It’s Black Botanists Week!

July 6 – 10 is #BlackBotanistsWeek on Twitter.

Join me in following & engaging with the #BlackBotanistsWeek hashtags on twitter and instagram this week. Black Botanists Week is a social media campaign event to bring together enthusiastic and knowledgable Black botanists and highlight their botanical stories, poems, professional experiences, and love for Botany.

Check out the flyer below and find more info on this website:


New Paper out in Restoration Ecology!

Check out our new paper out in Restoration Ecology on strategies to respond to phenological mismatch.

Conceptual Implications:

•Predictions of phenological asynchrony due to climate change call for novel conservation strategies.

•We propose extending phenological phase duration as one approach for buffering impacts of asynchrony.

•Techniques to extend the duration of plant or animal activity timing include utilizing abiotic heterogeneity, genetic and species diversity, and alteration of population timing.

•Existing biodiversity conservation techniques may have the potential to address mismatch concerns if put into the context of phenological shifts.

•We call on restoration ecologists to propose and test effectiveness of strategies to address mismatch concerns

Open access full text available here:
Olliff-Yang, RL, T Gardali, DD Ackerly 2020. Mismatch Managed? Phenological phase extension as a strategy to manage phenological asynchrony in plant–animal mutualisms. Restoration Ecology. doi: 10.1111/rec.13130. 

Goldfields update

Last year I successfully collected seed from over 30 populations of goldfield flowers (Lasthenia californica and L. gracilis), thanks to the people who volunteered to join me along the long stretches of road I travelled. The populations we found ranged from San Diego all the way to Kneelend CA!

seed story: part 0 Tejon Ranch April 2017

Collecting seeds at the Tejon Ranch Conservatory.  From Left: Rachael Olliff-Yang, Ana Penny, Bridget Wessa, and Ellery Mayence. Photo credit: Lynn Yamashita

To find the patches of goldfield flowers I used data from pressed plants stored in California herbaria, which can be accessed though the Consortium of California Herbaria website (CCH), as well as records taken by citizen scientists using the iNaturalist app.  If you love taking photos of plants, please upload them to iNaturalist – This data is REALLY useful!

seed story: part 0 by Ana April 2017

Goldfields and a lady beetle Photo credit: Ana Penny

Thanks to the help of undergraduates Pooja Butani, Emily Cox, Roxanne Gardner, Edith Lai, Miranda Lee-Foltz, Emma Reich, and Zoë Ziegler, we have now grown one full generation of plants in the greenhouse. We meticulously tracked seed germination, plant flowering time, cross pollinated the flowers (by rubbing them together), and collected the seeds.

The seeds we sowed have become seeds again, and we are looking forward to planting them out for another experiment in the Fall.

I look forward to sharing the results of these studies with you all. In the meantime, you can see more photos from the Lasthenia seed story, by Lynn Yamashita and Ana Penny.


seed story: part 4 February 2018

Photo credit: Lynn Yamashita

Chasing Goldfields

Spring 2017 brings with it an intense mission: seed collection. I’m collecting Lasthenia (Common goldfields) seed from sites across California for a common garden project. Basically, most of my time these days is spent chasing fields of gold. I’m specifically looking for Lasthenia gracilis and Lasthenia californica species. If you know of any patches of Goldfields near you, please let me know – I may just need to come visit!

The “super bloom” we are having this year brings a wonderful opportunity to collect seed, but it is also a bit overwhelming. I am dealing with the stress of visiting sites with perfect timing: not too early that there are no ripe seeds, but not too late that I can no longer see the patches. It is wonderful to explore all of the gorgeous wildflower displays this year though!

Here are some photos from my travels so far –

L. gracilis at the Panoche Hills Recreation Area in San Benito Co. Date: 3/26/2017

Date: 3/26/2017

UC Riverside Motte Rimrock Reserve. Date: 3/27/2017

My mom (Alice) enjoying the bloom… and battling her specific allergy to ONLY Lasthenia.      Date: 3/27/2017

Searching for Lasthenia in San Diego was difficult. We only found only one good site! Special thanks to my mom for sticking with me as a field assistant during the many grueling hours of driving and searching.

After visiting 7 sites with no luck in San Diego, this Mission Trails population was exciting to see! Date: 3/29/2017

Lasthenia coronaria at the Rancho Jamul reserve. Unfortunately not the species I’m looking for, but a rare sight! Date: 3/30/2017

Pollinators on L. coronaria

The bloom was thick at UC Irvine Ecological Preserve! Date: 3/30/2017

UCI Ecological Preserve Date: 3/30/2017

UC Santa Barbara Sedgwick Reserve. Date: 3/31/2017


Mt. Figueroa, northern edge of Sedgwick Reserve Date: 3/31/2017

Date: 3/31/2017

The populations in and around Sedgwick have no pappus (basically seed “wings”), which means it is impossible to differentiate between L. californica and L. gracilis morphologically. Since these populations are so far south though, I’m guessing they are L. gracilis. Date: 3/31/2017

Scheduling in collecting trips sometimes means squeezing in my Pepperwood phenology surveys… I just barely finished this survey by headlamp. Photo credit: Alex Yang, who heroically stayed out there and recorded for me until the last flower was counted…                  Date: 4/2/2017

AGU Presentation

I am presenting a poster at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) conference in San Francisco. Stop by to say hello and to hear more about the Ackerly lab work on community weighted climate means.

Ackerly lab members Meagan Oldfather and Matt Kling are also presenting at the conference. Visit for more information!

Rachael Leigh Olliff Yang

Wednesday, 14 December 2016 

8:00 – 12:20 Moscone South  – Poster Hall

Abstract: GC31C-1134 Community climatic niche means as a tool to understand species range shifts across scales

Authors: Rachael Leigh Olliff YangMeagan Ford OldfatherPrahlad D PapperLorraine E FlintAlan L FlintDavid Ackerly

Shifts in species distributions across topographic gradients may represent an important initial response to climate change. Our understanding of community composition, and predicting community shifts, can be enhanced by examining the climate niche space of the component species both at large and small scales. A community weighted climatic niche mean can be calculated as the abundance-weighted mean of each component species’ average niche space across its range. Community weighed means can be used as a tool for understanding species distributions at multiple scales, as well as predicating changes in species ranges with a changing climate. In this study of mixed hardwood woodlands in coastal California (Pepperwood Preserve), we examine the community weighted means of plant communities in fifty vegetation plots in relation to topographic and environmental gradients. For each species a climate trait mean was extracted from climate data across its range within California, and these values were averaged across species to calculate a community weighted mean for each plot. We find that range-wide climate community means correlate with local Climatic Water Deficit (CWD). This relationship holds for both woody and herbaceous species. These results indicate that range wide climatic values predict aggregated properties of plant community distributions across environmental gradients. We expect that community responses to climate change will appear as shifts towards warmer and/or drier community mean values in each location (‘thermophilization’), and as shifts in species towards cooler and/or moister locations along environmental gradients.