Student Research



Carlos Contreras is an undergraduate student at UCLA majoring in Biology and minoring in Evolutionary Medicine. He joined the lab in Summer 2017 and is currently assisting with multiple projects exploring the impacts of nonnative plant invasion on California's native ecosystems. In addition to research, he is also involved with the UCLA Ski and Snowboard Team, is a camp counselor for Camp Kesem at UCLA, and enjoys playing beach volleyball.



Tai Michaels is a student at North Hollywood High School. His work currently focuses on the effects of fire return intervals in chaparral before full type conversion as well as its effects on long-term vegetation dynamics. Tai joined the lab in 2017 as a research volunteer. He is currently involved with research through the Southern California Academy of Science Research Training Program with Justin as his research mentor, science teams at his school, and trying to spend as much time outside as possible.



Jacqueline Zhang is a 3rd year at UCLA, majoring in Ecology, Behavior, and Evolution. Her research aims to improve ecological restoration by focusing on the effects of drought on native California plant species. She analyzes how these species are able to become more drought tolerant through metaplasticity, a type of phenotypic plasticity that occurs when exposure to drought and stressors for a plant as a seedling can have significant influences on their growth and response to future environmental change. Jacqueline has received a Stunt Ranch Research Grant and Whitcome Undergraduate Research Fellowship to support this work. She also serves as the co-president of Environmental Student Network, whose projects include helping out with the Sage Hill restoration at UCLA. In her free time, she enjoys archery, playing board games, reading, and hiking.



Evelin Escobedo is currently a third year Environmental Science student at UCLA. She received a Stunt Ranch Research grant in 2017 to study the effect of maternal effects and plant phenotypic plasticity in response to drought in native California annuals with Justin. Her interests lie between plant conservation and food sustainability, and she participates in research with the La Kretz Conservation center as well as volunteering with food-related non-profits throughout the Los Angeles area. She is currently enjoying a semester abroad in Europe.



Josh Dansie is a recent graduate of UC Riverside, with a background in a wide range of scientific disciplines ranging from genetics to ecology to molecular biology of plants and fungus. While working with Justin in Edie Allen’s lab at UC Riverside, he explored the impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on plants, soils and mycorrhizal fungi in the Santa Monica Mountains of southern California. More recently, he has aided efforts to enhance photosynthetic output using nanoparticles. Currently, he is a prospective Neuroscience graduate student hoping to understand the connections between the immune and nervous systems of humans.



Amanda received her B.S. in Biology from the University of California, Riverside, in 2015 and was very active in research as a student. She assisted with numerous field and greenhouse experiments related to Justin’s dissertation work, and completed an independent study to test the effects of invasive and native soil communities on the growth of native coastal sage scrub species. She published this work in UCR's Undergraduate Research Journal. Since graduating, she has served as a Field Technician for NEON and worked in environmental education. She is currently pursuing her teaching credential at the University of Redlands. 



Daniel Sanchez served as a research at the University of California, Riverside, assisting with field and greenhouse experiments exploring the impacts of invasive plant species on California ecosystems. He also completed a study with Justin evaluating the effects of mowing on soil seed banks in California perennial grasslands. He graduated in 2015 and currently works as a Park Ranger at Monrovia Canyon Park in southern California.



Cierra graduated from UC Riverside in 2017 with a B.S. in Plant Biology. While at UCR she was actively involved in research with Justin in Edie Allen's lab. She assisted with multiple projects exploring feedbacks between soil communities and plants, and also completed a greenhouse experiment aimed at understanding how drought and nitrogen availability influence the performance of native coastal sage scrub seedlings. She is also an avid hiker and outdoor photographer.