ISEECI Postdoctoral Fellowship in Population Ecology and Evolution

The University of California’s newly founded Institute for the Study of Ecological Effects of Climate Impacts (ISEECI) invites applications for a Postdoctoral Fellowship in Ecology and Evolution, broadly defined to include ecology, comparative biology, population genetics, and/or evolution. The successful candidate will conduct observational, experimental and/or modeling research to address questions that leverage the unique opportunities provided by the widely distributed, taxonomically diverse, and ecologically protected sites of the University of California Natural Reserve System. The goals of this research are to detect and to characterize the process and outcome of population and species’ responses to climatic conditions and to forecast future ecological and evolutionary changes that will occur as climate change proceeds. Identifying regions or taxa that are particularly vulnerable to climatic changes that threaten their persistence is of particular concern both to individual NRS sites and regionally.

Individual traits (e.g., physiological rates, germination requirements, sexually selected characters, age at maturity, phenology, lifespan, defenses), population-level traits (e.g. mating system, modes of reproduction, population densities, polymorphisms, reproductive events/year) and species’ attributes (e.g. geographic range, population differentiation, detection of clines) are all of strong interest. Demographic, physiological, quantitative genetic, phylogenetic and molecular genetic methods may be used alone or in concert to achieve these goals.

Examples of questions that might be addressed by the successful candidate include:

  • Across environmental gradients that present an array of climatic conditions, how has selection or plasticity altered fitness-related traits? Are there genetic signatures of these changes?
  • Environmental conditions may differentially affect co-occurring species. Are mutualistic or antagonistic interspecific relationships altered under different conditions?
  • Across populations of one or more species, is there an association between standing genetic variance (of fitness-related traits) or other population genetic parameters and historical or contemporary climatic conditions? Does the capacity for adaptive evolution vary among populations?
  • Do opportunities for mating, and the strength or direction of natural selection on secondary sexual traits, vary along environmental gradients?
  • To what extent do adaptive phenotypes arise across environmental gradients in the presence or absence of gene flow?

Candidates may propose original research (in collaboration with an ISEECI faculty member) that addresses fundamental questions concerning the ecological and evolutionary responses of wild or naturalized species to contemporary climatic conditions or to future climate. Alternatively, they may work with faculty on ongoing or prospective projects (see below).

Preference will be given to candidates whose research will contribute to the development of products (e.g., publications, data sets, maps, on-line tools, living collections of preserved material, apps, and trained citizen scientists) that will be widely available to the academic community and the public in the near future. We specifically favor projects that characterize contemporary species/communities over a geographical area so that they can be used in the future as a frame of reference for how species/communities are changing over time. We also encourage proposals that make use of existing data bases that provide a frame of reference for what organisms/communities were like in the past (e.g., the Grinnell Project). Applications must include a cover letter, CV, and a brief description of planned research and products.

The position is for one year, renewable for a second year subject to review after one year. ISEECI postdocs may choose from ISEECI faculty mentors and collaborative groups in ecology, evolution, geography, and genetics at any UC campus. Candidates must contact appropriate faculty sponsors before applying and include a letter of support from the proposed sponsor as part of the application.

Applications must include a CV, a cover letter briefly describing the candidate’s research interests, intended mentor and the names and contact information of three references. Potential mentors and their research interests are listed at Applicants should contact prospective faculty mentors, and the mentor should submit a separate letter of support.

Email application materials may be submitted to Becca Fenwick ( Applications will be reviewed beginning on October 1, 2015, with the appointment beginning as early as November 1, 2015.

Salary is commensurate with experience. The position includes a research budget for equipment, supplies and travel among UC campuses and reserves. The University of California is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer and is supportive of dual career couples.

Examples of ongoing multi-reserve research projects that offer opportunities for faculty sponsorship and collaboration:

  • Establishment and use of a UCNRS seed bank. Susan Mazer or Peggy Fiedler
  • Geographic variation as a proxy for climate change: tracking phenological responses to climatic variation across environmental gradients. Susan Mazer
  • Are changing microclimates driving shifts in tree species distributions in California? Frank Davis
  • Effects of hydroclimatic change on stream quality and community/ecosystem structure and function. David Herbst
  • Evolutionary potential for shifts in phenology in response to climate change and invasion. Elsa Cleland
  • Community consequences of plant adaptation to environmental gradients and implications for climate change. Kailen Mooney
  • The NRS as a window into the future: from genes to phenotypes. Rauri Bowie

Potential Mentors:

  • Jessica Blois, School of Natural Sciences, UC Merced
  • Rauri Bowie, MVZ, Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley
  • Elsa Cleland, Ecology, Behaviour, Evolution, UC San Diego.
  • Frank Davis NCEAS, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management,UC Santa Barbara.
  • Jennifer Gremer, Evolution and Ecology, UC Davis.
  • David Herbst, SNARL, UC Santa Barbara.
  • Andrew Latimer, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC Davis.
  • Susan Mazer, EEMB, UC Santa Barbara
  • Kailen Mooney, Center of Environmental Biology, UC Irvine.
  • Eric P. Palkovacs, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz.
  • David Reznick, Department of Biology, UC Riverside.
  • Sharon Strauss, Dept. of Eocology and Evolution UC Davis.

Contact prospective sponsors below should you wish to conduct research related to, or in collaboration with, these investigators.
Detailed descriptions of ongoing multi-reserve research projects that offer opportunities for faculty sponsorship and collaboration:

Establishment and use of a UCNRS seed bank – The NRS offers a special opportunity to sample and to archive a taxonomically and genetically diverse living collection of plants to address questions concerning population differentiation, modes of selection, and adaptation to abiotic and biotic stresses associated with climatic variation. This project leverages ongoing collection of a genetically diverse seed bank of >50 wild and naturalized species using the Project Baseline protocols. The postdoctoral researcher would combine seed collection and preservation – employing and training NRS docents and volunteers for this effort – with observational, common garden, and experimental research on a widespread taxon of their choice in collaboration with a UC faculty member. For more information, contact: Susan Mazer orPeggy Fiedler

Geographic variation as a proxy for climate change: tracking phenological responses to climatic variation across environmental gradients – Phenological responses to local climatic conditions have been well studied in temperate communities, but little is known about how plants (and different phenophases: bud break, flowering, fruiting) respond to local and recent seasonal conditions in arid, water-driven systems. This research will evaluate the quantitative relationships among phenological and climatic parameters of keystone woody species (e.g., in the genera Quercus, Arctostaphylos, Adenostoma, Salvia, Ceanothus, and Eriogonum) across coastal-inland and elevation gradients in the UC reserves, with the goal of projecting population-, species- and community-level changes in a hotter, drier, and/or less predictable future. For more information, contact: Susan Mazer

Are changing microclimates driving shifts in tree species distributions in California? — This project leverages ongoing microclimate research coupled to seedling establishment trials in foothill and montane landscapes of the southern Sierra Nevada and Tehachapi Mountains. The postdoctoral researcher will join a large multidisciplinary team to integrate the ongoing project with the broader network of NRS site studies, including 1) harmonizing a large amount of project geospatial climate and other environmental data with NRS data for cross-network data exchange and analysis, 2) extending current field data collection beyond the project’s current 2016 end date, 3) adding field measurements of seedling physiology (pre-dawn XPP, chlorophyll fluorescence and/or leaf gas exchange), and 4) analyzing existing data to improve understanding of tree species vulnerability to climate change across the NRS system. For more information, contact: Frank Davis

Effects of hydroclimatic change on stream quality and community/ecosystem structure and function — As the hydrology of mountain streams is altered with climate change, understanding of ecological consequences can be tracked with years of legacy data on stream invertebrate communities from Sagehen Creek and Convict Creek — east slope Sierra streams at the Sagehen Research Station and Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab of the NRS. Summarizing years of survey data and adding current information can be used to assess climate drivers of change. In addition, preserved algae collected from a Sierra stream climate detection network can be used to establish short-term responses over five years of flow variation including severe drought conditions. For more information, contact: David Herbst,

Evolutionary potential for shifts in phenology in response to climate change and invasion — Shifts in seasonal timing (phenology) are a mechanism by which species can acclimate or evolve in response to a changing environment. For instance, shifting phenology may allow species to track changes in the growing season associated with climate change, or avoid competition with newly invading species with defined seasonality. The timing of germination is an important aspect of plant phenology, determining the biotic and abiotic environment for newly emerged individuals. Hence germination timing is a trait that may vary among populations depending on both environmental and biotic context. There are several species that are common across many NRS reserves, and seed collections across these reserves could represent an important resource for evaluating the existing potential for evolution of phenological traits (such as germination time) across wide environmental gradients. An ISEECI postdoctoral researcher could facilitate the establishment of these seed collections (an important resource for long-term collaborative research), while also producing research publications based on short-term experiments. For more information, contact: Elsa Cleland

Community consequences of plant adaptation to environmental gradients and implications for climate change — This project documents contemporary patterns of genetically based variation in plant functional traits and arthropod communities in Artemisia californica distributed along the steep environmental cline defining the species distribution along the Californian Pacific coast. This will be achieved by sampling wild grown plants in situ (both on and off NRS sites), as well as within NRS sites hosting common gardens across the species range, and within the context of both precipitation and herbivore manipulations. In the near term, these data willprovide a detailed understanding of how biotic and abiotic environmental clines drive variation in plant functional traits, and thus allow inference for this foundational plant species and its associated arthropod community will respond to ongoing and future climate change. For more information, contact: Kailen Mooney

The NRS as a window into the future: from genes to phenotypes — The NRS provides an ideal system with which to establish a biodiversity baseline. While the matrix will continue to change, the NRS sites are likely to remain as they are with respect to direct anthropogenic disturbance. Hence, they will serve as excellent sites to monitor environmental change (e.g., climate) over time and space. A postdoctoral researcher is sought to make new collections of vertebrates or invertebrates, sampling specimens and tissues to facilitate DNA as well as RNA extraction. These specimens and tissues could be used (1) in conjunction with those housed in UC Natural History Museums to determine cryptic biodiversity (metagenomics) and integrate these variables with macroecological theory, (2) to examine how phenotypes and genotypes have changed over time, or (3) to establish a baseline of gene expression in select taxa across the state, that would serve as a early indicator of functional shifts under environmental change. For more information, contact: Rauri Bowie

Potential Mentors

Jessica Blois, School of Natural Sciences, UC Merced
She is a potential resource for understanding the longer-term (i.e., paleohistorical) aspects of how climate may have influenced ecological and evolutionary responses of California communities. Projects in her lab include understanding factors driving spatio-temporal patterns in fossil mammal and pollen assemblages over the late Quaternary, in particular focusing on the relative roles of climate vs biotic interactions.

Rauri Bowie, Faculty Curator of Birds in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, an Associate Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology, and the Faculty Director of the Central Sierra Field Research Stations, UC Berkeley.
The major thrust of his research is centered on understanding how montane bird faunas have assembled over time. In order to better understand the origin and underlying patterns of diversification, his research takes a hierarchical approach, combining higher-level systematics with population genetic and phylogeographic (spatial patterns of genetic diversity) methodologies. Presently, he is integrating new DNA sequencing methodologies, novel isotope analyses, bioinformatics, and data science tools that are advancing our ecological and evolutionary understanding of birds at an unprecedented rate.

Elsa Cleland, Ecology, Behavior, Evolution, UC San Diego.
Research in the Cleland lab aims to predict species responses to environmental change, as well as the community and ecosystem consequences of these responses, at multiple timescales. For instance within a growing season, ecosystem responses to variation in the environment will be influenced by the phenological and physiological responses of the species present in the system. Over years to decades of directional environmental change, ecosystem responses will depend critically on community-level shifts in species abundances as well as evolutionary adaptations of dominant species. Predictions of species responses to environmental change draw different theories depending on timescale. Our lab relies on multiple modes of inquiry to address these questions, including large-scale field experimentation, observation across gradients, controlled lab and greenhouse studies to address mechanisms, and data-synthesis to assess the generality of the patterns and processes we identify.

Frank Davis Director of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS, and Professor of Landscape Ecology and Conservation Planning at the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management (, University of California, Santa Barbara.
Frank heads the Biogeography Lab ( at the Bren School, where his research focuses on the landscape and community ecology of California plant communities, regional conservation planning for biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the biological implications of regional climate change.

Jennifer Gremer, Evolution and Ecology, UC Davis.
She seeks to understand plant responses to variable and changing environments and the implications of those responses for populations, communities, and ecosystems. Therefore, the research lies at the interface of physiology, population biology, ecology, and evolution and employs a variety of methods from these fields to scale individual responses to broader scale patterns. Current projects are focused on understanding how variability at different biological scales (individuals, populations, communities) affects responses to climate change, identifying traits that buffer responses to change and whether they will be sufficient under future conditions, and projecting dynamics under future scenarios to identify species and communities that will be more vulnerable or resilient to change.

David Herbst, Marine Science Institute, UC Santa Barabara
David is a research biologist with UC Santa Barbara, and has worked out of the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory since 1986. Located on the east slope of the Sierra, at the western edge of the Great Basin has afforded opportunities to conduct research on invertebrate and algae inhabitants of aquatic ecosystems ranging from high elevation headwater streams to the saline desert lakes where their flows end. The current research focus of the Herbst lab is the sentinel stream project, a network of 24 streams throughout the Sierra, selected to detect the effects of changing climate and drought on flows and temperature as the drivers of alteration to diverse invertebrate communities and ecosystem dynamics. With 6 years of data spanning varied hydroclimatic conditions, this and decades of work from other studies of streams, springs, and lakes of the eastern Sierra provide a foundation for understanding changes in the diversity, abundance, traits, and food webs of aquatic habitats in the age of climate change. More detail and publications on this research and more can be find at our

Andrew Latimer, Dept. of Plant Sciences, UC Davis
Our group studies how environmental variation affects plant communities, populations, species and lineages. We are especially interested in how plant populations and communities respond to change — rapid major disturbance such as fire, as well as more gradual changes in climate. At the shortest time scales, we are focusing on field data that documents how California plant communities and populations respond to drought and fire. We also use experimental approaches to study how plant species (native and invasive) respond to environmental gradients and novel conditions. At the longest time scales, we are also interested in how lineages change as they encounter novel conditions and diversify. I have done a lot of work using hierarchical statistical modeling to study species distribution patterns across time and space, and more generally to integrate data from diverse sources, and am looking forward to using these tools through ISEECI.Website:

Susan Mazer, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Barbara.
Susan is the Director of the California Phenology Project ( and the Western Regional Coordinator of Project Baseline (, a nationwide seed bank designed for the study of short-term evolutionary change in native and naturalized plant species. Research in the Mazer lab aims to detect the mechanisms by which plants adapt to the ecological risks and opportunities that they encounter, and to explore the genetic constraints that may limit the rate or degree of adaptation. We integrate the tools of quantitative genetics; comparative biology; artificial selection; demography, pollination, and phenology; fluorescence microscopy; and ecophysiological surveys. To understand the evolutionary significance of genetically based phenotypic variation in life history and reproductive traits, we also use phenotypic selection gradient analyses under natural conditions. The combination of genetic, morphological, and physiological approaches also allows the detection of potential evolutionary constraints due to pleiotropy or strong genetic correlations that can impede the short-term evolution of individual traits that may otherwise be under strong natural selection.

Kailen Mooney, Center of Environmental Biology, UC Irvine.
He studies the evolutionary, community and conservation ecology of tri-trophic interactions. Specifically, his research focuses on how species traits mediate tri-trophic interactions, and the consequences of this for the population biology, evolutionary dynamics and ecological processes. He uses meta-analysis and manipulative field experiments, and often works along latitudinal and elevational gradients in order to understand how climatic variation (and thus climate change) mediates these processes.

Eric P. Palkovacs, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz.
He is interested in the eco-evolutionary dynamics of aquatic ecosystems. The study of eco-evolutionary dynamics focuses on bi-directional interactions occurring between ecology and evolution in nature. He examines how evolution shapes populations, communities, and ecosystems and how these ecological changes feed back to shape the trajectory of evolution. Because the research is at the interface of ecology and evolution, he utilizes a diversity of techniques and approaches. In particular, he combines surveys of genetic, phenotypic, and ecological variation in nature with field and laboratory experiments to test the mechanisms underlying observed patterns. His research addresses basic questions in evolutionary ecology and applied questions in conservation biology and fisheries management.

David Reznick, Department of Biology, UC Riverside.
He studies the process of evolution by natural selection in natural populations. His primary work has been on natural populations of guppies from Trinidad that are found across an array of communities, ranging from diverse fish communities with many species of guppy predators in higher order streams to two species communities (guppies plus a killifish) in headwater streams and above barrier waterfalls. This diversity has presented a template for studying the diverse ways in which guppies evolve in response to risk of predation, including life histories, behavior, morphology, performance and aging. It has been possible to experimentally manipulate the risk of predation and in that way test predictions derived from evolutionary theory and quantify the rate of evolution. A current, natural extension of this work is the study of the interaction between ecology and evolution, or how the impact of guppies on their environment contributes to shaping their own adaptation, plus how the contemporary evolution of guppies shapes their ongoing interactions with other species. On a different front, he studies the comparative life histories of all species in the guppy family (Poeciliidae). One family wide feature is that the equivalent of a mammalian placenta has evolved multiple times within the family, which has created the opportunity to study macroevolution as the evolution of complexity and as the role of mode of reproduction in promoting speciation.

Sharon Strauss, Dept. of Eocology and Evolution UC Davis
A long-term focus of my research has been the inextricable interrelationship between ecology and evolution, and its effect on the functioning of natural systems. The ecology of organisms reflects their long-term evolutionary history, with all its contingencies. The extent to which related species share and diverge in ecologically important traits, and how this shared ancestry affects community assembly, is a growing area within ecology. In addition, ecological dynamics and community assembly are influenced by microevolutionary change. Ecological communities and abiotic environments exert selection on organisms; evolution in response to such selection, under the constraints of long-term evolutionary history, often results in populations that differ in traits from the parental generation. These different trait values, in turn, can feed back to affect the ecology of a system. Most recently, I am interested in how current traits of species predict their larger geographic ranges and environmental tolerances, and the degree to which these traits also carry phylogenetic constraints.


Jon Christensen, Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) and Department of History, and Peter Kareiva, IoES and Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UCLA
Jon Christensen is an adjunct assistant professor of history, environmental communications, and environmental and digital humanities. He is a historian of science and the environment, a longtime journalist who has written for The New York Times, Nature, High Country News and many other publications, as well as TV and radio. And he is editor of Boom: A Journal of California, a quarterly published by the University of California Press.

Peter Kareiva is director of the IoES, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and author of Conservation Science: Balancing the Needs of People and Nature, among many other works.
He was formerly the chief scientist at The Nature Conservancy. As part of ISEECI, Christensen and Kareiva are particularly interested in using the White Mountains Research Station (managed by UCLA) and the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Lab (managed by UC Santa Barbara) as sites for exploring the value and importance of field station archives for understanding climate change and ecological adaptations over short and long terms, as well as changes in water resources and the impact on nearby and distant ecosystems and human communities.

Maggi Kelly, Dept. Environmental Science, Policy and Management, UC Berkeley
She studies the drivers, patterns and consequences of environmental change across California’s spatially complex, socially diverse and dynamic landscapes using integrated geospatial tools. Her work using GIS, remote sensing, historical data archives, web infrastructure, and participatory technologies enables interdisciplinary collaboration, data-rich and analysis-intensive geospatial research, and active outreach across a number of academic domains with significant societal impact. She works in California forest and wetland systems. She is very conscious of the speed at which our geospatial field is evolving, making the need to capture information from, and share information with broad scientific, regulatory, and public communities increasingly important. To that end she seeks to build a community interested in applied geospatial research and outreach locally at UC Berkeley and across the state. She is the faculty director of the Geospatial Innovation Facility and Director of the ANR Statewide Program in Informatics and Geographic Information Systems (IGIS), both of which are dedicated to bringing cutting-edge mapping technology to the ANR network, students, staff, faculty, and the public.

Laurel Fox, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Santa Cruz.
Jeff Diez, Ecology, UC Riverside.
Reconstructing California climate, fire histories, and forest dynamics. Tree rings constitute an historical, biological archive of a landscape. Rings document how tree growth responds to climate, competition, and disturbances such as fire and pest outbreaks. This project would use tree ring analysis from sites across California to reconstruct forest dynamics and climate in multiple ecosystems across California. Questions may range from basic exploration of how abiotic and biotic effects on tree growth vary spatially and temporally, to applied questions of how management practices affect forest communities in this era of global change. Work may involve a combination of collecting tree cores and statistical modeling.
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