2024 June 13 Meeting – University Student Lightning Talks

University Student Lightning Talks
Public Meeting June 13
Doors open 6:45, Presentations 7:30
Duck Club in Irvine and Zoom

(Note: The Duck Club is only accessible via Campus Dr and making a right turn on Riparian View.)

Student research is an essential outlet for learning more about local ecological phenomenons. In Southern California, there is a large array of research being conducted from floristic studies to plant genetics to climate change.
Join us to listen to students from UC Irvine, CSU Long Beach, and CSU Fullerton present their research in a fast-paced, 10-minute lightning talk followed by a short Q&A. Presentations will cover a large range of topics pertaining to native plants in California.


Tayahna Rae Agtarap (CSULB)

Bio: Tayahna Rae Agtarap is a recent graduate from California State University, Long Beach. She received her B.S. in biology with a concentration in molecular and cellular biology. She is conducting research in Dr. Amanda Fisher’s lab investigating the relationship between pollen:ovule ratios and pollinators across the genus Justicia. She plans to pursue her PhD in plant molecular biology to better understand plant responses when exposed to abiotic stressors.

Project Summary: Tayahna’s project in Dr. Amanda Fisher’s lab involves untangling the complex relationship between pollen production and the evolutionary drivers of it. She strives to answer why certain species of Justicia produce more or less pollen than other species, and what external factors (type of animal pollinator, method of pollination, anther size) could be driving such discrepancies.


David Christopher Banuelas (UCI)

Bio: David is a first-generation college graduate with indigenous and Hispanic roots. His early experiences in National Parks led him to pursue a PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine. During his time at UC Irvine, David worked closely with the Newport Bay Conservancy and the Big Canyon Project. His research is particularly focused on enhancing restoration efforts by paying close attention to mycorrhizal fungi.

Project Summary: The Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) is an invasive species that requires significant disturbance to eradicate. Previous studies have identified associations between Brazilian pepper tree and ectomycorrhizal fungi (EMF). However, limited research has explored the connection between disturbance from removal and the effect on EMF. This study investigated the sensitivity of EMF and the broader fungal community to the full and selective removal of Brazilian pepper tree. During the selective removal of Brazilian pepper tree, we examined the mycorrhizal community of the arroyo willow (Salix lasiolepis) to assess the influence of the restoration disturbance on native species. We used ITS2 sequencing to identify the EMF present during the restoration. Our expectation was that both removal efforts would reduce the presence of EMF. Contrary to our predictions, full removal increased EMF richness and relative abundance in the soil. As anticipated, selective removal reduced the richness and relative abundance of EMF associated with soil. Selective removal led to a decrease in the richness of EMF in arroyo willow roots with no effect on relative abundance. Moreover, fungal community composition in soil and roots shifted significantly during selective and full removal. However, the community composition of EMF, specifically, remained constant across treatment types. During full removal efforts, the application of organic soil amendments may have contributed to the increase in the diversity and relative abundance of EMF. Selective removal will require additional measures such as soil amendments to curtail the loss of EMF.


Ana Ayers (CSUF)

Bio: Ana is a recently graduated undergraduate student from Cal State University, Fullerton with a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Her main ecological focuses are plants and arthropods. She worked in CSU Fullerton’s MacFadden Herbarium for four years assisting in imaging and digitizing the main collection. In addition, she worked in Dr. Kristy Forsgren’s lab looking at the reproductive systems of fish. When not focusing on ecology, Ana likes to be an unprofessional chef at home.

Project Summary: A niche model distribution chart for Joshua Trees made using herbarium specimens. Made to predict the distribution range of Western and Eastern Joshua Tree species under climate change conditions.


Emily Fitzpatrick (CSULB)

Bio:  Emily Fitzpatrick (she/he/they) is a fifth-year CSU Long Beach student pursuing their B.S. in Biology and a minor in Environmental Science and Policy. He joined Dr. Amanda Fisher’s Plant Evolution and Systematics lab in 2022 and began working with Dr. Fisher on his Honor’s  Thesis Project on Hesperocyparis forbesii in 2023. She currently plans to work in conservation and restoration, with a focus on scientific writing and communication.

Project summary:  Hesperocyparis forbesii (Tecate cypress) is a 1B.1-ranked species found in Southern California and Northern Mexico. Seed cone production begins at seven years of age, with individuals only reaching maximum seed production at 35-40 years. This makes the demographic study of H. forbesii essential for the conservation of the species, which is at high risk of extirpation due to the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Southwest. Several H. forbesii populations are found in the northern Santa Ana Mountains and are under the jurisdiction of the Cleveland National Forest (CNF) Forest Service. Surveys in 2009 found that these populations were primarily composed of seedlings, making them extremely vulnerable to being eradicated by large wildfires in the next 20 to 30 years. Updated demographic data is essential to determine which populations are most threatened by wildfires and the best management practices to ensure their persistence. This project examines the demography of several CNF populations and analyzes potential management strategies based on their risk of extirpation.