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The Team

Current Members


Elise Gornish

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

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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.  



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 studying invasion and restoration. Her current research is focused on developing and testing methods to improve revegetation success on copper mines in the southwest. She is a big fan of plants, art, potlucks, and karaoke.


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.



Michael Spaeth
MS Student

After spending the last five years working to restore habitats for the National Park Service, Michael has developed an interest in research to better inform land management decisions. Specifically, Michael plans to investigate the impacts of plant invasion on above and below ground plant-microbe interactions. To address these research interests, he will be receiving training in ecosystem genomics through the NSF BRIDGES program and will be co-advised by Dr. Albert Barberán. While Michael has a passion for ecology, he also loves music, science fiction, and birding.


Philippa Johnstone
MS Student

Philippa is interested in soil restoration and plant ecology on degraded land. She is passionate about developing community-driven conservation efforts in order to help improve native plant establishment and bring soil back to life. Her research will be focused on testing various seed ball recipes with fungal inoculants. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, floral arranging, and backpacking. 


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

Magda Garbowski (Postdoc)
Katherine Hovanes (Postdoc)
Trace Martyn (Postdoc)
Suvi Birch (Undergraduate)
Skylar Zuniga (Undergraduate)
Julea Shaw (PhD student)
Hannah Farrell (PhD student)
Amy Gill (MS student)

Marci Caballero-Reynolds (Undergraduate)
Maowei Liang (Postdoc)
Max Li (Postdoc)
Breahna Gillespie (visiting scholar from San Diego State University)
Patricia Ambrosio (visiting scholar from Brazil)
Amanda Dechen (visiting scholar from Brazil)

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