Lab members

Rachel Vannette, Associate Professor 2021-present

Assistant Professor 2015-2021  

LSRF Postdoctoral Fellow supported by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Stanford University, Department of Biology 2011-2015

Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 2011

B.S. Biology, Calvin College, 2006

Department of Entomology and Nematology

University of California, Davis

Hellman Fellow 2019; NSF CAREER Awardee 2019-2024

Follow me on Twitter @rachelvannette

Google Scholar Site

Postdoctoral scholars

Jacob Cecala, USDA Postdoctoral Fellow 2021-current

Ph.D. University of California, Riverside 2021

M.S. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 2015

B.S. California State Polytechnic University, Pomona 2012

Jake Cecala is a community ecologist interested in wild, native bee species and their interactions with cultivated plants in urban and agricultural areas. For his doctoral work, he investigated how commercial plant nurseries in California function as habitats for wild bees. As a member of the Vannette lab, Jake is studying how insecticides and drought interact to affect floral microbial communities and crop pollination. His Google Scholar page.

Amber Crowley-Gall, USDA Postdoctoral Fellow  2019-current

PhD. University of Cincinnati

Amber is a chemical ecologist with an interest in understanding the role of sensory systems in insect host choice. Her PhD dissertation focused on examining how variation in the olfactory system contributes to host specialization in cactophilic Drosophila. She is currently interested in exploring the role of microbes in insect host selection. She is particularly interested in understanding how plant-microbe interactions, especially plant pathogens, can alter the chemical signatures that insects are exposed to, as well as how these interactions can influence host choice and the impacts of time and environmental conditions. As a member of the Vannette lab she hopes to examine microbe-pollinator interactions, with a focus on plant pathogens and their potential microbial antagonists.

Jacob Francis, Postdoctoral researcher 2020-current

B.S: University of North Carolina at Asheville,                Ph.D. :University of Nevada Reno

Jake Francis is a behavioral and community ecologist interested in how pollinator behavior drives processes in co-flowering plant communities. For his doctoral work, he explored how floral reward nutrition shapes bees’ foraging behavior with downstream effects on patterns of pollen movement among plant species. In the Vannette lab he plans to explore the intersection of plant, pollinator, and microbial ecology with a focus on how floral traits mediate these interactions.Google Scholar, Jake’s Website

Marshall McMunn, USDA Postdoctoral Fellow 2018-current

B.S. University of Michigan 2009                                       Ph.D. University of California, Davis 2018

Marshall is a community and insect ecologist interested in behavior, physiology, and how insects cope with variable temperatures. As a member of the Vannette lab, Marshall is studying gut microbes within the Arizona turtle ant. His Google Scholar page.


Graduate students

Shawn Christensen, PhD Candidate in the Microbiology Graduate Group

Email: smchristensen ‘at’ ucdavis ‘dot’ edu

Twitter: @pollenmicrobes

Shawn is an evolutionary biologist turned microbiologist, broadly interested in microbial interactions/symbioses with plant-pollinator systems, weird evolutionary traits, and crosswords. They obtained a BS from University of Wisconsin-Madison in Evolutionary Biology, where they did research on reducing ecological impacts of phosphorus runoff, ethnobotany and domestication traits in Brassica rapa, botanical field excursions of all kinds, and the evolution of chemical sets in the early origins of life. In the Vannette lab, Shawn is currently studying nectar-dwelling Acinetobacter and other nectar microbes and their potential influences on pollen for nutrient procurement, as well as the metabolomics of solitary bee pollen provisions.


Lexie Martin, PhD student in the Entomology Graduate group

Lexie is an entomology PhD student interested in bumblebees and microbes. She received a BS in Biology (focus evolution, ecology, and behavior) and a BSA in Chemistry from the University of Texas at Austin. As an undergraduate, she investigated the spatial distribution of bacteria within the guts of bumblebees and the gut microbiota of the Mexican honey wasp. In the Vannette Lab, she aims to study bee-microbe-plant interactions and how those interactions affect bumblebee behavior.




Danielle Rutkowski, PhD Candidate in the Entomology Graduate Group

Email: dmrutkowski ‘at’ ucdavis ‘dot’ edu

Co-advised with Rick Karban

Danielle is an entomology PhD student interested in the relationships between bees and microbes. She completed her bachelor’s degree at Cornell University, where she studied how the relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and their host plants impacts insect herbivores. At UC Davis, she studies how bumble bees interact with the microbes, particularly fungi, in their environment, and how these relationships impact bee health.

Dino Sbardellati, PhD Student in the Microbiology Graduate Group

email: dlsbardellati ‘at’ ucdavis ‘dot’ edu

Dino is a microbiologist interested in understanding how microbial ecology shapes macroscale ecology. He received a BA in biology from Sonoma State University and an MS in Bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin Madison. Dino has worked on projects exploring how reintroduced Tule elk modulate terrestrial arthropod populations, how antibiotic treatment impacts gut microbial communities in Passalid beetles, and how diet effects bovine rumen microbial communities. In the Vannette lab, Dino’s work deals with studying the bacteriophage (viruses which target bacteria) communities associated with the bumble bee gut and how phages shape gut microbial communities. In his spare time Dino enjoys catching, pinning, and drawing insects, cooking pizza, and making art.

Junior Specialist

-no junior specialist at this time

Undergraduates in the lab

Madeline Handy

Madeline (Maddie) Handy is an undergraduate majoring in Microbiology. She joined the Vannette Lab as part of the Research Scholars Program in Insect Biology. Maddie has a strong interest in how gut microbiota influence host health. In the future, she hopes to be able to apply her research skills and knowledge into the relationship between microorganisms and human systems. In the Vannette lab, Maddie’s research focuses on the Carpenter bee microbiome.



Lab photos:


partial Vannette lab 2019: Jeselle-Ann Laxa, Ivan Munkres, Maddie Handy, Isabelle Maalouf, Danielle Rutkowski, Rachel Vannette, Rachel Dutch, Marshall McMunn, Amber Crowley-Gall, Honey Pathak


some of us are coordinated 🙂

Partial lab group, summer 2018

(L to R: Allie Igwe, Ash Zemenick, Robert Schaeffer, Rachel Vannette, Honey Pathak and Imade Ojo)


Lab photo, Summer 2016

(L to R: Tim Rei, Chela Owens, Rachel Vannette, Ariana Nagainis, Megan Morris, Griffin Hall and Allie Igwe)


Youngest (honorary) lab members:

Sterling Vannette (2013-present) and Corwin Vannette (2017-present)



Previous affiliates


Tobias Mueller, Junior specialist (2019-2021).

2021-current: Graduate student at Cornell Entomology, recipient of NSF GRFP




Alexandria Igwe,  PhD  Microbiology Graduate Group (2020)A. Igwe

2015-2020: PhD student in the Microbiology Graduate Group

2020-current: NSF Postdoctoral Fellow with Michelle Afkhami at the University of Miami



Megan Morris,  JDPE student from Liz Dinsdale’s lab at San Diego State University Vannette lab 2015-2016

2018-2020: Postdoc at Stanford University

2020-current: Postdoc at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab


IMG_3242Griffin Hall, junior specialist  2015-2017

Bachelor’s degree, UC Davis, 2015

Coffee + travel blog

Current: Plant Materials Manager & Assistant Breeder at Frinj coffee


Robert Schaeffer, USDA ELI Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2018

Assistant Professor at Utah State University

co-advised by R. Vannette, D. Crowder, N. Williams and T. Fukami



Ivan Munkres, junior specialist 2018-2019

Bachelor’s degree UC Davis 2018

2021-current, Graduate student at College of William and Mary


Casie Lee, 2017 STAR (Students Training in Advanced Research) Program student.

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, DVM Candidate, Class of 2020, co-advised with Lisa Tell.

Rachel Dutch, Master’s student in Avian Sciences, co-advised by Lisa Tell





Previous undergraduate researchers in the Vannette lab:

Ariana Nagainis (Spring 2016-Fall 2016)

Chela Owens (Spring 2016)

Tim Rei (2016-2017)

Wendy Melendez (2016-2017)

Cody Kiniry (2017-2018)

Anthony Chan (2017-2018)

John Duque (2017-2018)

Isabelle Maalouf (2017-2019)

Honey Pathak (2017-2019)

Eliza Litsey (2018-2019)

Garrett Keating (2018-2020)

Dani Virdier (2019)

Jeselle-Ann Laxa (2019-2020)

Gigi Melone (2020)

Robert Montoya (summer 2021, EEREC REU)

Michael Yu (summer 2021, EEREC REU)

High School Student Affiliates

Almas Khan (2018-2019)