Grads, Postdocs, Staff

Alexandra Bloom (Admin)

Stanford Logo Placeholder.pngAlex is an Administrative Associate who does all sorts of administration (and beyond!) for our lab. Alex has been helping us since our lab started, but her Stanford career is actually much longer—she was recently celebrated for over 30 outstanding years at Stanford. Alex also works with the Walbot and Long labs, where she has been since she first came to Stanford. We have no idea how we’d get anything done without her around—so thank you, Alex, for your hard work and dedication!

Rolando Cruz Perez (Grad)

RPerez_PortraitI am the first born son of Mexican immigrants and I was born and raised in Salinas, CA. I am a trained bioengineer and my current work lies at the intersection of artificial
intelligence, robotics, nanotechnology, synthetic biology, and mycotechnology. Central to my approach is a belief that the worlds most pressing issues will not be solved by individuals and that the solutions to such issues begin with people. In the Peay lab I hope to apply a human centered design approach to help the lab push forward their understanding of the ecology of filamentous fungi, as well as develop tools for the use of mycelia and mushrooms in next-generation biomanufacturing and the growing bioeconomy. In my free time I enjoy the natural world, especially surfing waves on the California coast. Email: rcperez AT

Caroline Daws (Grad)

Headshot2UncroppedCaroline joined the lab in 2017. She completed a B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee during which she studied the effects of climate change on phenotypic plasticity in alpine flowering plants and plant soil feedbacks in forest ecosystems. After graduating, she studied plant and fungal ecology in Iceland, here at Stanford with Erin Mordecai, at the Rocky Mountain Biological Lab, and at the University of Minnesota with Peter Kennedy. Caroline is interested in the spatial dynamics of microbial interactions. Specifically, she studies how local processes governed by microbes, and their interspecific and cross-trophic interactions, scale up to global patterns of plant and microbial biogeography. Email: cdaws AT

Glade Dlott (Grad)

IMG_0574Glade joined the Peay lab as a graduate student in September 2015. He earned a B.S. degree in Soil Science at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in June 2012, where he studied soil chemistry and morphology. He then earned an M.S. degree in Environmental Science and Technology in May 2015 at the University of Maryland, College Park. At UMD, he worked with Dr. Stephanie Yarwood studying the effects of different long-term agricultural management regimes on soil physicochemical properties and microbial populations and communities. His research interests include the role of soil physical and chemical factors in shaping microbial community structure, as well as fungal/bacterial interactions in soils. His PhD work is still preliminary, but may involve studying competition between bacteria and fungi in soils with heterogeneous nutrient availability. Email: gdlott AT

Rachel Engstrand (Grad)

RCEslothRachel joined the Peay lab as a graduate student in September 2015. She earned a B.S. degree in Molecular Biology at New York University in May 2010, where she used phylogenetic and population genetic tools to study the diversity of endangered tropical plant species and their insect pests. She earned a dual M.S. degree in Ecology and Evolution in October 2013 through the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme in Evolutionary Biology (MEME). As a masters student, she studied plant-animal interactions using both molecular and field ecology tools to understand how these interactions can influence the evolutionary history of interacting partners as well as influence plant community composition across entire landscapes. As a PhD student in the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program for Environment and Resources (E-IPER), Rachel is studying what drives land use by small holder farmers in the Peruvian Amazon and how different land uses influence ecosystem functioning by examining changes in soil nutrient and microbial community composition. Email: rengstrand AT

Gabriel R. Smith (Grad)

13935106_10154260910757419_2967875608214184159_nGabriel joined the lab as a graduate student in September 2016. He earned a B.S. in Conservation Biology from the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry in 2015, where he studied mycorrhizal fungi and forest ecology with Drs. Tom Horton and Ruth Yanai. After spending the summer in Dr. Luke Flory’s plant ecology lab at the University of Florida, he moved to Uppsala, Sweden in Fall 2015, where he was a Fulbright Fellow in the Department of Forest Mycology & Plant Pathology at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. Gabriel is interested in evolutionary and ecological relationships between mycorrhizal and saprotrophic fungi and their effects, ranging from organism to ecosystem scale. Email: grsmith AT | Web:

Suzanne Ou (Grad)

DSC_0958-Edit.jpgSuzanne joined the lab in 2018. She earned a B.S. in Biology and Environmental Policy at Duke University where she studied the epigenetic relationship between seed dormancy and cold/drought tolerance in Arabidopsis. After graduation, she worked with Nathan Kraft at UCLA, looking at higher order interactions between Californian annuals. Suzanne is interested in using fungal functional traits to determine the processes that shape mutualistic niches. In particular, she is interested in the linkages between above- and below-ground processes in influencing tropical community structures. Email: osuzanne AT

Brian Steidinger (Postdoc)

brianBrian joined the Peay Lab in 2016 after completing his Ph.D. at Indiana University with Dr. Jim Bever. He is interested in how mutualisms are stabilized against exploitation, how variability in symbiont quality is maintained, and how the balance of environmental filtering with positive and negative interactions explains species distributions. He uses a combination of empirical and theoretical tools to answer these questions, with an emphasis on plant-mycorrhizal and plant-pollinator symbioses. To learn more about Brian’s work, check out his personal website.  Email: bsteidi AT

Michael Van Nuland (Postdoc)


Michael joined the lab in 2017 after completing his Ph.D. at The University of Tennessee with Dr. Jennifer Schweitzer. He is broadly interested in how plant genetics, soils, and microbiomes interact to shape species ecological and evolutionary responses to environmental change. Michael combines extensive field surveys with targeted experimental work to identify how plant-soil interactions vary on the landscape and what consequences this has for understanding species range dynamics, evolutionary processes, and functional responses to global change.                                      Email: mvannula AT | Web:

Claire Willing (Postdoc)

IMG_1622.jpgClaire joined the Peay lab in 2019 after completing her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley with Drs. Todd Dawson and Tom Bruns. Her Ph.D. research investigated the microbial communities associated with coast redwood and their functional consequences for redwood hosts. Claire bridges the fields of plant physiological ecology and microbial ecology (with a particular fondness for mycorrhizal fungi) to better understand the ways in microbes might impact plant ecology. Ultimately, her aim is to elucidate the roles of microorganisms in shaping plant communities through their effects on plant physiology and host niches.  Email: cwilling AT

Blue Forrestel (Lab Companion)

IMG_0947Blue makes the occasional appearance in lab, where she focuses her time on distracting and comforting people, chasing squirrels and exercising the graduate students.


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