Current Graduate Students

Luis Weber
Ph.D. Student 

Luis joined the Sala Lab in fall 2016 as a Ph.D. student in the Environmental Life Sciences program. He obtained his Bachelor Degree in Environmental Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras Campus in 2015. Luis is interested in woody plant encroachment, climate change and plants responses to changes in their environment, for which he has done related research on a variety of ecosystems like Siberian Arctic Tundra (Woods Hole Research Center), Tropical Wetlands and Tropical Dry Forest (CATEC – UPRRP). Currently Luis is expanding his research curiosity toward Desert Ecosystems. He is interested in how precipitation and herbivory interacts to affect the probability of seedlings establishment of woody plants and non-native grasses in a native-dominated grassland at the Jornada Experimental Range (Chihuahan Desert).


Svenja Wagner
M.S. Student

I am pursuing a MS in Sustainability because it allows me to combine my passion for natural resource management, teaching, and gaining a broader perspective of the world. My research project will be to analyze soil characteristics and integrate those into a predictive model that explains the relationship between soil, precipitation, and above-ground net primary production. ANPP is a broadly used indicator of ecosystem functioning and has a wide range of applications including natural resource management and range land management.





Courtney Currier
Ph.D. Student

Courtney will be joining the Sala Lab in the fall of 2018 as a Ph.D. student in the ELS program. She is interested in studying biogeochemical interactions between nutrients, plants, soils, and water availability in drylands.  A current project of hers focuses on multi-year rainfall manipulation effects on grass and shrub phenology. Before joining the Sala Lab, she received her MSc from Arizona State University, where she investigated the ecological stoichiometry and physiological responses of three Daphnia species to phosphorus-enriched lake seston, and her BSc from the University of Notre Dame.


Sam Jordan
Ph.D. Student

Sam is starting in the Sala lab in the fall of 2018 as a PhD student in Environment and Life Sciences. Sam studies how climate, soil water, and disturbance control plant diversity and functional type abundance in dryland plant communities. With the Sala lab, Sam will be collaborating on a new multi-year drought manipulation study in three dryland ecosystems across the American West. His Master’s work in big sagebrush ecosystems explored how climate, ecohydrology, and disturbance affects plants diversity, and how livestock grazing changes plant communities over time. Sam received his MESc from Yale University and his BS from the University of Tennessee.








Xiaobo Yuan
Visiting Ph.D. Student

Xiaobo joined the Sala Lab in spring 2017 as an exchange scholar. He is a Ph.D. student in the College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, China. Xiaobo’s research has been focused on how N deposition effect on plant-soil-microbe system in a semi-arid grassland, Loess Plateau, northern China. So far, his findings have shown that the response of community stability to N enrichment was nonlinear which were mainly driven by community structure and species composition. From the perspective of soil microbial community, chronic N enrichment changed the pattern of stoichiometric imbalances between soil decomposer communities and their resources, and consequently altering strategies for energy (i.e. C) acquisition relative to nutrient (i.e. N and P) acquisition. At the ecosystem level, Xiaobo’s results have shown that N addition triggered changes between plant and soil microbe interaction by modifying soil abiotic parameters and strengthen ability of soil microbes to reshape plant community.