Benjamin Z. Houlton, PhD
Benjamin Houlton studied chemistry (B.S.) and environmental engineering (M.S.) before receiving his doctorate in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University in 2005. He then spent two years working as a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University and the Carnegie Institution for Science, Department of Global Ecology, where he also forged collaborations with CSIRO's Division of Marine and Atmospheric Research in Australia. Currently, a Professor of Global Environmental Studies at the University of California – Davis, Ben holds the distinction of Chancellor's Fellow and was recently appointed Director of the John Muir Institute of the Environment. Ben’s research interests include ecosystem processes, climate change and the growing risks of human alterations to the global carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus cycles for enhanced energy and food production. At the John Muir Institute of the Environment, Ben catalyzes research discovery across more than 300 faculty-experts from all of UC Davis’s colleges and professional schools with the goal of devising innovative solutions to the environmental sustainability challenges of the 21st century. Most recently, Ben has been spear-heading the new “OneClimate” initiative, which envisions a inter-disciplinary, team-based approach to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and help people and ecosystems adapt to an uncertain climate future. Ben's research has appeared in leading scientific journals such as Science, Nature, Nature Climate Change, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and been covered by news media including Newsweek, New York Times, Scientific American, The Christian Science Monitor, Discovery News, MSNBC/Today, Nature, Science, and BBC's "The Naked Scientists." He has appeared as a guest on NPR's "Morning Edition", MSNBC's "All In with Chris Hayes" and local TV and radio shows.
Maya Almaraz grew up in Los Angeles and is very happy to be back home in California. Maya did her undergraduate study at the University of California, Berkeley, where she received a B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies and a B.A. in Public Health. Following graduation, she worked in an Ecosystem Ecology lab, on a project looking at the potential for carbon sequestration in California rangelands. Maya received her doctorate in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Brown University, where studied how biogeochemical properties affect nitrogen gas emissions from soils. During graduate school she was a fellow in the Brown-Marine Biological Laboratory joint graduate program and was a visiting graduate student at the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies. Maya came to UC Davis as a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow in Biology, where she plans look at sources of nitrogen oxide emissions across California.
Katy Dynarski is originally from central New Jersey and could not be happier to be exploring beautiful California. She received her B.S. in biochemistry from Villanova University in 2013. Her interest in nitrogen cycling was sparked during her undergraduate work in Dr. Melanie Vile’s ecosystem ecology lab, where she got to spend her summers living and working in Alberta’s boreal region. Her past research includes determining the role of nutrient limitation in controlling nitrogen fixation in boreal peatlands. She is excited to continue her in nitrogen fixation in new ecosystems, and hopes to study links between this process and other chemical processes in both the N and C cycles.
Pawlok Dass, having spent a year and a half in Massachusetts, is glad to be in sunny California, away from the notorious New England winter. He hopes to exploit his background in biology and climate change to improve the understanding of the below ground nitrogen cycle. Originally from Kolkata, India he received his BSc in biology from Presidency College and MSc in environment management from the Forest Research Institute University in northern India. PhD took him to Germany as an IMPRS-ESM scholar to MPI-Met and PIK where he studied the feasibility of bioenergy as a potential mitigation measure. Postdoctoral research at UMass-Amherst, found him developing an understanding of climatic controls of the high latitude vegetation. At UCD, he hopes to develop and understanding of how, on a global scale, climate change and organisms (primarily plants) could change and regulate the availability of below ground nitrogen and phosphorous.
Hailing from the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, Rebecca Walker received her B.S. in Environmental Sciences and Anthropology from the University of Virginia in 2015. Her past research includes an analysis of soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics in old growth forests of the Mid-Atlantic and an interdisciplinary study of how perceptions of nature shape plant community composition and biogeochemical cycling in Israel. At UCD, she is excited to explore the use of stable isotopes to study denitrification fluxes and ultimately hopes to incorporate interdisciplinary methodologies into the study of ecosystem processes.
Erin Manaigo grew up in Atlanta, GA and earned her B.S. in biology from Howard University in Washington DC in 2016. She spent time examining the physiology of symbiotic nitrogen fixation and landscape scale controls on forest carbon storage during her undergraduate. Currently, Erin is interested in advancing the use of remote sensing technologies to quantify the storage of carbon by terrestrial ecosystems.
Erin Oliver grew up near Mobile, Alabama and received her B.S. in Microbiology at Louisiana State University in 2015. As an undergrad she studied microbial life in frozen environments including glaciers and Antarctic ice cores. Her passion for environmental microbiology led her to pursue a graduate research in soil microbiology to understand the role of microbes in the carbon cycle and how it may be altered by climate change. She is a part of the Joint Doctoral Program in Ecology between San Diego State University and UC-Davis. She is currently working to understand what environmental or genetic factors determine microbial carbon use efficiency in soil.
Yanqiu grew up in a mountainous city, Tai'an and received her B.S in Environmental Science from Jilin University, China in 2017. Her undergraduate research focused more on contaminants in the environment while now she become more interested in biogeochemistry and climate change. She is excited to be in California and will explore nitrogen and phosphorus cycles on global scale at UCD.
Iris spent her childhood in small-town Missouri before heading west to sunny Southern California. She graduated from Scripps College in 2017, receiving her B.A. in geology through the Pomona College Geology Department. Her diverse research background ranges from work on the geochemistry of the Burgess Shale to examination of trace metal cycling in agricultural systems. Iris looks forward to further exploring complex biogeochemical questions at UCD, leveraging her background in geoscience to investigate rock nitrogen weathering in terrestrial ecosystems. She will use this research to advance understanding of ecosystem functioning and terrestrial carbon storage on a global scale.
Xochi is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area, with roots in southern Mexico, of Chocho/Nahua descent. She received her B.S. in Earth Sciences from UC Santa Cruz. As a Karl S. Pister and CAMP scholar, she focused on environmental geology and hydrology, particularly denitrification processes in the agricultural Pajaro River watershed, in Santa Cruz County. Prior to arriving to UCD, she spent several years in the private and government sector, including staff-level consulting for an environmental remediation firm, basin monitoring and recycled water administration for a regional water agency, and country/GIS expertise for Google Maps Mexico. Xochi is currently interested in analyzing and modeling carbon storage in California, and examining the state's Cap and Trade program.
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Tiffany van Huysen
Lawrence Berkeley Labs
NYS Parks and Rec
Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Sara Enders Goulden
Krestrel Consulting Inc.
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