Gregory S Gilbert
  • Title
    • Professor
    • Director of UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot
  • Division Social Sciences Division
  • Department
    • Environmental Studies Department
  • Affiliations Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department, Latin American & Latino Studies, Education Department, Dolores Huerta Research Center for the Americas
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Fax
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Interdisciplinary Sciences Building, 439
  • Office Hours make appointments through
  • Mail Stop Environmental Studies
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064
  • Faculty Areas of Expertise Ecology, Evolution, Science Education, Natural History, Tropical Forest
  • Courses ENVS 104 - Environmental Field Methods, ENVS 163 - Plant Disease Ecology

Summary of Expertise

Applied Evolutionary Ecology; Plant Diseases; Fungal Ecology; Temperate and Tropical Forest Ecology; Inquiry-based and experiential learning

Research Interests

Applied evolutionary ecology: species interactions and conservation in tropical and temperate ecosystems

My long term goal is to apply theory and understanding from evolutionary ecology to address environmental problems.  Much of my research centers around interactions between fungal and plant communities in natural and managed ecosystems. I work extensively in both Mediterranean-climate ecosystems in California and in tropical ecosystems in Panama. Currently I spend most of my effort in four areas:
(1) using the tools of phylogenetic ecology to understand the ecological impacts of plant diseases in temperate and tropical ecosystems, and applying those tools toward better conservation, restoration, and agroecology management practices.
(2) developing tools based on evolutionary ecology to help in pest risk analyses for improved phytosanitary practice.
(3) developing the UCSC-Forest Ecology Research Plot, a 16-ha mapped forest dynamics plot in mixed-evergreen coastal forest on the UCSC Campus Natural Reserve, to be a vibrant center for student research and teaching.
(4) exploring approaches to improved cross-cultural communications and inquiry-based teaching and learning in environmental sciences.

Biography, Education and Training

Postdoctoral Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panamá (1991-95)

Ph.D. in Plant Pathology (Soil Science minor), University of Wisconsin-Madison,(1991, with Jo Handelsman and Jennifer Parke)

Tropical Ecosystems Course, Organization for Tropical Studies, Costa Rica (1989)

M.Sc. in Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison (1988,with Jennifer Parke)

B.S. in Environmental and Forest Biology, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (1985)

SeaMester Program in Coastal Ecology, Long Island University (1984)

Honors, Awards and Grants

Robert Headley Presidential Chair for Integral Ecology and Environmental Justice (2021-2023)
Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching (2013)
Chancellor's Achievement Award for Diversity (2012)
Fellow, California Academy of Sciences (2010)
Pepper-Giberson Chair of Environmental Studies (2008-2013)
Xi Sigma Pi (Forestry) (1997)
Sigma Xi (Science) (1991)
Gamma Sigma Delta (Agriculture) (1989)

Current and Recent Grants:

Increased degree attainment in FANH Sciences: Creating a regional pipeline (J.E. Banks, J.P. Dundore-Arias, E.G. Mosqueda (CSUMB); S.M. Philpott, I.M. Parker, G.S. Gilbert (UCSC). USDA-HSI 2021-77040-34870 (2021-2025)

National Science Foundation. Phylogenetic disease ecology of plants.  Ingrid Parker and Gregory Gilbert. DEB-1655896 (2017-2022)

The Nature Conservancy.  Risk, spread, and control of Fusarium dieback – shot hole borers throughout native plant communities in Orange County.  Akif Eskalen, Shannon Lynch, and Gregory Gilbert. 2016-2019

California Department of Food and Agriculture 2016 Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.  Controlling Fusarium Dieback – Shot Hole Borers throughout avocado groves in California.   Grant Agreement SCB16051  (2016-2019)

Orange County Central & Coastal Subregion, Natural Community Conservation.  Management and monitoring of Fusarium dieback-Shot Hole Borer Complex.  Akif Eskalen, Shannon Lynch, Gregory S Gilbert (2017-2018)

National Science Foundation. 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 (2012-2018)

Selected Publications

  • See a complete list of publications here
  • Gilbert, G.S. and I.M. Parker.2023. The Evolutionary Ecology of Plant Disease. Oxford University Press.  336 pp.   ISBN: 9780198797883  OUP link   Amazon link
  • Nguyen, B.H., G.S. Gilbert, and M. Rolandi. 2023. A Bio-mimetic leaf wetness sensor from replica modeling of leaves. Advanced Sensor Research

  • Gilbert, G.S., A. Diaz, and H.A. Bregoff. 2023. Seed disinfestation practices to control seed-borne fungi and bacteria in home production of sprouts. Foods 12:747

  • Gilbert, G. S. and I. M. Parker. 2022. Phylogenetic distance metrics for studies of focal species in communities: quantiles and cumulative curves. Diversity 14:521

  • Qiu, T., … G. S. Gilbert, … and J. S. Clark (61 authors). 2021. Is there tree senescence? The fecundity evidence. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 118:e2106130118.

  • Lynch, S. C., A. Eskalen, & G. S. Gilbert.  2020. Host evolutionary relationships explain tree mortality caused by a generalist pest-pathogen complex.  Evolutionary Applications

  • Liang, M., X. Liu, I. M. Parker, D. Johnson, Y. Zheng, S. Luo, G. S. Gilbert, and S. Yu. 2019. Soil microbes drive phylogenetic diversity-productivity relationships in a subtropical forest. Science Advances 5:eaax5088
  • Harrower, J. and G. S. Gilbert. 2018. Context-dependent mutualisms in the Joshua tree–yucca moth system shift along a climate gradient. Ecosphere 9(9):e02439. 10.1002/ecs2.2439
  • Parker, I.M. and G.S. Gilbert 2018.  Density-dependent disease, life history tradeoffs, and the effect of leaf pathogens on a suite of co-occurring close relatives.  Journal of Ecology DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13024
  • Gilbert, GS et al. 2016.  Use of sonic tomography to detect and quantify wood decay in living trees.  Applications in Plant Sciences.
  • Bryce, C., V. Baliga, K. De Nesnera, D. Fiack, K. Goetz, L. Tarjan, C. Wade, V. Yovovich, S. Baumgart, D. Bard, D. Ash, I. Parker, and G. Gilbert. 2016. Exploring models in the biology classroom. American Biology Teacher. 78 (1):35-42.
  • Parker I. M., Saunders, M. Bontrager, A.P. Weitz, R. Hendricks, R. Magarey, K. Suiter, and G.S. Gilbert. 2015 Phylogenetic structure and host abundance drive disease pressure in communities.  Nature 520: 542-544.
  • Gilbert, G.S. and I.M. Parker. Porroca: an emerging disease of coconut in Central America. 2008. Plant Disease 92: 826-830
  • Gilbert, G.S. E. Howard, B. Ayala-Orozco, M. Bonilla-Moheno, J. Cummings, S. Langridge, I.M. Parker, J. Pasari, D. Schweizer, and S. Swope. 2010. Beyond the tropics: forest structure in a temperate forest mapped plot. Journal of Vegetation Science 21: 388-405

Teaching Interests

To paraphrase Margaret Mead, learning has a much longer and more successful evolutionary history than does teaching.  As a teacher, my most important task is not to get in the way of learning. 

You can see my Teaching Portfolio here.

I am a strong advocate of experiential learning and the value of learning through inquiry.  While content knowledge is important and useful, I am much more interested in helping ensure that students are prepared to learn about – and to solve – environmental problems that are not yet in the textbooks, journals, or the news.

Inquiry gains purpose in teaching and learning when it is connected to theory and content knowledge.  Because acquiring content knowledge - information transfer - requires individual effort, it is best done outside the classroom.  As much as possible, I adopt a flipped-classroom approach where information transfer is primarily through pre-class readings and online resources motivated by pre-class quizzes or homeworks. Class time can then be spent with mixes of lecture on difficult concepts, small-group work, problem solving, discussion of primary literature, and bite-sized inquiry to build understanding.  

I want students to read critically and write effectively, to be numerically literate, to formulate interesting questions and place them into a larger context, and to use appropriate tools to address important questions.  I want them to trust their own abilities, while being critical of their own positions.  I want them to develop the confidence to argue effectively and clearly for what they believe.

Inquiry as a mode of learning is inclusive.  It starts from the point of not knowing, and wanting to know more.  It depends much less on where you have been than on where you want to go.  It embraces (quality) ignorance as source of inspiration.  Inquiry can be effective for learning while sitting at a desk in a windowless classroom or sprawled in the duff in the shade of the redwoods.

My interests in inquiry-based teaching and learning has took a central focus in my career through my role as Director of the NSF-sponsored GK-12 graduate training program  SCWIBLES: the Santa-Cruz Watsonville Inquiry-Based Learning in Environmental Sciences (2010-2015). SCWIBLES created a partnership between UCSC and Watsonville High School to develop exciting inquiry-based curriculum, focused on the transition to the Next Generation Science Standards. SCWIBLES trained environmental science graduate student to communicate effectively about science with non-scientists.