Current Lab Members

 Kathleen Kay (Principal Investigator)

IMG_9815_1.jpgI'm fascinated by the diversity of the natural world and enjoy looking at life's challenges from a plant's perspective. I still can't believe I get paid to do this. I'm happiest when foundbackpacking in the high Sierra, watching hummingbirds in the tropical forests, or trail running in the local mountains. 

  kmkay at

   CBB 258   831.459.3446 



Shelley_crop.jpgShelley Sianta (Ph.D. student)

Shelley studies how adaptation to unique soils factors into plant speciation using replicated transitions to serpentine tolerance or endemism across the California flora. Her previous work at Colorado State focused on patterns of intraspecific reproductive barriers and mating system evolution in a wild tomato species.

 ssianta at




Rossana Maguiña (Ph.D. student)

Rossana comes to us from Peru, and is working on pollinator-driven diversification of the spiral gingers (genus Costus) in the Peruvian Amazon.

nmaguina at







Julia Harencar (PhD student)

Julia started Fall 2018 after finishing her Master's at Cal Poly SLO and having many adventures traveling the world. She is up to her eyeballs in Costus DNA!


jharenca @







Oscar Vargas (postdoc)

Oscar joined the lab in Fall 2018 as part of the Costus Dimensions of Biodiversity project. He lends his expertise in phylogenomics and Neotropical plant diversification.


 oscarvargash @





Past Lab Members



Tania Jogesh (visiting postdoc)

Tania was visiting from the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is interested in insect-plant interactions and how scent mediates those interactions. Now she works as a data scientist for the city of San Francisco.

tania.jogesh at



 Timothy Miller (Ph.D.)

Tim is interested in how phenotypic plasticity can facilitate or constrain adaptation across environmental gradients. He also has a fondness for plant-pollinator interactions. His dissertation work focused on Clarkia concinna. He is now teaching field courses with the UC Natural Reserves.

 tijmille at



demarche.jpg Megan Peterson (Ph.D.)

Megan studies how the forces of natural selection, gene flow, genetic drift, and phenotypic plasticity interact to affect processes of divergent adaptation. She worked on monkeyflowers (Mimulus guttatus) in the Sierra Nevada and well-behaved theoretical populations. She defended in May 2015 and joined the Doak Lab as a postdoc.

mdemarch at



 IMG_2572.jpg Jennifer Yost (Ph.D.)

Jenn is interested in how natural selection and adaptation generate and maintain biodiversity. Her dissertation work focused on edaphic adaptation in the California goldfields (Lasthenia). She is an Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Robert F. Hoover Herbarium at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. 

 jennyost at





Brett.jpg Brett Smith (M.A.)

Brett completed his thesis on the conservation genetics of two rare serpentine coyote mints (Monardella) in Plumas National Forest. He can now be found at the USDA Agricultural Research Service working on crop improvement and protection.

brett.smith at 






Yann Surget-Groba

Lesley Lancaster

Winifred Frick

Rob Raguso