Former and Current Graduate Students

Kyle Christie (kchristie[at]

Now NSF Postdoc with David Lowry at MSU

I got hooked on botany as an undergraduate at Colorado College in 2001, and have since worked as a field botanist throughout the Southwest. I have been involved with various ecological monitoring surveys, floristic inventories, vegetation mapping projects, and rare plant surveys. My explorations on the Colorado Plateau, in the Mohave, Sonoran, and Great Basin Deserts, in the southern Rocky Mountains, and in the high Sierra Nevada have piqued my curiosities about plant evolution, phytogeography, rare plant biology/ecology, plant-substrate interactions, and edaphic specialization in plants. I completed a Master’s degree at Northern Arizona University in 2006, in which I explored floristics, local scale vegetation shifts across an edaphic gradient, and regional phtyogeographical affinities of Pinyon-Juniper woodlands on the Colorado Plateau.

I studied mechanisms of speciation in the plant clade Streptanthus (s.l., Brassicaceae).  My research focused on 1.) assessing clade-wide patterns of reproductive isolation (RI), and the relationship between RI and phylogenetic distance; 2.) quantifying barriers to gene flow and ecological divergence in a co-occurring species pair that produces viable F1 offspring in the greenhouse; 3.) exploring the relationship between genetic, geographic, and environmental distance and reproductive isolation at the population level in S. breweri; and 4.) using integrative taxonomic approaches (morphology, interfertility, molecular phylogenetics) to uncover cryptic diversity in Streptanthus.

P1050748Micah Freedman (mfreedman[at]

Current student soon to be postdoc at U Chicago with Marcus Kronforst

Micah studies the evolution and chemical ecology of plant-herbivore and plant-pollinator interactions.  Current research interests include island/mainland comparisons of plant defenses against herbivores in southern California and the Channel Islands, coevolution of monarch butterflies and their milkweed host plants on Pacific Islands, and cryptic species diversity in the euglossine-pollinated neotropical orchid genus Gongora.  Micah is co-advised by Santiago Ramirez.

Anna O’Brien (amobrien[at]

Current postdoc at U Toronto with megan Fredrickson working with duckweed -microbial symbiont evolution.

Former PhD student in the Population Biology Graduate Group and  coadvised by Jeff Ross-Ibarra ( I am broadly interested in how biotic interactions change over environmental gradients and influence plant adaptation to stressful climates. I studied interactions between teosinte (Zea mays ssp. mexicana) and its associated root biota across a cline in mean annual temperature. Specifically, I am interested in how environment alters outcomes, degree of locally beneficial adaptation, and past responses to selection for teosinte-biota interactions.

Moria Robinson (mrobinson[at]

Current USDA postdoc with Will Wetzel at Michigan State University

My research focused on the reIMG_2496lationships herbivorous insects maintain with their host plants and natural enemies, and how the structure of those interactions varies with environmental heterogeneity. In particular, I study diverse assemblages larval lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and their parasitoid enemies, which are a wonderful system in which to study complex biotic interactions as well as observe fascinating natural history. For my dissertation work I asked how a ubiquitous source of environmental heterogeneity – soil resource availability – alters emergent properties of tritrophic ecological networks. I use congeneric and intraspecific host plant comparisons across a natural mosaic of serpentine (low resource) and non serpentine (higher resource) soils in McLaughlin Reserve (UC) to build interaction networks between woody shrubs, 100+ species of Lepidoptera, and 50+ species of parasitoid wasp and fly. Finally, I used bird exclosures and plant chemical analysis to ask how predation and plant traits drive differences in trophic structure across soil contexts.




Recent Former Postdocs


Andrew Siefert (asiefert[at]

(Ithaca College)

My research focuses on the processes structuring plant communities from local to global scales. I am especially interested in understanding the links between plant functional traits and community assembly and coexistence mechanisms. I use approaches that span from observational field studies to greenhouse and field experiments to meta-analyses to address fundamental questions in community ecology. I am currently studying the roles of trait differentiation and plant-feedbacks in the coexistence of diverse Trifolium (clover) assemblages in coastal prairies at the Bodega Marine Reserve.

Marjorie Weber (mgweber[at]

(Assistant Prof Michigan State University)

Marge is a former post-doc in the lab, now an Assistant professor at MSU. She is interested in how ecological interactions impact phenotypic evolution and diversification across evolutionary scales. I received my Ph.D. in Anurag Agrawal’s lab at Cornell University in 2014, and am currently the CPB Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Davis co-sponsored by the Ramírez and  Strauss labs. My research focuses on trait-mediated interactions between species, asking how species interactions translate into macroevolutionary patterns. My work merges phylogenetic and experimental approaches, and frequently focuses on mutualistic and defensive species interactions.

Ian Pearse  (USGS scientist)

Ian is interested in plant defenses and plant interactions with herbivores. In his work at the Strauss lab, we explored niche conservatism and trade-offs in drought tolerance in Streptanthus, as well as tolerance to herbivory in Streptanthus


Recent Technicians

My research could not function without the excellent help of the technicians that have graced the lab.  I am very grateful to them.

Elizabeth Jane Davis (

Elizabeth is the current Strauss lab; she came over a year ago, after working with Ingrid Parker and Greg Gilbert. She is applying to  graduates school this Fall in Restoration Ecology. Elizabeth will be following her dream and  leaving the Strauss lab in January to take a restoration position for Solano County.

Jessica Aguilar (jmagui[at]

B.S. Evolution, Ecology, & Biodiversity, UC Davis March 2013

                                       current graduate student: UC Berkeley with Noah Whiteman.

                                                                         Jenna Yonenaga currently getting                                      her  Teachers Certification to teach Science to grade schoolers.



Evan Jordan is currently a Strauss lab undergrad, working with clay caterpillars and the evolution of larval coloration,  Adaptation in Streptanthus and germination cues associated with fire                                                        


Lab Mascot

Peanut Robinson