Justin Luong Ph.D Candidate

Current Research

Ongoing Research Projects

Functional Traits and Grassland Restoration

Ecological restoration seeks to alleviate loss of unique ecosystems through native plant reintroductions and invasive species control. However, restoration outcomes can be unpredictable and may become more so with climate change. We are interested in exploring new methods to improve restoration success in coastal prairies to improve coastal ecosystem resilience to droughts. We planted native plant species under rain-out shelters designed to simulate a 1-in-100 year drought. We are interested in understanding if plant traits and evolutionary relationships are predictive of plant survival and growth. We are also interested in whether plant traits can explain changes in plant communities.

The objectives of this research are to: (1) determine whether non-species-specific metrics such as functional traits and phylogenetics can help explain the survival and growth of restored native plants when exposed to extreme drought (2) use these findings to improve restoration success in the context of climate change.

Does Stipa pulchra (Poaceae) exhibit local adaptation?

  • Collaborative project with Maddie Nolan (UCSB) and Justin Valliere (UCLA)
  • Compares whether Stipa pulchra (purple needle grass), a commonly used grassland species in restoration, exhibits local adaptation based on seed provenance
  • Compares survival, reproductive potential and a functional trait of 7 localities of seeds at 3 different gardens along a latitudinal gradient

The effects of grassland restoration on Lady Beetle (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) community assemblages

  • Restoration often touts that it is multi-purposed and positively affects the biodiversity at multiple trophic levels however, little work is done on understanding how insect communities may change after restoration
  • We targeted Coccinellids due their importance economically due to agricultural production and because there are known species within the family that are known to be invasive
  • Collections are targeted at restored, non-restored and remnant sites that were used as restoration reference sites

The long-term influence of microhabitat factors in establishing the endangered Nipomo Lupine (Fabaceae: Lupinus nipomensis)