Prospective Graduate Students

The Mazer lab in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara is recruiting highly motivated PhD students (for entry into our graduate program in Fall 2019) to investigate the process and outcome of adaptive evolution within and among populations of the annual forb, Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue Eyes, Boraginaceae). 

We are particularly interested in students who will participate in a recently funded NSF grant (Evolutionary adaptation to intensifying drought across a geographic gradient: a comprehensive evaluation of Fisher's Fundamental Theorem, with Dr. Amber Nashoba and Dr. Ruth Shaw).  In this work, we are using quantitative genetic methods and random effects Aster models applied to pedigreed populations to test predictions derived from Fisher’s Fundamental Theorem, which states that the rate of adaptive evolution of a population can be predicted from its additive genetic variance in fitness.

We are testing Fisher's Fundamental Theorem of Natural Selection in wild populations of N. menziesii distributed across an aridity gradient in California.  Incoming students will be expected to develop and to conduct independent research that extends beyond the scope of the research supported by this grant.  Promising areas of research include (but are not restricted to):

  • The evolutionary significance of variation within and among populations in fitness-related traits such as size at first flower, flowering date, petal area, herkogamy and dichogamy, pollen performance, pollen and seed size, and sex allocation;
  • Pre- and post-pollination sexual selection on primary and secondary sexual traits;
  • The functional significance of variation in floral and vegetative pigments, including UV reflectance/absorption;
  • The evolution of phenotypic plasticity in life history and morphological traits; and
  • The causes and consequences of variation in water use efficiency across an aridity gradient.
  • The evolution of pollen performance within and among populations

Other potential research projects include:

  • Geographically and taxonomically broad studies of the effects of historical and recent climatic conditions (and climate change) on flowering date using herbarium specimens and/or field observations.  Our new four-year NSF grant from the Advancing Digitization of Biological Collections program will provide partial support for a graduate student conducting phenological research using specimen-based data.
  • The study of mating system and correlated traits within and among Clarkia species; 
  • Large-scale studies of the effects of natural selection and phenotypic plasticity on the onset or duration of flowering within and among species;
  • Identifying the factors influencing seed mass evolution within large angiosperm or gymnosperm genera, families, or higher taxa;
  • Your idea here! 

Prospective students interested in exploring these opportunities may write directly to me at:

PhD candidates who are applying for an NSF pre-doctoral Graduate Fellowship are very welcome and are eligible for very attractive and generous offers of graduate support from UCSB's Graduate Division.

Prospective students may apply electronically to UCSB’s Graduate Division via the following URL:

For more information about the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology at UCSB, please explore: