Jen Lau
I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in understanding the full range of ways that plant populations respond to changing environmental conditions. Much of my work focuses on how rapid environmental changes (e.g., biological invasions, rising CO2 concentrations, and global climate change) impact population dynamics, species interactions, and the evolution of plant populations.



Casey terHorst
My research combines theoretical and experimental approaches that bridge the gap between evolutionary biology and community ecology.  I ask how evolution affects species interactions and diversity, and reciprocally how multiple species interactions in diverse communities affect trait evolution.  One focus of my research asks how evolution on ecological time scales affects the outcome of species interactions.  However, the outcomes of species interactions in diverse communities are complicated by multiple direct and indirect interactions between many species.  Consequently, I also examine the evolutionary importance of indirect species interactions to better understand how species evolve in a community context.

I have explored these questions in a number of different model communities, including California grasslands, pitcher plant inquiline communities, subtidal seagrass beds, sea urchin congeners, and marine fouling communities.

Check out more at my website:




Graduate Students

Kane Ryan Keller

Kane is a fourth year graduate student in Plant Biology and EEBB.  Kane’s research integrates evolutionary ecology with microbial and ecosystem processes to explore patterns of community establishment and assembly during succession.  With field and greenhouse studies using a dominant early successional legume, Chamaecrista fasciculata, Kane is the studying how intraspecific variation in key traits, soil resource mutualisms (rhizobia), and nitrogen availability impact community dynamics.  Moreover, by understanding how these factors and the interactions between them influence species establishment and the species interactions that follow can help guide predictions on community assembly and guiding species and population selection for particular restoration sites.

Tomomi Suwa (Tomomi's website)

Tomomi is a graduate student at KBS, broadly interested in mutualism, species coexistence and diversity. Using plant-rhizobia interactions as a model system, she is currently working on two main projects:

  1. The potential ecological and evolutionary impacts of novel stressors (herbicides) on soil microbial organisms and, consequently, on crops that rely on the ecosystem services provided by the soil microbial community (e.g., nutrient availability, pathogen suppression).
  2. How ecological and evolutionary changes in plant-rhizobia interactions may feedback to influence plant community dynamics. For example, genetic changes in one species (e.g. rhizobia) might indirectly alter the strength of ecological interactions with other species (plant competition).
Before she joined the Lau lab, Tomomi did a MS degree in University of Nebraska where she studied the effects of insect herbivory and plant competition on an introduced thistle. During her undergrad, Tomomi studied the effects of nutrient availability on the evolution of tolerance to herbivory at the University of Guelph.

Liz Schultheis

Liz Schultheis is a 3rd year PhD student in Plant Biology and EEBB. Her research focuses on invasive plant species and addresses how release from natural enemies may be a dominant factor explaining invasiveness. The Enemy Release Hypothesis (ERH) states that invasive species gain a competitive advantage in their introduced range by escaping enemies that constrained their growth in their native range. Today, we still do not know if release from enemies translates into increased invasiveness for exotic species, or if they alter plant performance between the native and exotic range. Further, the benefits of enemy release may diminish over time for an invader, resulting in increased enemy pressure for species with longer residence times in their invasive range.

Tyler Bassett

Tyler is a 2nd year graduate student whose interests are motivated by applying the theoretical predictions of ecology and evolution to the practice of ecological restoration.  His primary research explores the effects of both species-level and genetic diversity on stability in communities and population dynamics in a restoration context.  Two common goals in restoration are increases in biodiversity, and the conservation of viable populations of individual species of conservation concern.  Theoretical, experimental, and observational studies all suggest that increases in species diversity generally result in increased community stability and improved ecosystem function (e.g., increased NPP)but decreased stability of individual populations.  Tyler uses a combined experimental (field and greenhouse) and observational (in established restorations and remnant communities) approach to investigate the consequences of changes in diversity at multiple scales.

Tyler is also a skilled botanist and maintains a healthy interest in floristics and monitoring both rare and common plant populations.  A believer in the utility of herbaria for tracking floristic trends (e.g., spread of invasive plant species, response of plants to climate change), he is an avid plant collector.

Susan Magnoli

Susan is a first-year PhD student in Plant Biology (starting in Fall 2011). She is interested in how invasive plant species affect community structure and diversity.

Prior to joining the Lau lab, Susan obtained an MS degree at Sonoma State University, where she studied the effects of an invasive plant (Carpobrotus edulis) on community composition in a California coastal dune.

Research Technicians

Mark Hammond
Mark is the lab research technician and resident natural history, lab, and greenhouse guru. He manages all projects in the lab, is a great resource for grad students, and mentors summer researchers.

Jeremy Jubenville
Jeremy is an undergraduate from Western Michigan University. He is excited about natural history and ecology and is especially fascinated by insects. Broader interests in restoration ecology lead him to questions about the relationships between insects, plants, and the soil community. As such, he is looking forward to augmenting his previous studies of the soil communitywith examinations of plant-herbivore interactions.

Former Labbies

Rachel Prunier

Rachel Prunier is now an Assistant Professor at Western Connecticut State University studying the evolution of White Proteas and Desmodium-rhizobium mutualisms.


Dylan Weese

Dylan Weese is now an Assistant Professor at Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa. He continues to study rapid evolutionary responses to nitrogen deposition in the legume-rhizobium mutualism and will return to KBS next summer to continue this work.