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Alpha nerd

Lab PI

My interests span a wide variety of topics at the intersection of theoretical, empirical, and applied ecology, and I have explored these interests in both aquatic and terrestrial systems. I am particularly interested in how populations and communities respond to environmental variation, both natural and human driven, and I use a mixture of mathematical and empirical approaches to understand processes that act across scales of spatio-temporal measurement and biological organization. I received my Ph.D. in 2004 from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I currently accept students through the Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology Graduate Program, the Entomology Graduate Program, and the Biophysics Graduate Program. You can contact me at my EEOB profile page:
Kurt Anderson
Associate Professor of Biology
Postdoctoral Scholar

Postdoctoral Scholars

Right now we don't have any post-doctoral scholars in the lab, but if you are interested in joining us please contact me and we can discuss opportunities for fellowships or writing a grant together!
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Graduate Students

Graduate Students

Clara works to develop and test food web theory with protist microcosm experiments in the lab to bridge the gap between theory and the natural world. She is especially interested in how the interplay between competition and predation affect population dynamics and what mechanisms drive stability. Current projects Clara is working on spatial predator-prey interactions and the roles of omnivory and cannibalism in foodweb stability. You can learn more about Clara's interests and research from her website.   
Clara Woodie
PhD Student, EEOB

Ben is broadly interested in applied ecology, especially in the context of insect vectors of human disease. He aims to better understand the interactions between pesticides, mosquitoes, and the enigmatic and diverse habitats that mosquitoes can use to breed. Of particular interest to Ben is the habitat ecology of invasive Aedes mosquitoes in southern California. He currently uses ornamental bromeliad phytotelmata as a model of a complex and cryptic breeding source to better understand both the larval ecology of Aedes and the effects of mosquito control efforts. Outside of ecology, he is passionate about all things entomology, with additional appreciation for Arachnida and Aves. 
Benjamin Nyman
PhD Student, Entomology

Gary's research interests are in freshwater ecology, ecosystem services, ecosystem health, and environmental flows. He is working to apply the Freshwater Health Index to the Santa Ana Watershed, the most extensive socio-ecological system in Southern California. He is synthesizing hydrological, ecological, and sociological data to evaluate the current state of ecosystem health, ecosystem services delivery, and governance structures and developing a framework for incorporating climate-change scenarios into water management decisions. Gary is co-advised with Dr. Helen Regan in EEOB.
Gary Qin
PhD Student, EEOB

Patrick's interests are in modeling the dynamics of spatial foodwebs. He is currently exploring Turing instabilities as well as more broadly considering the multiple dimensions of stability in these highly complex systems.
Patrick Lawton
PhD Student, Biophysics

Ria's interests are in freshwater ecology and management. She has been working on a pilot project to estimate size-spectra and secondary production of benthic macroinvertebrates in the Santa Ana River. 
Ria Ghosh
PhD Student, EEOB

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Mia is interested in studying range shifts due to climate change and endangered species conservation. She is currently exploring projects related to thermal preferences of urban freshwater fishes and community dynamics of alpine freshwater macroinvertebrates.
Mia Ashby
MS Student, EEOB

Adrian is studying evolution in fragmented systems with application for conservation biology to cancer. He has been developing a Python package using information theory to quickly recover gene-flow/migratory paths without capture-recapture experiments. He aims to understand cancer evolves, specifically the transient effect of cancer as it evades treatment. You can learn more about Adrian's interests and research from his website. Adrian is co-advised with Jeet Sukumaran from SDSU in EB. You can learn more about him at
Undergraduates are a big part of our research team. We have hosted numerous undergraduate researchers in our lab, many through UCR programs such as the California Alliance for Minority Participation, Summer RISE, the Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program, UC LEADS, and the University Honors Program.

Some of our past undergraduate researchers, the Bleph Buddies!
Lab Alumni
Lab Alumni
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Anne created two online classes in ecology and global change, and did extensive work on making digital content more accessible to diverse audiences. She also is leading an ongoing project assessing student experiences with online courses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before coming to UCR, Anne worked on the ecology and conservation of large carnivores with a focus on cheetahs. Learn more about Anne at She currently works in the Wildlife Diversity Program at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Anne Hilborn
ILTI Postdoctoral Scholar, EEOB

Jonathan worked on an NSF-funded project that aimed to develop new modeling tools for freshwater systems. His research used the theory of quantum graphs to represent stream networks as continuous space systems. He is currently a PTT Lecturer in Mathematics at California State University, Stanislaus.
Jonathan Sarhad
Postdoctoral Scholar, EEOB

Ryan studied the spatial and abiotic processes that shape aquatic macroinvertebrate communities in dendritic systems. He worked on analyzing large spatio-temporal datasets to examine the influences of taxonomy, traits, and environment on the community composition of aquatic arthropods. He is also conducted fieldwork to determine how different species respond to seasonal changes in wetted habitat. Ryan received his B.S. in Environmental Science in 2016 where he studied the invasion of Orconectes rusticus (rusty crayfish) in southeastern Pennsylvania. He is now at the US Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station. 
Ryan Conway
PhD 2023, EEOB

William studied urban freshwater ecology in the Santa Ana River. There, he assessed how wastewater and urbanization affect community composition and trophic interactions across spatial and temporal gradients. In addition to his research William is interested in science policy and pedagogy. He worked with UCR Science to Policy and the National Science Policy Network to train graduate students in the skills needed to communicate scientific findings to policymakers. He also served as the Chair of the National Science Policy Network and the UCR Science to Policy Executive Chair and Government Relations Chair. At UC Riverside he completed the University Teaching Certificate and collaborated with a local high school biology teacher to create an ecology unit based on the Santa Ana River. He is now a post-doc at Michigan State University working with Brian Roth.
William Ota
PhD 2023, EEOB

Matthew Green
PhD 2022, EEOB

Serj Daniellan
PhD 2022, EEOB

Parsa studied the community ecology of stream systems in the context of flow disturbance (i.e. floods and droughts). His primary study sites were in the eastern Sierra Nevada at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory (SNARL, a UC Natural Reserve) and the Santa Ana River. Parsa went on to do a post-doc at UC Davis with Dr. Andrew Rypel and is currently a California Sea Grant Delta Science Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley.
Parsa Saffarinia
PhD 2019, 

Sean used mathematical and computational approaches to address questions in spatial community dynamics, complexity-diversity-stability relationships, and conservation applications. Sean is currently a Senior Scientist working in Quantitative Pharmacology and Pharmacometrics at Merck & Co., Inc.
Sean Hayes
PhD 2017, 

Heather's dissertation research focused on understanding how species respond to anthropogenic disturbances and environmental stressors across three different arid ecosystems within southern California from both restoration and management perspectives. Her research focused on a variety of species, including plants, invertebrates, mammals, and birds across multiple habitats with various environmental stressors in order to provide a more holistic view of environmental change. Heather is currently the Executive Director of Three Rivers Waterkeeper in Pennsylvania.
Heather Hulton VanTassel
PhD 2015, EEOB

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Matthew studied aquatic community ecology. He used a variety of tools from data science and visualization, multivariate and time series analysis, GIS, laboratory experiments, and field work to understand how the underlying spatial structure of habitats influence community dynamics and diversity. Matthew carried out his field research through the UC Natural Reserve Systems at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory and was a fellow of the Institute for the Study of Ecological & Evolutionary Climate Impacts (ISEECI). Matthew also used spatial microcosm experiments in the laboratory to test similar ideas using microbial aquatic protists. Matthew received his undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences at Florida State University working with Thomas E. Miller. You can learn more about Matthew at his website. Matthew is currently a data scientist at General Motors.
Serj's dissertation focused on modeling population dynamics on spatial networks. He explored how network structure and environmental noise color influence persistence and synchrony in stochastic population models. Serj was co-advised with Dr. Helen Regan in EEOB. Serj is currently a lecturer at California State University, Los Angeles.
Ashkaan's dissertation research used a mixture of field and laboratory experiments, and computational and analytical models to extend trophic cascade theory to include scenarios involving complex, adaptive and open ecological systems. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida Atlantic University.
Ashkaan Fahimipour
PhD 2015, EEOB

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