Current Lab Members

 Kathleen Kay (Principal Investigator)

Kathleen.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 backpacking in the high Sierra, watching hummingbirds in a tropical forest, or trail running in the local mountains. 

 kmkay at; CBB 258; 831.459.3446 

 Request a letter of rec here.

 Sign up for office hours here.





Kate Uckele

Kate joined the lab from UN Reno in summer 2022 and is studying the history of introgression in the American Costus clade and the genetic basis of an evolutionary shift from orchid bee to hummingbird pollination in Costus. For her PhD she worked on hybridization and diversification of junipers and Piper.





Julia Harenčár (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 candidate)

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 @






Cecilia Girvin (PhD student)

Cecila joined the lab in 2021 as an NSF-funded REPS postbac researcher who single-handedly kept our transplant experiments afloat in Costa Rica, and she has now transitioned to the PhD program. She is interested in pollination biology and plant sexual systems.

cegirvin at






Past Lab Members



Rossana Maguiña (Ph.D.)

Rossana studied pollinator-driven diversification of the spiral gingers (genus Costus) in the Peruvian Amazon and Costa Rica.

nmaguina at







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 is 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.jpgMegan DeMarche (formerly Peterson; Ph.D.)

Megan studies how the forces of natural selection, gene flow, genetic drift, and phenotypic plasticity interact to affect processes of adaptation, especially in the context of climate change. 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 completed her dissertation 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.