Lab alumni are listed below current lab members

Hugh D. Safford, PhD | Region 5 Ecologist/Affiliate Faculty (UC Davis) |


Hugh Safford is the Regional Ecologist for the USDA-Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region (California, Hawaii, Pacific territories), and also holds a research position in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California-Davis. Safford manages a staff of ecologists that provide expertise in vegetation, fire, and restoration ecology, climate change, inventory, and monitoring to land management and planning efforts on the National Forests in the Pacific Southwest Region. His areas of professional expertise are restoration ecology, community ecology, biogeography, and disturbance ecology. Safford is the manager of the Regional Research Natural Area program, the Sierra Nevada region leader for the California Fire Science Delivery Consortium, and a member of the science advisory boards for a number of environmental collaboratives and NGOs. Safford also works internationally, and provides technical assistance on fire, forest management, and climate change issues to the US-Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Program of the Forest Service. Safford was an editor of Historical Environmental Variation in Conservation and Natural Resource Management, a recently published book exploring the challenges of applying historical reference conditions to the sustainable management of ecosystems in a rapidly changing world. Safford holds a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, an M.A. in Secondary Education from San Francisco State University, and a B.S. in Geology from Montana State University. Safford grew up in southwestern Montana and now splits his time between Davis and Lake Tahoe, California.

Hugh’s CV

Jesse Miller, PhD | Postdoctoral Scholar |


Jesse E. D. Miller is an ecologist with research interests at the confluence of community ecology, landscape ecology and restoration ecology. He is currently studying the effects of fire severity on plant and lichen communities  in the Sierra Nevada. Jesse completed his Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he studied the influence of habitat connectivity and fire history on herbaceous plant diversity and long-term landscape change in Ozark grasslands. Prior to graduate school, Jesse worked as a botanist for government agencies, academic researchers, and private contractors in a number of ecosystems across Oregon and California. Jesse is certified in lichenology by the Northwest Lichenologists. Jesse works at the intersection of basic and applied ecology. He loves teaching botany and ecology, and he is particularly interested communicating research findings with land managers and the general public.

Jesse’s CV

Jesse’s website

Carrie Levine, PhD | Postdoctoral Scholar |

Levine website photo bw

Carrie Levine is a forest ecologist whose research is based in the Sierra Nevada mixed-conifer forests of California. Over the last century, these forests have experienced altered fire regimes, timber harvesting, a warming climate, chronic air pollution, and uncharacteristically severe attacks by pests and pathogens, resulting in a shift towards a low-diversity forest system.  Carrie works across temporal scales to incorporate historical and contemporary datasets into models that can help predict future ecological conditions under changing climate regimes. Carrie’s research is focused on applying concepts of ecological resilience in management, restoration, and conservation contexts in order to bridge the gap between theory and practice. In 2017, Carrie completed her PhD at the University of California, Berkeley in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and is now a postdoctoral scholar in the Safford Lab.

Carrie’s CV

Rebecca Wayman, MS | Associate Specialist |


Rebecca is an Associate Specialist in the lab of Dr. Hugh Safford at UC Davis, leading and providing support to projects through UC Davis and the US Forest Service Region 5 Ecology Program. Her current research and monitoring endeavors include leading a research project aimed at assessing the effects of pre-fire insect-induced tree mortality on wildfire severity in mixed-confier forests of the southern Sierra Nevada; leading a project monitoring the effects of USFS fuels treatments and prescribed fire treatments on red fir (Abies magnifica) forests of the Sierra Nevada; and providing data analysis and technical support to a project assessing meadow function in the Lake Tahoe Basin. She also oversees the hiring of seasonal field crew members for the Safford Lab, and supervises field crew members working on a variety of projects run by UC Davis and USFS researchers. Rebecca served as the co-chair of the Program Committee for the October 2016 Natural Areas Conference – “Climate Change Adaptation and Natural Areas Management: Turning Words into Action”. In this capacity she managed communications with about 300 conference presenters and led a team charged with reviewing session and abstract proposals and scheduling the conference program. Prior to joining the Safford lab in 2015, Rebecca worked for nine years as a Senior Biologist with a small environmental consulting firm specializing in preserve land establishment and stewardship and natural resource assessment. She received her M.S. in Ecology from UC Davis in 2005.

Rebecca’s CV

Zack Steel, MS | Doctoral Candidate |


Zack is a PhD student in the UC Davis Ecology graduate program where he studies the influence of disturbance on wildlife habitat. He works with Dr. Hugh Safford in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy.  Zack’s dissertation research focuses on habitat use of birds and bats in previously burned forests of the Sierra Nevada range in California.  He is interested in how species use forests burning at various levels of severity, how this varies spatially in a heterogeneous landscape, and how these relationships change through successional time.  Some of Zack’s previous research includes investigations into the influence of fire suppression on patterns of burn severity in California forests, the impact of vineyard development on bird communities in the Colchagua Valley, Chile, and vulnerability of sensitive species to climate change in the Willamette Valley, Oregon.

Zack’s CV

Zack’s website

Clark Richter | Doctoral Candidate |

Richter Lab Photo

Clark’s research concerns how the post-disturbance environment influences understory plant communities. His current work focuses on how understory plant diversity varies across the spectrum of fire severity classes and in response to interactions with Ceanothus and other ecological features associated with the post-fire environment of mixed-conifer forests in the Sierra Nevada. His work also seeks to examine Ceanothus response to wildfire severity through functional trait variation. Clark served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines and assisted fishing communities with coastal resource management as well as organized college students to teach environmental stewardship and climate change awareness in elementary schools. His Master’s research at Sonoma State University focused on plant-plant interactions and plant functional trait response to large mammal (tule elk) herbivory in coastal prairie grasslands.

Clark’s CV


Jonah Weeks | Master’s Student |

IMG_0338Jonah’s research is focused on restoration ecology, specifically, fire ecology in higher elevation forests such as those found in much of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. She recently joined a long term, ongoing, post-fire study assessing the area burned by the Angora Fire in South Lake Tahoe in 2007. The project began in 2008 and consists of Common Stand Exam plots and Regeneration plots set up on a grid throughout the over 3,000 acres burned by the fire. Jonah is a Davis native who received a BS in Environmental Science from Chico Sate University.


Emma underwood, PhD | Research Scientist |

Underwood_photoEmma Underwood is a research scientist in Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California, Davis.  A central theme of her research is the application of geospatial tools and remote sensing techniques to address biodiversity and conservation issues and inform environmental decisions.  Her research interests include conservation assessments of biodiversity, estimating conservation return on investment, evaluating ecosystem services, and mapping and predicting the distribution of invasive plant species.  During the past 15 years Emma’s research has spanned multiple spatial scales from sites to ecoregions and has focused on a variety of ecosystems including tropical forests in central Africa, Mediterranean-type habitats globally, the central coast and Sierra Nevada of California, and the Mojave Desert.  Prior to UC Davis, she worked for the World Wildlife Fund-US and since then has undertaken collaborative research with The Nature Conservancy, the US Geological Survey, and the US Forest Service. Emma received her Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of California, Davis.

Emma’s CV

Lorie srivastava, PHD | Postdoctoral Fellow |

Lorie Kutab Minar

Lorie Srivastava has a Ph.D. in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics, from Michigan State University. She also has a M.A. in Economics, a M.Sc. in Agricultural Economics, a B.A. in Economics, and a B.C.Sc. (Honours) in Computer Science. After completing her Computer Science degree, Lorie designed and developed e-courseware covering financial topics for small/medium businesses. For her Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics, she conducted primary research in the Middle Mountains of Nepal, examining and modelling farmers’ choices to grow vegetable cash crops for nearby markets. After completing her Ph.D., Lorie worked as a non-partisan researcher for Parliament of Canada, has worked in academia, private sector, government, and public agencies. Lorie is keenly interested in estimating the economic value of natural assets, such as water sources and forests and how they are affected by climate change. She would like to leverage her computer skills and apply virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies in assessing people’s preferences and the economic values they place on market and non-market goods and services – i.e. goods and services such as clean air that are not traded in regular markets. Lorie has returned to academia and is currently a Post-Doctoral Fellow at UC Davis; in this capacity, she is estimating the economic value of various ecosystem services – water, air quality, sediment retention, and sequestered carbon – generated by the National Forests in southern California, and how climate change will affect these values. These areas are dominated by chaparral, prone to wildfires, and drought. Lorie is Canadian, splitting her time between Davis, CA and Vancouver, BC.

Lorie’s CV

Tara Ursell | Doctoral Student |

Ursell photo

Tara is broadly interested in using ecological and economic insights to improve land management practices. In particular, she is interested in identifying cost-effective practices to restore and increase the long-term resilience of areas that have been affected by wildfire. Tara obtained her BA in Environmental Analysis and History at Pomona College, and she obtained an MESc at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. There, her research focused on the influence of an invasive grass on nitrogen cycling in U.S. Southeastern forests. More recently, she worked for California State Parks on climate change issues and natural resource management.




Emily Brodie |Master’s Student |


Emily hails from Washington state and graduated from Western Washington University in 2013 with a BS in Biology and a BA in Spanish. Over the subsequent years she has integrated her passion for Spanish language and culture with her interest in biodiversity and botany on three continents. Starting out in Panama at the Smithsonian Tropical Research institute, she studied how mating behaviors in tropical butterflies lead to sexual isolation and speciation. She then completed a Fulbright fellowship in Madrid, Spain, where she used primary source notes and diaries at the Royal Botanic Garden to map vouchers collected by the first Spanish botanists in Peru. Despite her travels, Emily’s heart resides in the western United States where she has spent 5 field seasons working as a botanist for state and federal agencies. Emily is interested in how landscape level drivers influence plant community composition and diversity, and is excited to use her skills as a naturalist and botanist to answer questions about post-fire diversity in the Sierra Nevada.

Emily’s CV

Sara Winsemius | Doctoral Student |

Version 2Sara is pursuing a PhD in Ecology, working with Drs. Yufang Jin and Hugh Safford. She is using remote sensing to study landscape-level changes and ecosystem response to disturbance in high elevation forests of the Sierra Nevada. She received a B.S. in Environmental Science from UC Berkeley in 2013. She has studied coastal dune restoration and most recently agroecology and native pollinator restoration.

Sara’s CV


Lab Alumni

Christina Restaino, PhD | Post-doctoral Scholar in the Safford lab, 2014-2017 | Sierra Nevada Coordinator – California Fire Science Consortium |


Christina Restaino is a forest ecologist who studies the impacts of drought, fire and climate change on forest ecosystems. Her work is currently focused on how forest thinning can be used to increase resistance and resilience to drought and fire in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Christina’s research has focused on climate-growth relationships and forest productivity across western US forests, fire regime departures from historical conditions, forest regeneration after disturbance (bark-beetle mortality and fire), and how changing climate teleconnections can alter tree growth. Christina also worked as the Coordinator for the Sierra Nevada Region of the California Fire Science Consortium where she promoted the conduit of information between land managers and scientists to find solutions to pressing resource management questions in the region.

Christina’s CV

Christina’s Website