graduate students

Selena Vengco

Master's Student


I grew up in the California Bay Area and I have always been fascinated with plants! I received my Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from UC Santa Cruz in 2019. I conducted my senior thesis with Dr. Laurel Fox using Arctostaphylos pumila to date back the last fire at Fort Ord Natural Reserve. In 2018, I was a REU intern at the Chicago Botanic Garden where I learned my love for conservation and public education. Before this program, I was working for UC Davis on the spread of disease in wine grapes- ask me about viticulture!

I am excited to participate in a program that has the opportunity to be at the crossroads of plant conservation and public education. I am passionate about sharing the wonders of plants with people across different generational groups and socioeconomic classes. The world is ready for more people to start caring about her and I am excited to tell her stories.


I am working with Erythranthe discolor (Phrymaceae), a narrow California endemic. Erythranthe discolor has no formal protections at the state or federal level and is of conservation concern due to off-highway vehicle use, cattle grazing, and fires. During the 2022 field season, I collected plant tissue in the Piute Mountains to conduct a population genetic survey. I am currently sequencing the plant DNA and will be conducting analyses during spring 2023.

In addition, Erythranthe discolor is known to have discrete flower color polymorphisms (yellow and pink corollas). I want to know what biotic and abiotic factors are maintaining intraspecific color variation in this system. To do this I will be collecting pollinator observations and identifications as well as using PRISM to look at abiotic factors.

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