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



JAH.CNPS.pngJulie Herman (Ph.D. student)

Julie joined the lab from Santa Clara University in 2014, and she is working on understanding the evolution of the glucosinolate biosynthetic pathway in mustards and how it relates to other defensive traits.


jaherman at 



IMG_3553.jpgTania Jogesh (visiting postdoc)

Tania is visiting from the Chicago Botanic Garden. She is interested in insect-plant interactions and how scent mediates those interactions. 


tania.jogesh at






Rossana Maguiña (Ph.D. student)

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

nmaguina at







Julia Harencar (PhD student)

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


jharenca @







Oscar Vargas (postdoc)

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


 oscarvargash @





Past Lab Members


 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 at Cal State Bakersfield.

 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