Nishanta "Nishi" Rajakaruna

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Lab Members

Nishanta “Nishi” Rajakaruna

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Graduate Students (2017 Fall-)

Paul Excoffier (Fall 2017-Current)

Paul’s CV

Paul’s Project: Seed Longevity and Climate Tolerance of San Joaquin Woolly Threads (Monolopia congdonii)


Rosie Murphy-Deak (Fall 2019-)










Rosie’s CV

Rosie’s Project: In collaboration with the United States Forest Service, Rosie’s project aims to track the effects that a controlled burn has on a meadow named Mesa Bluff in the San Bernardino mountains. The goal of the fire treatment is to reduce invasion from Pinus contorta in the meadow, which has also been manually thinned. The study would focus on botanical communities, hydrogeomorphic conditions, and the surrounding forested area before and after the burn. The goal of the research is to assess whether fire has a positive influence on meadow composition, which could be defined as having more species and or having more obligate wetland species.


Michael Mulroy (Fall 2019-)


Michael’s CV

Michael’s Project: Michael plans to study saxicolous lichen communities of serpentinite rock outcrops along a coast-inland environmental gradient. His study will compare lichen community characteristics, including species composition and percent cover, as well as substrate characteristics, including elemental composition and surface texture, along a coast-inland gradient. Paired non-serpentinite rocks nearby serpentine study sites will also be sampled. The provisional goals of the project are 1) to study how saxicolous lichen communities change along a coast-inland gradient, 2) to compare how maritime influence might differentially impact saxicolous lichen communities on different rock substrates, and 3) elucidate the role of rock elemental composition and surface texture on lichen community structure and composition.


Undergraduate Research Students (2017 Fall-)

Christopher Howington (Senior, Environmental Earth and Soil Sciences) – Fall 2017-Summer 2018

Project: Study of nickel hyperaccumulation as a mechanism for drought tolerance in Streptanthus polygaloides of the Western Sierra Nevada Range


Peter Walsh (Sophomore, Biology) – Fall 2017-Spring 2018; Fall 2018-Current

Project: Influence of heavy metals, water stress and other abiotic conditions on anthocyanin content in the sepals of Streptanthus polygoloides



Anthony Ferrero (Sophomore, Microbiology) – Fall 2017-Current

Project: Is metal hyperaccumulation in Streptanthus polygaloides influenced by mycorrhizae and other soil microbes?


Samuel Farrow  (Junior, Biological Sciences) – Fall 2017-Spring 2018

Project: Local adaptation to substrate in common California shrubs; Local adaptation to soils in Lasthenia and Layia spp.










Gabriella Orta (Senior, Environmental Management and Protection) – Fall 2017-Spring 2018

Project: Post-fire seedling recruitment and regeneration on serpentine and metavolcanic soils at Poly Canyon


Michael Bridgeman (Freshman, Environmental Earth and Soil Sciences) – Fall 2017-Fall 2018

Project: The role of abiotic factors on the capsaicin content in Capsicum (chile pepper) spp.


Zach Raposo (Sophomore, Environmental Earth and Soil Science [Geology concentration]) – Fall 2017-Summer 2018

Project: Biotic factors of ‘extreme’ regolith that can potentially be utilized for mineral exploration, phytoremediation, and terraforming concepts










Mary Devlin (Senior, Environmental Earth Sciences) – Winter 2017-Summer 2018

Projects: Nonative and native species population and range response to nitrogen increases in serpentine soils. Germination, early growth, and restoration potential of Bog Thistle (Cirsium fontinale var. obispoense) in serpentine soils










Sean Whitlock (Junior, Environmental Management and Protection [Concentration – Watershed Management and Hydrology]) – Winter 2018-Spring 2018

Project: Post-fire seedling recruitment and regeneration on serpentine and metavolcanic soils at Poly Canyon










Research Assistants (Spring 2018-Winter 2019)

Row 1 – Morgan Morris (left, Sp 2018, F 2019), Jackie Duerksen (middle, Sp 2018), Cora Bishop (right, Sp 2018, F 2018, W 2019)

Row 2 – Charlotte Miranda (left, Sp 2018, F 2019), Freddie Mayer (middle, Sp 2018), Grace Goldrich-Middaugh (left, Sp 2018)

Row 3 – Teiana Cataldo (left, F 2019-), Dylan Stephens (middle, F 2019-); Sophie Parr (right, F 2019)

Row 4 – Alex Pena (left, W 2019-), Nicole Argueta (middle, Sp 2019-), Krisy Ramsey (right, W 2019)





===Former Students: Where are they now?

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