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 found backpacking in the high Sierra, watching hummingbirds in the tropical forests, or trail running in the local mountains. 

  kmkay at

   CBB 258   831.459.3446 




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 candidate)

Julia started Fall 2018 after finishing her Master's at Cal Poly SLO and having many adventures traveling the world. She is working on the genetic basis of ecogeographic isolation in Costus in Panama.


jharenca @





PJ_photo.jpgPedro Juarez (PhD student)

Pedro is an amazing botanist from Costa Rica who is interested in flowers, bees, and hummingbirds and how they all interact. He will be working on Costus in Costa Rica and braving the cold surf breaks of California.

pjuarez1 @




Amy Orduño-Baez (PhD student)

Amy joins the lab in Fall 2020 and is interested in plant reproductive biology and interactions with pollinators and dispersers. She is co-advised with Dr. Winifred Frick and thinking about cacti and bats in Baja California, Mexico.

aorduoba at


Past Lab Members



Oscar Vargas (postdoc)

Oscar joined the lab in Fall 2018 as part of the Costus Dimensions of Biodiversity project. He lent his expertise in phylogenomics and Neotropical plant diversification. As of August 2020 he will be an Assistant Professor at Cal State Humboldt! 

 oscarvargash @


Shelley_crop.jpgShelley Sianta (Ph.D.)

Shelley studied how adaptation to unique soils factors into plant speciation using replicated transitions to serpentine tolerance or endemism across the California flora. She is now a postdoc at University of Minnesota.

 ssianta at




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. She is now an Assistant Professor of Botany at University of Georgia.



 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 Associate 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.