Former Lab Members

Grads, Postdocs, Staff

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.

Laura Bogar (Grad)

img_3294Laura joined the lab as a graduate student in September of 2013. She earned her undergraduate degree in Biology at Lewis & Clark College in May 2012. Laura’s research is focused on the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis between land plants and soil fungi. This relationship, in which plants trade fixed carbon (sugars) to the fungi in exchange for soil resources like nitrogen, has arisen dozens of times independently in the fungal lineages, and is critical for the nutrition of many temperate forest trees. She is interested in how this interaction functions on a physiological and genetic level, particularly with respect to compatibility between diverse plants and fungi, and how variation in symbiotic function across fungal lineages and environmental conditions contributes to the stability of the interaction over evolutionary time.

Max Segnitz (Grad)

IMG_2341Max joined the lab in 2013. He completed a B.A. at Berkeley in 2009 in Integrative Biology and Studio Art, and has since contributed to a number of research projects in various fields including plant ecophysiology, community ecology, and evolutionary ecology, conducting work in California, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. His interests begin broadly with large scale patterns in plant community structure across our planet’s tropical regions, but get narrower with an interest the role/mechanisms of plant-soil-feedbacks in shaping tropical forest composition & function. He has particular interest in how differences among soil fungal communities may contribute to contrasts in plant community dynamics across tropical regions. To learn more about Max’s work, please see Max’s personal website. 

Sonya Erlandson (Grad)

Sonya joined the lab in September 2011 as a graduate student in Plant Pathology at the U of M and joined the Stanford Biology Department with us. She completed her undergraduate degree in Biology & English at St. Olaf college. She has worked on a wide range of forest ecology projects in Sweden and for the USDA Forest Service. Sonya’s PhD. research characterized the reciprocal feedback between mycorrhizal community struture and plant ecophysiology across a strong hydrological gradient at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Reserve. She collaborated with Prof. Jeannine Cavender-Bares, Jessica Savage, and Xiojing Sun at U of M who have carried out detailed ecophysiological characterization of Salix spp. at this site.

Marie Duhamel (Postdoc)

IMG_5763Marie joined the lab as a postdoc in August 2014. She completed her PhD in the summer of 2013 at the University of Rennes 1 (FR) and the Free University of Amsterdam, where she worked respectively with Philippe Vandenkoornhuyse and Toby Kiers. She is interested in long lasting interactions among (micro)organisms from both functional and evolutionary perspectives, and particularly in how plant and microbial symbionts are linked and interact with each other, the strategy they use to benefit most from the association and the consequences of these interactions on ecosystem functioning. At Stanford she worked on large-scale patterns of taxonomic, functional and genetic diversity of soil fungal communities and their links to plant community dynamics and ecosystem function.

Nora Dunkirk (Tech)

IMG_9775Nora started as our lab technician in Summer 2014 after earning her B.S. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, where she worked with Dr. Aimee Classen studying how litter community composition affects decomposition rate in old fields. In the Peay Lab, Nora worked on next generation sequencing projects such as the Dimensions of Biodiversity project and the Tule Elk project in Point Reyes. She worked closely with the JGI to sequence the genomes/transcriptomes and community metagenomes/metatranscriptomes of key dung fungi. Nora’s research interests include plant–fungal interactions and evolutionary connections between functionally different fungi. Nora graduated from the Peay Lab in 2016 and is currently working towards her Ph.D. as a member of Dr. Anne Pringle’s group at the University of Wisconsin.

Alison Ravenscraft (Grad)

Alison began her PhD at Stanford in September 2010 and joined our lab in December
DSC_02242012. She received a B.A. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, where she conducted her thesis research on acoustic niche partitioning. She then worked as a field assistant for a year in the Peruvian rainforest studying an ant-plant symbiosis. Alison’s PhD work, which was coadvised by Dr. Carol Boggs, focused on interactions between the gut flora and their host. Taking a nutritional perspective, her dissertation addressed the interplay between host nutritional ecology and gut bacterial symbioses in butterflies. Alison received her PhD in June 2016. Currently, she is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Arizona, where she is studying insect–microbial symbiosis in Dr. Molly Hunter’s laboratory.

Michelle Berry (Grad)


Michelle began her master’s degree in Earth Systems in September 2012 and joined our lab in the spring of 2013. She completed a B.A. in Human Biology also at Stanford where she focused on the neural basis of animal behavior. As an undergrad, she participated in elephant behavioral research in Namibia. As a grad student, she moved on to smaller organisms, exploring interactions between Neotropical butterflies and their gut microbes in collaboration with Alison Ravenscraft. Michelle’s thesis, co-advised by Dr. Carol Boggs, examinesdthe role that host phylogeny plays in structuring gut communities and tests the hypothesis that the gut community has coevolved with its host. Michelle is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Washington Department of Genome Sciences.

Jennifer Talbot (Postdoc)

Jenny joined the lab as a postdoc in September 2011. She completed her PhD in the Spring of 2011 at UC Irvine, where she worked with Kathleen Treseder. Jenny is a chemical ecologist interested in understanding the fine-scale mechanisms that give rise to large-scale ecosystem processes. Her research is centered on the mechanisms that structurepatterns of organic matter decomposition, the role of plant-microbial mutualisms in ecosystem-level carbon and nutrient cycling and terrestrial feedbacks to global change. Jenny joined the faculty at Boston University as Assistant Professor in Biology in September 2014. Her laboratory at Boston University studies the ecology, chemistry, and biology of microbes using biochemical and next-generation sequencing analyses.

Dylan Smith (Tech)

Dylan came to us in October 2011 after graduating from Lewis & Clark College. At LC he worked with Dr. Peter Kennedy studying ectomycorrhizal communities on madrone (Arbutus spp.). In our lab Dylan worked primarily in support of the Dimensions of Biodiversity project, which means that he worked on just about everything, from field sampling to next-generation sequencing. Basically Dylan kept the show going and was the all around lab Chuck Norris until summer 2014.

 Zhenyu “Amos” Lim (Tech)

Amos joined the lab as a technician in June 2012 after completing his undergraduate degree in Environmental Science at State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry with a concentration in Watershed Science and minor engineering. He has assisted Dr. Ruth Yanai’s lab on the Multiple Elements Limitation in Northeastern Hardwood Ecosystem (MELNHE) studies in New Hampshire and worked with Dr. Tom Horton on fungal decomposition using Pleurotus. At Stanford he worked on the ecology of ectomycorrhizal fungi and mushroom taxonomy in Malaysian dipterocarp forest.

Natalie Low (Grad)

Natalie is a graduate student in the Micheli lab at the Hopkins Marine Station, who spent part of her dry year ‘adopted’ by the Peay lab. She received her undergraduate degree in marine biology from Brown University. Natalie is interested in nearshore community ecology and the interactions between human and ecological communities. She has worked on invasive species impacts in shallow subtidal communities in New England, and on the role of biodiversity in New England rocky shores and on Galápagos rocky reefs.

Joe Wan (Tech)

joe_with_omphalotusJoe joined the Peay Lab in 2015 as a Stanford undergraduate. He completed his Computer Science honors thesis (“Learning evolutionary and functional aspects of plant–fungal mutualism from public genomic data”) under Kabir’s co-advisorship. After graduating in 2016 with a B.S. degree in Computer Science and Biology, Joe rejoined the lab as a technician. He is interested in developing and applying computational tools to understand plant–fungal symbiosis, fungal biogeography, and the evolution of the mycorrhizal lifestyle. Currently, Joe is a MD–PhD student at Case Western Reserve University’s Medical Scientist Training ProgramEmail: joe.wan AT

Undergraduate & High School

10923818_1001679279859942_2105887076299746043_oDrake Johnson (Undergrad)

Drake Johnson joined our lab in 2016 as a freshman, and since then has considered majoring in every possible area of biology. He loves the ecological importance of such a seemingly unassuming organism such as fungi. Drake has helped with phylogenetic studies on possible cryptic speciation in Thelephora terrestris as well as other projects such as building a CO2 enrichment chamber and designing a split root experimental set up. Currently, Drake is investigating the ecological importance of mycorrhizal symbiosis in the model plant genus Populus.

Nicholas Romano (Undergrad)

Nic RomanoNic is a senior in the Earth Systems major at Stanford. He has been working in the Peay Lab since the fall of 2015 and is interested in many aspects of mycology, from fungal pathogens to mutualists and everything in between. In the past Nic has conducted research on the model organism Daphnia obtusa and hopes to continue his research centered in biology. Currently Nic is working on an honors thesis which examines the ectomycorrhizal and endophytic associates of 4 species of tree in Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Nic enjoys reading and writing poetry, hiking, and exploring the unknown.

Alexandra Bernard (Undergrad)Alexandra_Miyajima_2016

Alexandra is a junior majoring in the Earth Systems Biosphere track at Stanford. She has
been working at the Peay Lab since winter
2016/17. She has been helping with current projects surrounding Thelephora terrestris and its interactions with various plant hosts as well as plant responses to different fungi under various nitrogen conditions. Currently Alexandra is preparing an honors thesis exploring nutrient uptake methods of Arbutus menziesii saplings. Alexandra is interested in anything connected to soil, sustainable growth conditions and relationships between species. She loves the outdoors, archery and taking care of plants.

Cameron Tenner (Undergrad)

Cameron_2017Cameron is a freshman interested in Earth Systems and Biology. He joined the lab in 2017 and has been contributing to two isotope labeling projects: with Marie, he has helped investigate the effect of different plant-microbe symbioses on nutrient cycling, and with Laura he is helping set up experiments investigating partner choice in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis.  Regarding his interest in mycorrhizal ecology, Cameron writes:
“I’m fascinated by the fact that tiny mycorrhizae have played such a central role in the evolution of terrestrial communities and in the continued health of these communities. I also love looking at roots under a microscope! There’s an entire intricate world in the soil that I never thought about before.” Cameron is from Los Angeles and loves hiking, books, art, nature, and plants.

Clara Qin (Undergrad)

Clara Qin joined the lab as an undergraduate researcher in 2013, and completed her B.S. in Biology in 2016. Now, Clara is in the Environmental Studies PhD program at UC Santa Cruz, studying plant-fungal interactions through an interdisciplinary socio-ecological lens. She investigates how plants and soil fungi in North America co-create the conditions necessary for each other to persist, and assesses the risk of future plant-fungal co-invasions. In addition, she reexamines the discourse surrounding botanical cosmopolitanism by exploring how large-scale infrastructural projects in California have restructured the ectomycorrhizae of an iconic, non-native tree: Eucalyptus globulus.

Wallis Robinson (Undergrad)

WallisRWallis joined the lab in 2012 as a freshman. Prior to working with us, she worked in Professor Larry Gilbert’s lab at Brackenridge Field Lab in Austin, Texas as a high school intern, and did a stint in Professor Deborah Gordon’s lab at Stanford. Wallis is interested in community ecology and graduated with at B.S. in Ecologically Integrated Design, a self-designed major in the School of Engineering. As an undergraduate assistant, Wallis contributed to plant growth experiments investigating nutrient exchange in ectomycorrhizal symbiosis and its effects on plant competition.

Kevin Staatz (Undergrad)

Kevin website photoKevin joined the lab in 2013. As an undergraduate researcher, he worked on the Dimensions of Biodiversity project and spent the summer of 2014 in Borneo assisting with tropical ecology field work. Kevin’s interests include AMF/plant interactions and the effects of mycorrhizal fungi on plant survival. Kevin graduated from Stanford in 2016 after completing his B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology and Evolution.

Pawanjot Kaur (HS)

photo (9)Pawanjot worked in our lab in the summers of 2013 and 2014 through the Raising Interest in Science and Engineering (RISE) program. She did field sampling in Point Reyes and lab manipulations of pines growing with fungi. To culminate her time in the Peay lab, Pawanjot completed an experiment titled “Times of colonization and effects of competition in bishop pine” and presented it in poster form at the RISE Symposium. She began her undergraduate studies at UC Berkeley in fall 2014.

Maddy BerksonMaddy Berkson (Undergrad)

Maddy joined our lab in winter 2016 as a sophomore considering majoring in Biomechanical Engineering. She thinks mushrooms are beautiful and is interested in learning more about them and fungi in general. In the Peay Lab, she is helping with DNA extractions and amplifications of root and soil samples collected from Borneo. She also enjoyed the class BIO 115 (The Hidden Kingdom), which was taught by members of the Peay Lab in Winter 2016.

Natalie Francis (HS)IMG_9858

Natalie joined our lab in summer 2015 as a high school intern through the Stanford Earth Young Investigators program. Natalie worked with Laura and Nora learning laboratory skills including sample preparation and fungal culturing. She presented her work at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting in December 2015. Natalie returned to the lab in summer 2016, where she worked with Laura to design experiments and develop protocols in order to investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying partner choice in the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis between Thelephora terrestris and multiple plant hosts.

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