Prospective Graduate Students

Welcome! I will likely accept 1 PhD student to start Fall 2018. The following is intended to offer you insight into whether my lab is a good fit for you, your research interests, and career goals. Read the information below and email me in early fall to discuss potential opportunities.

Scientific Fit

If you are interested in our lab please first read some of our papers. I suggest Stier et al. 2017 (Conservation LettersPDF), Stier et al. 2014 (Nature CommunicationsPDF), and Stier et al. 2013 (Ecology; PDF) to get a better understanding of the questions I ask, the methods I use, and my research philosophy. Much of my previous work has  focused on coral reefs and the population and community ecology of Pacific Herring; however, I am particularly excited to recruit new students who are interested in nearshore ecology of coastal California where the EEMB and MSI group at USCSB are woven together with the Santa Barbara Coastal LTER.

If you are still interested in joining the lab after reading through this information, please e-mail me ( to introducing yourself and attach (1) a CV (including GPA and GRE scores) with names and contact information of three references and (2) a written statement (< 1 page) that details the following: (a) current research experience and interests/ideas (be specific and tell me what type of questions excite you, what research you’ve conducted, and publications you have published), (b) your idealized goal after completing a graduate degree, and (c) why you want to work with me.


A dedicated graduate mentor can make an enormous difference in the PhD experience. I take the role of graduate mentorship seriously and acceptance into the lab is an implicit contract. Specifically, I will offer a realistic amount of my time to help guide you as you learn key skills of a successful scientist including: the scientific method, experimental design, field ecology, critical thinking, reading, writing, mentoring, and public speaking.  In exchange, my expectation is that you will bring independence, a steadfast work ethic, fortitude in the face of failure and adversity, insatiable curiosity for the way the world works, creativity, collegiality, and an ability to have fun.

Graduate school is a period of growth, and as a student grows, their mentors must also adapt by in their mentoring style. To promote this growth, my approach is to work closely with a student early one and collaborate on an initial project where we will together take a project from the conception of an idea to the publication of a paper. This project is meant to foster a sense of familiarity with the scientific process and currency (publications).  After this initial year, I expect students to gradually become more independent over the next few years, such that they are fully prepared for their career. While I expect students will likely be interested in similar questions as the lab, students in the lab will never be “given” a project for their PhD. Instead i will offer an environment where they can independently develop their ideas and succeed as creative scientists.

Lastly, I expect my students to value constructive criticism and seek diverse scientific input. My approach to science is highly collaborative, and I expect my students to share a spirit for interaction in the lab and at department/lab socials. I expect students to attend departmental seminars, other seminars, and reading groups. Me emphasis is not on grades, but in learning the trade. In particular I encourage students to combine multiple methods including field, lab, observational, statistical, and analytical/mathematical approaches to answer key ecological questions.


Students at UCSB can be supported from a variety of sources including  university fellowships, teaching assistantships, their own grants/fellowships, and my research grants. The EEMB department at UCSB  works closely with our graduate students to make sure they have adequate funding. As a part of this approach, the policy for my lab is that applying students must also strongly consider submitting a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship application, a proposal to the Nancy Foster Scholarship, and/or an NDSEG. These applications offer students the opportunity to hone potential research ideas, ensure applications to the UCSB graduate program are clear and concise, and demonstrate a true interest in joining the lab. Additional details on the application process in the Ecology Evolution, and Marine Biology Department can be found here