to answer them by collecting and analyzing data. We think and talk a lot these days about how we can contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation in our multiple roles as researchers, teachers, and citizens.