Meet the Scientists

     and what they do...

Chris Baysdorfer

Chris Baysdorfer, Professor of Biological Sciences

What type of classes do you teach? 

First year molecular biology and senior level lab classes in molecular biology techniques and PCR/DNA sequencing 

What is your research area of focus? 

Genome Evolution in the Liliaceae (flowering plants within the lily family) 

What will your involvement with GBI be? 

Director of GBI and active researcher 

What are you most excited about GBI? 

This is an opportunity to apply advanced molecular techniques to answer important questions in evolutionary biology. This will also provide very high-level training for our students, both undergraduates, and graduates. 

What do you want people to know about GBI? 

Cal State East Bay is doing highly sophisticated research in plant biology, working with rare and endangered species.

Ana Almeida

Ana Almeida Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

What classes do you teach? 

Mostly, I teach evolution, molecular biology, and genomics, as well as graduate courses on science communication and foundations of scientific research.

What is your research area of focus? 

My research focuses on plant development and evolution. I use molecular techniques to understand how developmental processes change over evolutionary time, and how these changes affect the form and function of plant structures, ultimately resulting in the diversity of forms we see in nature. 

What will your involvement with GBI be? 

My research group and I generate and analyze genomic, transcriptomic, epigenetic and microbiome data for endangered plant species. At the moment, we have been mostly focusing on several species of manzanitas endemic to California. 

What are you most excited about GBI

I'm most excited about the amazing opportunities for mentoring students in cutting-edge molecular techniques and data analysis. I strongly believe these skills will greatly improve students' competitiveness in the job market once they graduate. 

What do you think people need to know about GBI or the research you do? 

I think GBI embodies a unique opportunity for combining excellence in research and teaching at Cal State East Bay while at the same time helping gather important information about California's endangered plant species. It is a win-win-win initiative of education, research, and environmental conservation.

Brian Perry, Associate Professor of Biology, Chair of Biological Sciences Department

Brian Perry

What classes do you teach? 

Fungal biology, fungal diversity, plant biology, population biology, evolution, and phylogenetic methods 

What is your research area of focus? 

My research program focuses on fungal systematics, evolution and diversity. 

What will your involvement with GBI be? 

I am currently one of the associate directors of the institute. My students and I will be studying the fungal microbiomes that are associated with our target plant species. All plants harbor fungi within their leaves and other tissues, known as endophytes. My students will be documenting the composition and dynamics of endophyte communities within the leaves and other plant tissues. Additionally, we will eventually be looking at the fungal communities present in the soil that interact with the plant roots.  

What are you most excited about GBI? 

For me, the most exciting thing about the GBI is that we are providing our students with unparalleled opportunities to work as a team to both document and understand “whole-plant” biology using some of the most current, cutting edge technologies in molecular biology. To my knowledge, no other group of researchers with diverse backgrounds, training, and areas of specialization are working together with students in such a holistic approach to understanding plant biology. The GBI researchers are truly working from the ground up and from the inside out to understand our target plants and their ecological interactions.  

What do you think people need to know about GBI or the research you do? 

I really want people to understand the importance of the work our students are doing. Our target plant species are all considered rare, threatened or endangered. The data and results that our students generate have the potential to truly change the management and conservation approaches we take to managing and conserving these organisms. 

Melis Akman

Melis Akman, Staff Scientist

What classes do you teach? 

As a new comer to GBI, I plan on teaching regular bioinformatics workshops for genomic/transcriptomics data analyses.

What is your research area of focus? 

I am an evolutionary geneticist working on uncovering patterns of plant adaptations to their local environments. Ultimately, I would like to use the knowledge we extract from the patterns for better predictions on how plants will respond to global environmental and climatic changes. I have been working with many different plants from South African Protea, to European Brassicaceae (mustard family) and American Helianthus (sunflowers), all the way to California-invasive Carpobrotus (iceplants).

What will your involvement with GBI be? 

I am responsible for anything and everything related to research, including selecting and finding plant material, running wet lab routines, and conducting the bioinformatics involved, and mentoring student research. I will also provide a connection between GBI and the plant research and conservation community, and the public.

What are you most excited about GBI

I am most excited for having the opportunity to get to the whole biology of an endangered/rare plant and conserve it to its finest component by sequencing genomes, transcriptomes, epigenomes, microbiomes and the rhizo-biomes. I am very excited for analyzing this holistic dataset to learn more about how nature works.

What do you think people need to know about GBI or the research you do? 

My research and the research we do at GBI are at most urgency with the accelerated extinction rates we are facing due to the global environmental changes. Plants are a big part of the world we live in, and we cannot survive without them. For the sustainability of agriculture and to conserve plant life in general, research that aims at conserving plants under thread of extinction, or research that aims at informing conservation/management efforts are thus very important and relevant for the time we live in.


Joanna Garaventa, Staff Scientist

Joanna has years of experience as a project leader for complex large-scale capital and operational projects in healthcare. Because of a life-long interest in plant science, she returned to complete an additional undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies and Biology from Cal State East Bay and a graduate degree in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology from San Francisco State University. Her graduate research on, “Seed Rain, Seed Predation and Seed Bank Dynamics of Adenostoma fasciculatum” has provided important additional knowledge concerning the adaptation of chamise and has been submitted for publication.  Joanna continues her work in the study of rare California native plant ecology, seed dispersal and germination with the Green Biome Institute. 

What is your research area of focus? 

My areas of research include plant ecology, vegetation dynamics including dispersal, seed banks, seedling establishment, mutualisms, plant conservation of California native plants.  I am currently working on the role of ants as dispersal agents in the chaparral environment.

What will your involvement with GBI be? 

My role with the Green Biome Institute will encompass research and collection of endangered California native plant samples for further study, conduction of ecological studies on these plants, and working with Federal, State and local entities to secure the necessary scientific research permits for GBI research.

What are you most excited about GBI

GBI’s focus on the study and preservation of the most critically endangered plants in California is incredibly important.  The more we learn about these plants, their genetics, evolution and ecology, the more information we can gather to help preserve them for the future.

What do you think people need to know about GBI or the research you do? 

The research that I perform is multi-faceted in nature which is one of the reasons I enjoy the work.  At any given time, my work could entail research on plants, collecting field samples, working with agencies on scientific research permits to secure specimens or conducting field or greenhouse studies.  

2022-2023 Student Researchers

Graduate                             Undergraduate

Lily Ko                                  Weilun Tan
Caitlin King                         Yesenia Melendez
Vatesala Sharma
Jason Maxwell
Namrisha Jattan                        
Austin Quach
Alisa Mathewson
John Waters
Two females students working in science lab