The Team

Current Members


Elise Gornish


Interests: Restoration, plant traits, drought effects, STEM inclusion, puns


Trace Martyn

Postdoctoral Researcher

In general, Trace is interested in plant community and quantitative ecology. She particularly enjoys studying semi-arid ecosystems; she has worked on grazing projects on the shortgrass steppe in Colorado, studied complex annual plant communities in Western Australia, and studied climate change impacts on the sagebrush steppe in the Western US. Trace is excited to combine her past experiences with the expertise in the Gornish lab to explore using plant functional traits to inform strategies for multiple management goals.



Katherine Hovanes

Postdoctoral Researcher

Katherine is interested in population and community ecology and diversity. She studies fine-scale spatial patterning of individuals within populations and wants to use demographic data to model long-term population growth under variable conditions and to study species coexistence. Katherine is also a fan of cooking and playing strategic board games.

Sierra Lauman

PhD Student

Sierra is broadly interested in plant community and restoration ecology. She has worked extensively in annual plant communities in Southern California. Her focus is on developing theory driven ecological restoration projects that can be used to inform and improve restoration success and management practices. She is a big fan of potlucks and karaoke.

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Marquel Begay

PhD Student

Marquel is a first-generation college student who comes from the Navajo Nation. Marquel is passionate in working with tribal communities to address rangeland, agriculture and watershed issues in the face of drought and climate change. Her research will focus on native seed restoration for degraded rangelands on the Navajo Nation. Marquel hopes that her work will inform best management practices for rangelands on the Navajo Nation and the broader Southwest.  


Lia Ossanna

PhD Student

Lia is interested in soil ecology of arid lands and utilizing the soil microbiome to better assist in ecosystem recovery. Her previous work includes research on mine revegetation and incipient soil development. Lia intends to use her career to stronger relationships between scientists and policymakers to better inform regulations and management practices, as well as promoting science communication and diversity in STEM.  She is a native Tucsonan, NSF Graduate Research Fellow, and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast.


Skylar Zuniga
Undergraduate Student

Skylar is an undergraduate Plant Scientist and certified permaculturist,  perennially interested in acquiring knowledge of ancient and modern agricultural / agroforestry techniques. With an emphasis on using local materials to shift and increase the carrying capacity of the landscape and the biodiversity of the area. To create more resilient environments in arid lands, sowing the seeds of a refugia for the next great extinction event. When not thinking about plants, he can be found rock climbing, longboarding, or taking a walk through the local scenery enjoying a locally fermented beverage. 


Suvi Birch
Undergraduate Student

Suvi is an undergraduate student studying environmental science. She wants to learn how to create better and more feasible ways to restore disturbed lands and protect biodiversity in ecosystems. In the future, she aims to explore a career in renewable energy, pollution control, or climate change mitigation. In her free time, Suvi enjoys gardening at the campus community garden, reading, hiking, and going on runs.


Albert Kline

Field Technician

Albert is a research technician for the Gornish lab who is passionate about nature. He has a BS in plant sciences from the University of Arizona. Through his life experiences and working as a tech, he's garnered knowledge in different field research skills and hopes to apply them to restoration oriented questions and continue to learn along the way. In his free time he enjoys trying new foods, being outdoors, skateboarding, spending time with his cat Neko, and watching anime.


Lab Cheerleader + Perennial bunchgrass ID expert

Interests: dancing, old Disney movies, dinosaurs, carrots, and dogs

Lab Alumni

Julea Shaw (PhD student), working at the CA Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
Hannah Farrell (PhD student), Postdoc with USGS
Amy Gill (MS student), getting her PhD in Colorado

Marci Caballero-Reynolds (Undergraduate), Invasive Strike Team Leader at Tucson Audubon
Maowei Liang (Postdoc), Postdoc at Peking University
Max Li (Postdoc), Research Associate at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum
Breahna Gillespie (visiting scholar from San Diego State University), currently finishing up her PhD at SDSU
Patricia Ambrosio (visiting scholar from Brazil), currently completing studies at Ciência sem Fronteiras EUA
Amanda Dechen (visiting scholar from Brazil), working at EventoSIM Brazil