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Lizzy Wilbanks, Principle Investigator

Lizzy received her B.A. in Chemistry and Biology from Swarthmore College, where she conducted undergraduate research in synthetic organic chemistry (and discovered that microbes are marvelous chemists!). She completed her Ph.D. in Microbiology from the University of California, Davis, where she was co-advised by Jonathan Eisen and Marc Facciotti. Her dissertation research was inspired by projects at the Marine Biological Laboratory’s Microbial Diversity summer course in Woods Hole, and focused on the metabolism and metagenomics of sulfur cycling bacterial aggregates. Following NASA and Agouron postdoctoral fellowships at Caltech with Victoria Orphan, Lizzy served as a visiting professor at Swarthmore College in the Biology Department. She joined UCSB in 2016.

ewilbanks [at]


Hugo Doré, Postdoctoral Researcher

Hugo received his Master’s degree from the ENS Lyon (France), where he tested his taste for microbes through internships in various labs. He then completed a PhD in Microbial Ecology from the Marine Biology station in Roscoff (Sorbonne Université) focusing on the distribution and niche adaptation of marine picocyanobacteria, before joining the Wilbanks lab in May 2019. He is fundamentally interested in understanding how microbial populations are structured and how they evolve in their natural environment, in particular in aquatic systems where microbial population dynamics is still poorly explored. Here at UCSB, he uses Pink Berries as a natural model of spatially structured bacterial communities to perform population metagenomics analyses through a combination of short and long-read sequencing.

hdore [at]


Anna James, Postdoctoral Researcher

Anna has fulfilled the requisite years to officially be deemed a ‘UCSB native.’ She received her B.A. from the UCSB College of Creative Studies in 2009, where she studied recruitment patterns of hard corals at the UC Gump Station in French Polynesia. Between undergraduate and graduat, she worked as a technician - first, dissecting fish in Palmyra for parasitological research with the Kuris lab (UCSB); then, sailing on her first oceanographic research cruise aboard the R/V Melville with the Carlson lab (UCSB). She discovered the pervasive power and influence of the myriad metabolisms of the oceans tiniest beings - marine microbes. During her Ph.D. she exploited microbial metabolisms to assess the effects of rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on the ability of the oceans to alleviate climate change through the absorption of human-produced carbon dioxide. She completed her Ph.D. in 2017 and is now working with the Wilbanks and Carlson labs to study the influence of the kelp microbiome on coastal biogeochemistry.


Braulio Castillo Villaseñor, Graduate Student

Braulio got his Bachelor’s Degree in French and Biological Sciences with a concentration in Microbiology in 2018 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. While he did his undergrad work in soil microbial ecology, he was always fascinated by the immense diversity of microbes and their physiology. At UCSB he has finally gotten to do work with one of his favorite groups, sulfur metabolizing anaerobes! Originally from Tijuana, Mexico; Braulio is pursuing a PhD in the EEMB department and enjoys cinema, eating tacos, and pondering the relative nature of knowledge.

bsb402 [at]


Taruna Schuelke, Graduate Student

Taruna earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in Genetics, and her newly found love for microbes has brought her to the Wilbanks lab at UC Santa Barbara. She previously conducted research in various systems ranging from fruit flies to fungal pathogens. Now, she is thrilled to dip her toes in marine microbiology. She loves to reduce, reuse and recycle and will yell at you for using a plastic bag! In her spare time, Taruna enjoys dancing and watching The Office.

taruna [at]


Sevan Esaian, Graduate Student

Sevan received his BSc in Biological Sciences in 2016 (with a MCDB concentration) and a MSc in Biological Sciences in 2018 (with a concentration in Ecology) from the California State University – Los Angeles. His research experiences cover a broad range of experimental approaches and projects including cellular signaling, embryology, gene regulation, botany, avian field work, and geographic information science. Sevan is co-advised by Holly Moeller and is pursuing a PhD combining interdisciplinary approaches to study the epiphytic microbial community of Macrocystis pyrifera (giant kelp). He is particularly interested in disentangling the synergistic effects of abiotic factors on microbial metabolic networks. 

sevanesaian [at]


Aaron Chew, Graduate Student

Aaron will be joining the lab as an EEMB graduate student starting in Fall 2021!  

aaronchew [at]

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Tori Jones, Undergrad


Lab Alumni

Justine Albers (Research Assistant; 2017-2019) Current: Ph.D. Student, Santoro Lab

Faeben Wossenseged (Undergrad Researcher; 2018-2020) Current: NIH NAEP Scholar

Bongi Makatini (Undergrad Researcher; 2018-2020) Current: Assistant Resident Director UCSB 

Jett Liu (Undergrad Researcher; 2019) Current: UC Berkeley undergraduate, Banfield Lab 

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Fox Bravo, Undergrad

Fox received his BSc in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2022. During his undergraduate studies, his research focused on sulfate reducing bacteria in pink berries. Fox continues to use his bioinformatics skills to further our understanding of sulfate reducing bacterial metabolism. In his free time, Fox enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and bird watching.

foxwbravo [at]

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