Jay Sexton

Jay Sexton

Dr. Jason Sexton (Principle 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.

Dr. Molly Stephens

Dr. Molly Stephens

Dr. Molly Stephens (Assistant Project Scientist, September 2014-present)
A native of the San Joaquin valley, Molly completed her PhD in Ecology at UC Davis in 2007. Her research over the past four years as an Assistant Project Scientist in the Genomic Variation Lab at UCD focused on: native trout population genetics and hybridization, Chinook salmon reintroduction, molecular diversity, and epigenetics; and Yosemite toad conservation genetics and systematics. Molly values interfacing with state and federal agency biologists to answer important species management questions; in the Sexton Lab, she hopes to undertake a greater focus on species plasticity and adaptivity to climate change. Favorite weekend activities include hiking, camping, woodworking, home improvement, and keeping up with her 5-year-old.




Dr. Dannise V. Ruiz-Ramos (Postdoc fellow, May 2017- present)

She is a marine biologist by training and a postdoctoral scholar with the UC Conservation Genomics Consortium working with the Dawson and Sexton labs. Her general interests include [factors influencing] the origins and maintenance of variation in natural populations. At the Sexton lab, Dannise uses environmental DNA to measure biodiversity in vernal pools and to detect threatened plant species. She also contributes to a range of other genomics projects from a search for signals of selection in the sea star Pisaster ochraceous (with the Dawson lab), to the genomics of Colusa grass.



Daniel Toews

Daniel Toews

Daniel Toews (Masters candidate, August 2015-present)

 Daniel completed his undergraduate degree at the University of California, Merced and is now a Master’s candidate in Environmental Systems. In his free time he enjoys rock climbing, backpacking, biking and other outdoor activities.



Jorge Montiel

Jorge Montiel

Jorge A. Montiel (PhD student, August 2015-present)
Jorge A. Montiel, joining us from Mexico City, is a PhD candidate in Environmental Systems. He is interested in researching the fungal communities of vernal pools. He obtained his B.S. in Biology from Metropolitan Autonomous University (UAM) and Master’s degree in Life Sciences in Environmental Biology from the Scientific Research and Higher Education Center of Ensenada (CICESE). His interests range from conservation biology, plant ecology, and mycology to small mammal studies with an emphasis in endangered species                                                                                               habitats.



Lillie Pennington

Lillie Pennington (PhD student, June 2017-present) Lillie Pennington is starting her first year of graduate study in the Sexton lab. She 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 hoping to refine her research goals in a timely manner. In her free time she enjoys shopping, watching movies, and adventuring with friends.



Jackie Shay







Jackie Shay (PhD student, August 2016-present)

Jackie Shay is a systems biologist exploring the symbiosis between fungi and plants. She is currently working on understanding the associations between fungal endophytes of the cut-leafed monkeyflower (Mimulus laciniatus) in response to range limits. Jackie uses an interdisciplinary approach to illustrate plant-fungal friendships in the natural world, quantify the complexities of these relationships, and demonstrate their significance in sustainable agriculture, climate change, and plant evolution.



Sunshine Lopez

Sunshine Lopez (Undergraduate, May 2017-present)

Sunshine Lopez is a fourth year Biology major at UC Merced with an Emphasis in Ecology and Evolutionary Science, and is pursuing a minor in Environmental Science and Sustainability. She is a student naturalist on the Vernal Pools & Grassland Reserve, and enjoys taking part in activities that educate children and young adults about the environment. On her free time she enjoys reading, listening to music, and hiking.



Yazmin Lommel

Yazmin Lommel (Undergraduate, August 2015-present)

Yazmin is in her second year at University of California, Merced studying Biology with an emphasis in Ecology. She is currently assisting Erin with her thesis work with monkeyflowers and their development according to different elevations and across multiple years. She is also currently involved in the Student Sustainability Council at UC Merced as the Director of Student Activities. In her free time, Yazmin enjoys adventuring, photography, reading field guides, and playing pick-up games of soccer.



Lab Alumni

Erin Dickman, MS
Elizabeth Green, Lab Manager
Angelo Aragon, undergraduate
Alfredo Enriquez, undergraduate
Jasmine Ramirez Bonilla, BS
Jenna Heckel, BS
Amanda Tse, BS
Sherman Yu, BS
William Higson, BS
Grant Lvison-Lane, BS
Tyler Rackelmann, BS