Gregory S. Gilbert, Professor of Environmental Studies

Greg GilbertGregory S. Gilbert, Ph.D.
Professor and Department Chair
Department of Environmental Studies
1156 High St.
University of California
Santa Cruz, CA 95064 USA

Office: 439 Interdisciplinary Sciences Building
Tel: + 1 (831) 459-5002
Fax: +1 (831) 459-4017
office hours: department listing
Fall 2016: Mon 10-11:30 and Thu 11:30-1
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Abbreviated CV

Scholarly interests

I love trees (and other plants, too) and especially how they interact with nasty fungi (pathogens) and friendly fungi (endophytes, mycorrhizae, and other mutualists).  I feel most at home working in the tropical rain forests of Panamá, with a close second in the central coast forests of California.  My professional goals are to understand as much about what shapes and maintains diversity in natural ecosystems as I can, and to bring as many people along for the fun ride as possible.  

My current main research focus is on exploring how useful phylogenetic (evolutionary) ecology can be in understanding what shapes and maintains biological diversity, and how we can use phylogenetic information in predictive ways to help address important environmental problems.  In many cases, phylogenetically close species (close relatives) are similar in their ecologically important traits, because they have inherited those traits from recent common ancestors.  We have found that closely related plant species are likely to share the same pathogens and pests, and that we can use that information to predict how much disease a particular plant species is likely to suffer, depending on how closely it is related to neighboring plants.   I am interested in testing how broadly these understandings from basic evolutionary ecology can be applied to invasion biology, shifts in species ranges driven by climate change, restoration ecology, design of agroecosystems, and phytosanitary risk assessment. 

I am also passionate about experiential and inquiry-based learning, which is what brought me to where I am now as a researcher and educator.   As Director of the UCSC NSF GK-12 SCWIBLES Program (which trains PhD students and high-school teachers in inquiry-based learning), as a professional development consultant for school districts implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, as Director of the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (which hosts dozens of forest ecology research interns each year), and in my own teaching, I strive to engage students in learning by doing. 

Abbreviated CV


Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panamá (Postdoctoral Fellow 1991-95)
University of Wisconsin-Madison, Plant Pathology, Soil Science minor (MSc 1988, Ph.D. 1991)
Tropical Ecosystems Course, Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica (1989)
B.S. SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, 1985 (Envir. & Forest Biology) (1985)
SeaMester Program in Coastal Ecology, Long Island University (1984)

Professional Positions
Professor of Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz (2008 - present)
Sabbatical Visiting Scholar, CSIC Estación Biológica de Doñana, Sevilla, Spain (Aug 2015-Jul 2016)
Senior Research Associate, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panamá (1997 - present)
Assistant/Associate Professor of Environmental Studies, UC Santa Cruz (2000-2008)
Assistant Professor and Forest Pathologist, UC Berkeley (1996-2000)

Director, UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (2006-)
Director, SCWIBLES (Santa-Cruz Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences) (2010-2015)
Co-director, Center for Tropical Research in Ecology, Agriculture, and Development (CenTREAD) (2002-)
Editorial Board, Ecology and Ecological Monographs (2004-)
Board of Directors, Vice-Chair for Research, Organization for Tropical Studies (2004-2010)
Assembly of Delegates, Organization for Tropical Studies (2010-)
Graduate Committee, Chair (UC Santa Cruz, Environmental Studies) (2003-05, 2006-2015)

Select Grants

  • Fungal Dimensions in Biodiversity: Testing the potential of pathogenic fungi to control the diversity, distribution, and abundance of tree species in a Neotropical forest community. Stephen Hubbell, Brant Faircloth, Gregory Gilbert, Travis Glenn. DEB-1136626 (2012-2017)
  • National Science Foundation. GK-12: SCWIBLES - Santa Cruz-Watsonville Inquiry Based Learning in Environmental Sciences. G.S. Gilbert, I.M. Parker, and D. Ash DGE-094723 (2010-2015)
  • USDA-APHIS-PPQ cooperative agreement. Development of a phylogenetic tool for exotic pest risk analysis. (2011-2014)
  • Rare-species advantage: consequences of phylogenetic and numerical rarity of hosts for disease pressure and pathogen communities. G.S. Gilbert and I.M. Parker, NSF DEB-0842059. (2009-2013)

Select Recent Publications (complete list here)

  • Parker et al. 2015. Phylogenetic structure and host abundance drive disease pressure in communities.  Nature 520: 542-544.
  • Gilbert, Briggs, and Magarey. 2015.The impact of plant enemies shows a phylogenetic signal. PLoS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0123758
  • Schweizer,D., G.S. Gilbert, & K.D. Holl. 2013. Phylogenetic ecology applied to enrichment planting of tropical native tree species. Forest Ecology & Management 297:57-66
  • Gilbert, G.S. and nine coauthors. 2010. Beyond the tropics: forest structure in a temperate forest mapped plot. Journal of Vegetation Science 21:388-405
  • Gilbert, G.S. and C.O. Webb. 2007. Phylogenetic signal in plant pathogen-host range. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) 104:4979-4983