David Ackerly, Professor

Closed (1) Forest responses to climate change in Northern California

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

The Terrestrial Biodiversity Climate Change Collaborative (TBC3) is a diverse group of managers, climate modelers, and ecologists seeking to inform conservation policy and management in the San Francisco Bay Area by projecting future climate, hydrology, and vegetation change in the next century. The Ackerly Lab has been fortunate enough to work closely with TBC3 to help establish and maintain woody vegetation monitoring plots at Pepperwood Preserve. The establishment of 17 one hectare forest research plots, representing 29 different species, will allow for future population and community analyses of dominant woody vegetation across fine-scale climate gradients. This work will help us understand how climate variables at local scales drive patterns of recruitment and mortality for dominant woody species, as well as how their rates are changing through time.

The URAP student will learn practical field forestry and ecology techniques as we work to map and measure the dominant tree species across sites previously established. Tasks will include use of GPS to identify plots and map trees, forestry survey (tagging, DBH, species identification), and data entry. Additional lab work extracting DNA and running PCR to characterize forest population genetic structure is also available if the student is interested.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Prahlad Papper, Graduate Student

Qualifications: The most important requirement for this position is interest in ecological questions and an enthusiasm for field work. Basic tree identification of common California species would be useful, but can be learned in the field. An ability to hike off trail on rough terrain is required. No previous experience with research is necessary. Desirable but not essential prior coursework includes: Bio 1B, Ecology, Evolution, Plant Ecology, Botany, or equivalents.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: (weekend work)
Pepperwood Preserve
2130 Pepperwood Preserve Road
Santa Rosa, CA 95404

Related website: http://ackerlylab.org
Related website: http://ackerlylab.org/

Closed (2) Phenology dynamics in California grassland communities

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

Phenology describes the annual timing of life stages. For plants, phenology studies examine the timing of leafing out, flowering and dropping leaves. The timing of these stages determines how and when species interact with each other in time, which in turn impacts their life histories and evolution. Changes in phenology are thought to be one of the earliest signs of climate impacts on a system, and many plant species have been observed to be shifting with changes in climate. However, we do not yet know the dynamics of how these shifts may affect the plant communities interactions in California grasslands.
As abiotic factors in the environment are altered, species-specific shifts in phenology may occur, leading to changes in species interactions and turnover in plant communities. There are currently no strategies for management to cope with the effects of shifts in plant phenology due to the limited understanding of the role phenology plays in shaping population and community dynamics. Therefore, it is crucial to study the impacts of phenology shifts in order to inform management techniques. Our first step in evaluating potential management strategies is to understand phenology patterns at multiple spatial scales. This project aims to examine these patterns and processes in native plant species in California grasslands.

The URAP student will assist with greenhouse experimental set up and data collection, in the Oxford Tract greenhouses. In addition, processing of field data, including data entry, ID of field plat specimens, Herbarium specimen mounting and databasing will occur later in the semester. The URAP Student will learn about experimental design and ecological research techniques.
, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: The most important requirement for this position is interest in ecology, and the desire to learn more about ecological research. A positive attitude and a good work ethic is required. No previous experience with research is necessary, but is welcomed. Desirable but non-essential prior coursework includes: Bio 1B, Ecology, Evolution, Plant Ecology, Botany, or equivalent. Three hour block(s) of time are required during weekdays for this project.

Weekly Hours: 3-5 hrs

Related website: http://ackerlylab.org
Related website: https://rachaelolliffyang.wordpress.com/

Closed (3) Plants on the move: data science, population genetics, and pollen dispersal

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

Long-distance movement patterns of seeds and pollen remain largely mysterious, though they are important to understanding plant evolution and critical for conservation planning under climate change. While dispersal of these plant propagules is difficult or impossible to observe directly, historic dispersal patterns have left signatures in the genetic relationships among different populations of plants. In this project we will use population genetic data to reconstruct historic pollen and seed movement patterns, and then compare these patterns to data on wind, animal movement, and other dispersal vectors to build models of how plants and their genes are migrating across large geographies. We will take a "big data" approach in this study, sourcing genetic data from a large number of published online datasets rather than performing the laborious work of collecting and sequencing new DNA.

The URAP student will assist in harvesting and re-analyzing published population genetics data from online repositories including Dryad and GenBank. The student will gain exposure to population genetics and spatial ecology by working hands on with data and literature from large number of genetic studies, as well as learning about open data and reproducible data science. Depending on student interest and skills there are also opportunities to work on R or Python code to clean and analyze the harvested datasets.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Matthew Kling, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: The most important requirement for this position is interest in population genetics, attention to detail, and willingness to perform somewhat repetitive computer tasks while minimizing errors. Desirable but non-essential prerequisites include coursework such as Bio 1B, Plant Ecology, or Population Genetics, as well as prior coding experience.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Related website: http://ackerlylab.org
Related website: http://matthewkling.github.io/

Closed (4) Genetic architecture and phenotypic variation in blue oaks

Closed. This professor is continuing with Fall 2018 apprentices on this project; no new apprentices needed for Spring 2019.

Common gardens were planted in 1991 from 26 seed sources throughout the range of blue oak (Quercus douglasii) in order to shed light on variation within this fundamental species of California's oak woolands. Variation in growth and environmental tolerance of blue oak as observed in these gardens has wide significance to practices in forestry, conservation, restoration, and ecology.

2016-17 marks the 25th growth year for these common garden trees. A 25 year resurvey of height, diameter, and mortality is scheduled, following on the 5 and 10 year resurveys completed in 1996 and 2001, respectively. In addition, the original planting scheme allows for removal of 2/3 of the trees in order to allow room for the full maturation of the remaining replicates.


Students will assist with growth resurveys in November, following leaf senesence. They may optionally renew apprenticeship in the Spring semester to assist with thinning the gardens before leaf emergence in March. Student assistants will obtain experience in standard forestry and conservation field techniques in a fast-paced, high volume survey of an even-aged stand.

Additional opportunities to assist with analysis of the collected survey data will be available and student assistants will be encouraged to participate in this aspect of the project to gain additional experience beyond the field.


Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Prahlad Papper, Ph.D. candidate

Qualifications: Student assistants will be required to participate in 3 to 4 separate weekend survey campaigns at Hopland REC in Mendocino County and Sierra Foothills REC in Yuba County. These surveys will be scheduled flexibly between late October and the end of Fall semester. We will discuss possible dates during interviews, but ability to participate off campus on the chosen dates is required. Good physical condition and ability to work outdoors under a variety of conditions while maintaining a smiley face (at least on the inside) are also required. Desirable, but not required, qualifications include familiarity with IR and optical inclinometers, light equipment for tree removal, and basic knowledge of forestry methods. Also highly desirable is a valid driver's license and reliable vehicle. Transportation will be provided as necessary, but additional drivers would add flexibility.

Weekly Hours: to be negotiated

Off-Campus Research Site: Hopland Research and Extension Center
4070 University Rd
Hopland, CA 95449

Sierra Foothills Research and Extension Center
8279 Scott Forbes Rd
Browns Valley, CA 95918