The Only Organization Working Exclusively to Conserve and Restore

California's Native Grasslands

CNGA GRASS Award Speaker Series: Laurel Sebastian

  • Tuesday, October 17, 2023
  • 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM
  • Online


  • Members attend for free!
  • Join CNGA and attend the complete series for free!
  • Free with Registration Code. Please email a copy of your student ID to

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California Native Grassland Association GRASS Award Speaker Series

Join Us for the CNGA’s Second Virtual Speaker Series showcasing the amazing work undertaken in California Grasslands by some of our Grassland Research Awards for Student Scholarship Winners.

Talks are on Tuesdays from 6:30 PM - 7:30 PM PST featuring one 40-minute talk, or two 20-minute talks, with time for Q&A. 

Members: Free      Non-Members: $10       Non-Member Students: Free with Student ID

Plant Traits, Diversity Metrics, and Environmental Factors Shape Soil Carbon Dynamics in a Restored Grassland

Laurel Sebastian, UC Davis

October 17, 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Abstract: In the era of unprecedented loss of biodiversity and ecosystem function, a core goal of restoration ecology is to find planting strategies to restore ecosystem functions like soil carbon sequestration. Various planting strategies can be used to increase soil carbon (C), but there are major gaps in our understanding of plant-soil interactions. In this study, we seeded common California grassland species in 210 experimental restoration plots and examined how plant diversity, functional groups (e.g. grasses vs. forbs), and functional traits (characteristics like rooting depth) influenced five unique soil carbon pools. We also evaluated effects of precipitation and land use history treatments on soil C pools across two years to examine how environmental conditions change plant-soil interactions, and if there are time lags in those effects. Land use history was the biggest single predictor of soil C, with the longer duration of shrubs on the site prior to our experiment increasing soil C. Precipitation had a minor effect, suggesting soil C may be relatively stable in semi-arid grasslands with climate change. We also found that diversity, functional trait, and functional group effects varied across soil C pools, environmental context, and the year of vegetation measured. These results suggest that different plant strategies contribute to soil C pools through disparate pathways on various timescales. Our study highlights how dynamic soil C is in grassland systems and that additional work is needed before restoration managers can use trait-based approaches to sequester soil C in various site contexts.

Bio: I recently graduated from UC Davis with a MS in ecology. I'm now hoping to work as a restoration ecologist in grasslands and wetlands in my home state of California. My thesis research studied the effects of California grassland species on soil carbon storage and cycling dynamics. Before returning to school, I spent five years working in botanical field research and environmental education. I like to bike and make stained glass and ceramic art in my free time. 

Contact Justin Luong ( with any questions.

Upcoming Speaker Series Schedule, Tuesdays, 6:30 - 7:30 pm

October 17 – Laurel Sebastian (UC Davis)

November 14 – Jacob Weverka (UC Santa Barbara)

December 5 – Annie Meeder (Cal Poly SLO)

December 12 – Jasmine Rios (CSU Sacramento)

January 16 – Rebecca Nelson (UC Davis)

January 30 – Brook Wainwright (UC Davis)

February 6 – Spencer Peterman (UC Riverside)

February 13 – Katherine Brafford (UC Davis)

February 20 – Taylor Akers (CSU Sacramento)

February 27 – Mary Badger (UC Davis)

Help Support Student Research - Donate to the GRASS Program

CNGA's GRASS Program: 

  • Focuses student research on important grassland-related questions. 
  • Inspires students to become more involved in California Grassland Conservation and Restoration. 
  • Trains future employees for your agency or company.
  • Creates advocates for California Grasslands 
Learn More About GRASS - Applications Accepted Nov 1 - Jan 31

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