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Southern California Ecosystems Research Program (SCERP)

Scholar Resources

SCERP Faculty Mentors 2018

Picture of Joel Abraham

Dr. Joel Abraham (email: Abraham Lab members study a wide range of topics and regularly take part in community engagement and outreach. Project foci include agroecology, childhood nutrition, food safety, waste diversion, plant ecology and physiology, and biology education. This work takes place on campus in labs and greenhouses, in local field sites, and in partnership with community institutions and organizations, including schools and community gardens. SCERP scholar Kyle Gunther has been a part of the Abraham lab.


Dr. Jennifer Burnaford (email: The Burnaford lab studies marine ecology – specifically focusing on animals and seaweeds in the intertidal zone. In rocky areas, we study the effects of exposure to low tide conditions on individuals, populations, and interactions between species. We measure the conditions that organisms experience in nature (e.g. temperature, UV radiation, and desiccation stress). We then use laboratory and field techniques to determine how these conditions affect our study organisms, which include oysters (both native and introduced), chitons, seastars, and kelps. We are also interested in the effects of introduced species on community structure in rocky and sandy intertidal habitats. SCERP scholars Mauricio Gomez, Vy Nguyen, Jacqueline Arroyo, Patricia Gonzalez, Prarthana Shankar, Cherise Austin, Amber Jolly, and Shannon Chou have been a part of the Burnaford lab.


Picture of Josh Der Dr. Josh Der (email: The Der lab studies plant evolutionary and conservation genomics, plant systematics, bioinformatics, and molecular evolution.  Our work includes the investigation of evolution of life history transitions in parasitic plants (esp. mistletoes) and land plants (esp. ferns).   SCERP scholars Brittany Cook, Kyle Gunther, Daniel Jaques, and Nathan Vega have been a part of the Der lab.
Picture of Doug Eernisse

Dr. Douglas Eernisse (email: The Eernisse lab studies evolution and ecology of selected marine mollusks along the California coast. We are studying patterns of distribution with field, morphological, and DNA-based approaches. We document phylogenetic, phylogeographic, and population genetic patterns correlated with latitude or associated with Channel Islands endemism. We are testing whether biogeographic barriers to dispersal or physical factors such as temperature are more important for explaining genetic differences between localities. We use DNA-barcoding approaches to explore cryptic species diversity or to automate ecological habitat sampling. Current taxa emphasized include selected true limpets, chitons, oysters, mussels, keyhole limpets, and topsnails. SCERP scholars Meredith Raith, Albert Rodriguez, and Bryan White have been part of the Eernisse lab.

Picture of Kristy Forsgren Dr. Kristy Forsgren (email:  The Forsgren lab focuses on the reproductive morphology and physiology of marine organisms, particularly fishes. We are especially interested in viviparous (live-bearing) fishes and the mechanisms involved in copulation and the coevolution of fish genitalia. We also study gonadal development and seasonal reproduction. We primarily utilize paraffin histology techniques, and more recently using scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and medical diagnostic tools (e.g., CT scan, MRI) to investigate the reproductive structures. SCERP scholars Eric Kessler, Cristy Rice, Arthur Barraza, Velvet Park, Evelyn Ruelas, Matt Scanlon, Stacy Schkoda, Prarthana Shankar, Jacob Javier, Sean Zulueta, Nicole Tronske, and Holly Suther have been a part of the Forsgren lab.
Picture of Bill Hoese

Dr. William Hoese (email: Work in the Hoese lab focuses on the impact of disturbance (both human-generated and natural) on animal communication. SCERP scholar Elaine Ramos investigated how sound is transmitted in burned and unburned chaparral habitat in order to understand the selective pressures that might be influencing birdsong following a wildfire. Carrie De Jesus investigated in how noise pollution impacts communication in song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) and is recording singing males near loud highways. In order to attract mates males must be heard above the background noise and Carrie found significant differences in how males sing in noisy versus quiet areas. SCERP scholars Carrie De Jesus, Elaine Ramos, Maria de Lourdes Vega Velez, and Austin Xu have been part of the Hoese lab.

Picture of Misty Paig-Tran

Dr. Misty Paig-Tran (email: The Paig-Tran lab studies functional anatomy, biomechanics, biomimetics, and biomaterials.  We have a special focus on mechanics of filter-feeding with emphasis on large pelagic elasmobranchs, modeling of biomimetic filter systems,  and material properties of skeletal elements in mesopelagic fishes.  SCERP scholars Jacob Javier and Caitlin Stapp have been a part of the Paig-Tran lab.

Picture of Darren Sandquist Dr. Darren Sandquist (email: Research in the Sandquist Lab focuses on the physiological ecology of plants, especially in terms of how plants respond to global changes such as increasing temperature, decreasing water availability and increasing competition from alien species. Many studies in the lab employ stable isotopes of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen or nitrogen as indicators of plant resource use and productivity responses to environmental variability. SCERP scholars Amy (Arispe) Bakchis, Carmen Cortez, Susana Espino Hernandez, Cheryl Sevilla, Tracy Valentovich, Ignacio Vera, and Nicole Sandoval have been part of the Sandquist Lab.
Picture of Jochen Schenk Dr. Jochen Schenk (email: The Schenk Lab investigates plant ecology, including structure-function relationships of plant hydraulic systems, root ecology, and ecology of desert plants. SCERP scholars Susana Espino Hernandez, Elizabeth Hessom, Christine Goedhart, Emily Nguyen, Daisha Ortega, Jeremy Smith, and Lauren Velasco have been a part of the Schenk lab.
Picture of Paul Stapp

Dr. Paul Stapp (email: The Stapp lab studies population and community ecology of native wildlife species, especially mammals, in arid and semi-arid systems. Their research addresses basic ecological questions (wildlife-habitat relationships, trophic interactions, disease ecology), as well as applied problems in conservation and natural resource management, including invasive species, grazing impacts, and responses to urbanization. We emphasize field work, but also use laboratory studies to address questions that are not tractable with field approaches. SCERP scholars Joseph Gamez, Brian Rivas, Angela Castanon, Lauren (Dorough) Simpson, Melissa Fowler, Loralee Larios, Kim Nelson, Dylan (Tennant) Replogle, and Bryan White worked in the Stapp lab.

Picture of Sean Walker Dr. Sean Walker (email: The primary research interests in the Walker Lab are in the cognitive, behavioral, and evolutionary ecology of terrestrial invertebrates. Research focuses on animal decision making as it relates to foraging and reproduction (e.g., mate choice and reproductive investment). In addition students are pursuing projects related to animal communication, the evolution of sex differences, and the evolution of alternative tactics and strategies. Additional work focuses on estimating and comparing terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity and pollination biology. SCERP scholars Nick Tran, Leslie (Buena) Levy, Kim Nelson, Eric Peralta, Robert Rodarte, and Romero Sison have been a part of the Walker lab.
Picture of Ryan Walter Dr. Ryan Walter (email: The Walter lab studies molecular ecology, hybridization, phylogeography, and population connectivity. Using molecular genetic tools coupled with field data, we identify spatial, temporal, ecological and behavioural patterns of variation in natural and disturbed populations from a variety of marine and freshwater systems. SCERP scholars Alejandra Garcia and Shannon Chou have been a part of the Walter lab.
Picture of Danielle Zacherl

Dr. Danielle Zacherl: ( Zacherl lab’s research interests center around topics in marine ecology including larval behavior, settlement and recruitment dynamics, population connectivity, and native-non-native species interactions. We have been engaged in science-based restoration projects focused on restoring the Olympia oyster, Ostrea lurida, in southern California since 2010. SCERP scholars Ernesto Casillas, Serra Kelley, Meredith Raith, Melissa Romero, Andres Cisneros, Shannon Crossen, Lily Sam, Erin Seale, Sara (Pfremmer) Snipes, Nicole Tronske, and Austin Xu have been a part of the Zacherl lab.

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Last updated 02/21/2018 by Bill Hoese






Webpage last updated 11/20/12 by Bill Hoese