Two UCI OCEANS Faculty Receive ESA Fellowship

By Nicole Block, Climate Communications Student Writer

Two UC Irvine professors affiliated with the UCI OCEANS Initiative have each received a prestigious 2017 Ecological Society of America (ESA) fellowship.

The ESA is a non-profit organization of scientists that supports the discipline of ecology through different avenues like research, education, and outreach. Selected Fellows are recognized for their contributions to ecological science in fields such as government, academia, non-profits and the broader community and receive their position for life. Early Career Fellows are within eight years of completing their doctoral training and are elected for five years.

A person crouched doing research on a grassy hill under an enclosure

Dr. Martiny uses microbial “cages” that allow her lab to alter environmental factors while controlling the microbial populations. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Martiny.

Jennifer B.H. Martiny, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine, was selected as an ESA Fellow for her work on microorganisms’ community ecology that combines the fields of ecology and microbiology, and for developing the new field of microbial biogeography, which identifies and characterizes patterns of microbial diversity.

Martiny’s lab studies the diversity of organisms like viruses, bacteria and fungi in both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, testing the mechanisms that regulate diversity (like genetic selection, dispersal, mutation and drift) and how diversity affects the ecosystem as a whole. Martiny is researching ocean viruses and other microbial communities that produce enzymes which catalyze the decay of organic material. These enzymes can ultimately affect carbon cycling, the process of absorbing carbon and releasing it back into the atmosphere.

Dr. Sorte and her team doing research on the beach.

Dr. Sorte and members of her lab conducting fieldwork on the California Coast.

Cascade J.B. Sorte,  Assistant Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Irvine, was chosen as an Early Career Fellow for her contributions to understanding the mechanisms of marine systems’ community composition and biogeographic patterns. She studies the way that these patterns respond to global change, in particular, changes from species invasion and climate change.

The Sorte Lab focuses on the underlying causes of species’ distributions, the impacts of climate-driven shifts in these distributions,  the interactions and correlations between climate change and species invasions, and ways that species react to and survive climate change by looking at a variety of marine life on both the Pacific and Atlantic Coast.



Six other professors from the University of California were honored as 2017 ESA Fellows:

Travis E. Huxman, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Director for the Center for Environmental Biology, UC Irvine

David Ackerly, Professor of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley

Priyanga Amarasekare, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, UC Los Angeles

Exequiel Ezcurra, Director of University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States and Professor of Botany and Plant Sciences, UC Riverside

Richard Karban, Professor of Entomology and Nematology, UC Davis

John J. Stachowicz, Professor of Evolution and Ecology, UC Davis


These ESA Fellows are leaders in the field of ecology and ocean science. We are fortunate to have them on the UCI OCEANS team and in the UC system.