Jay Sexton

Dr. Jason (Jay) Sexton (Associate Professor; Principal Investigator)


Dr. Sexton applies an evolutionary perspective and a collaborative interdisciplinary approach to pressing questions in evolution and ecology. He uses field and greenhouse experiments, genetic analyses, environmental modeling, physiological analyses, and biogeographic datasets to address these questions. Although he focuses primarily on plant climate adaptation, he also actively contributes to research on sustainability science, from biological invasions, and maximizing species diversity under climate change, to the role of sociocultural adaptive capacity in biological conservation. His research is driven by urgent questions, and is grounded in empirical study to test, enhance, and expand ecological and evolutionary theory.

Daniel ToewsDaniel Toews (PhD candidate, August 2015-present)

Daniel completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Merced and is now a PhD student in the Environmental Systems Graduate Group. His research ranges from plant ecology, conservation biology, soil science and wetlands ecology, focusing on the emblematic California Central Valley vernal pools. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing, backpacking, biking and other outdoor activities.

Lillie Pennington

Lillie Pennington (PhD candidate, June 2017-present)
Lillie is originally from Oklahoma and earned her B.S. at Oklahoma City University. Lillie is broadly interested in the impacts of climate change on plant communities and is studying the adaptive potential of plant populations to tolerate environmental stresses across their species range. In her free time she enjoys shopping, watching movies, and adventuring with friends.

Brandon Hendrickson (PhD candidate, August 2017-present)
Brandon is a PhD student in the Environmental Systems Graduate Group researching various plant adaptations to climate change. Brandon graduated in 2017 from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a B.S. in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. He has participated in research on soil nutrient cycling, evolution of dual photo and tactile sensation in fungal spores, memory formation in Apis Mellifera, and fire modelling and has published papers on USGS crop identification methods and pollen performance divergence in two species of Clarkia. Currently, Brandon has focused his research on characterizing the molecular basis and ecological impact of phenology adaptations in Mimulus guttatus. His experiments are in Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest, and at the San Joaquin Experimental Range. Brandon’s hobbies include writing, cooking, fermenting, playing music and golf.

Yesenia Vargas (Undergraduate technician, May 2021-present)

Yesenia Vargas is an undergraduate Biology-Ecology and Evolutionary Bio student at UC Merced with a wide range of biological interests including microbiological ecosystems, vernal pool ecosystems, evolutionary processes, behavioral ecology, and biological conservation. Yesenia has volunteered at the Audubon Center’s nursery in Deb’s Park, Los Angeles and tended to native species of plants to support the local bird life in the urban setting. She has helped on the UC Merced Vernal Pool Reserve with research experiments. She has a long history of camping, taking hikes in the outdoors, and always looking out for some sort of wildlife, especially birds.

Lab Alumni:

Dr. Jorge A. Montiel, PhD (2015-2021)

Dr. Jackie Shay, PhD (2015-2021). Current position: Associate Director, Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning, UC Merced.

Dr. Molly Stephens, Project Scientist (2015-2019). Current position: Executive Director, Sierra Nevada Research Institute.

Dr. Dannise Ruiz-Ramos, Postdoctoral Researcher (2017-2019). Current position: Scientist, USGS.

Erin Dickman, MS (2014-2016). Current position: Restoration Ecologist, Yosemite National Park

Elizabeth Green, Lab Manager

Abel Campos-Melendez, BS

Mimi Pomephimkham, BS

Sunshine Lopez, BS

Yazmin Lommel, BS

Angelo Aragon, BS

Alfredo Enriquez, BS

Jasmine Ramirez Bonilla, BS

Jenna Heckel, BS

Amanda Tse, BS

Sherman Yu, BS

William Higson, BS

Grant Lvison-Lane, BS

Tyler Rackelmann, BS

Abel Campos-Melendez, BS

Kimberly Du, BS

Marcel Dube, BS

Adriana Gomez, BS

Jenna Heckel, BS

Teanna Herrera, BS

Kara Kutsuris, BS

Kehily Maldonado, BS

Flor Nunez, BS

Michelle On, BS

Leslie Paredes, BS

Valeria Rivera, BS

Kimberly Rodriguez, BS

Alyze Salan, BS

Gilma Sevilla-Alvarez, BS

Michael Spaeth, BS