2023 Dec 21 Meeting – 2023 O’Neill Grant Recipients


2023 Charlie O’Neill Grant Recipients

Laurel Sebastian: Soil Carbon Dynamics in a Restored Grassland

Rachel Tageant: Flora of the Owens River Headwater Area


Public Meeting – December 21, 2023 Thursday

7:15 pm chat | 7:30 pm meeting officially begins

Register for this Zoom only based meeting at, https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJcudeGoqTMiHdSCiVTXVM-g9vVAINgb180r



The Charlie O’Neill Research Grant is awarded annually to graduate and undergraduate students planning to conduct field research related to biology, ecology, floristics, taxonomy or ethnobotany of native plants. In early 2023, we awarded grants to 6 researchers, with two receiving the full amount: Laurel Sebastian and Rachel Tageant.
Join us as we welcome them in presenting their research.


Speaker: Laurel Sebastian
Title: Plant Diversity, Functional Traits, and Environmental Factors Shape Soil Carbon Dynamics in a Restored Grassland

DESCRIPTION: In the era of unprecedented loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function, a core goal of restoration ecology is to find ways to restore ecosystem functions. Various planting strategies can be used to increase the function of soil carbon sequestration, but there are major gaps in our understanding of plant-soil interactions. In this study, we seeded 35 common California grassland species in experimental restoration plots and examined how plant diversity, functional groups (e.g. grasses vs. forbs), and functional traits (characteristics like rooting depth) influenced soil carbon. We also evaluated effects of precipitation and land use history treatments on soil carbon pools to examine how environmental conditions change plant-soil interactions, which may have important implications for carbon storage success under climate change. The results of this study help reveal some complex soil dynamics that may bring us one step closer to effectively sequestering carbon in our native grasslands.

BIO: Laurel recently received her master’s degree in Ecology in Jennifer Funk’s lab at UC Davis. She continues to work in ecological restoration in the San Francisco Bay Area. Laurel grew up in the oak woodlands of Santa Rosa before moving to Colorado to study environmental science. Before grad school, she spent five years doing field research and environmental education across the diverse ecosystems of Colorado, Washington, and California.



Speaker: Rachel Tageant
Title: A Vascular Flora of the Owens River Headwater Area, Mono County, CA

DESCRIPTION: For Rachel’s thesis, she is conducting a floristic inventory of the Owens River Headwaters Area (ORHA) in Mono County, California. The Sierra Nevada occupies ~20% of California’s landmass yet contains more than half of the state’s plant diversity. Many areas in the Sierra Nevada, however, remain unexplored botanically. The ORHA is one such area and is a “botanical black hole,” an area with little to no documentation. The study area is unique as it is located near a transition zone between the California Floristic Province and the Great Basin Floristic Province. Located in the central eastern Sierra Nevada, her study site is approximately 52 square miles, which includes the entirety of the Owens River Headwaters Wilderness area and surrounding Inyo National Forest land. The elevation range of the OHRA is 7,200-11,520 ft and the site is characterized by high-elevation meadows, creeks, forested mountain slopes, and alpine peaks. Over the course of two field seasons (2023-2024), Rachel will be compiling a comprehensive floristic inventory in order to document the vascular flora of this unique area through the collection of voucher specimens and culminate in an annotated species checklist. Specimens will be distributed to several herbaria, including RSA, CAS, and JEPS. Specimen data and images will be added to the Consortium of California Herbaria (CCH2) and observations will be uploaded on the digital platform iNaturalist for public access. To date, one season of field work has been completed with a total of 1,016 specimens collected representing 32 families and 124 genera. The information gathered during this study will be shared with the Inyo National Forest for future conservation and land management efforts. This study will establish important baseline data on the floristic diversity of the OHRA, which will in turn facilitate a greater understanding of the diversity and distribution of California’s native plants, assess future change in light of potential threats, such as climate change and OHV activity, and contribute to conservation management strategies for the ORHA.

BIO: Rachel is a master’s student at Claremont Graduate student working out of the California Botanic Garden. Prior to attending grad school, Rachel received an Associates degree from the Grays Harbor Community College and a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Washington State University. During her undergraduate career, she worked in the Marion Ownbey Herbarium, conducted a floristic study in southeastern WA, and also for the WA Dept of Fish and Wildlife as a Natural Resource technician.