Latest publication!

I have just recently published a new article in The Journal of Plant Ecology and it is out for free in advance access (not typeset or proofed yet).

Check it out using the links below!




Back to the field!

It was a wetter year in California than last year but by no means has it been the large El Nino event everyone was projecting. Although I was predicting a later and longer growing season than last year, some warm weather popped up in February and started the bloom earlier than anticipated.

Thus I quickly rushed out to the field to begin my field season much earlier than expected.


(I tweeted this picture and it received a great deal of attention!)

luckily I caught flowering in time and my experiment worked out well, so now I can just enjoy the flowers


tweets away!

I started tweeting for the @YorkUScientists account yesterday and it has been a pretty cool experience already.  The account has a very large audience and my tweets are seen by, and engaged with, by numerous people, neat!

It is a bit of work though continuously posting content. We will see how this pans out for the rest of the week

If you haven’t checked the account be sure to follow @YorkUScientists and my personal twitter account @aliczner

8 things I’ve learned post-preliminary exam

I completed (and passed!) my PhD preliminary exam to transfer from the MSc program to the PhD program on December 1 and although it is all still sinking in I have made a list of some of the things I learned pre-, during, and post- defense.

  1. start early
    thankfully I was given this advice ahead of time and I listened, but maybe I should have started even earlier. Everything always takes longer than anticipated and surprise tasks can set you back a day or a few so starting early can give you enough of a buffer that your progress will not suffer to badly and reduce stress
  2. pick cognate topics that are useful and interesting
    cognates are not fun to write. They are also an awkward length (15 pgs max) that makes writing them challenging as the page restriction does not allow you to go as in depth as you might want to, but are not too short in that you can be extremely brief either. Therefore, finding a cognate topic that is not only useful and an interesting topic might just get you through writing it in one piece.
  3. de-stress
    prepping for the exam can be overwhelming, so its also important to take care of yourself. De-stress and maintaining physical activity is a top priority and should be something you make time for
  4. know the literature, and use it
    seems so obvious. I have a hard time with remembering authors and dates and is something I need to continue working on. I made flash cards which helped me remember some, but if you don’t find a way to incorporate those studies into your answers you aren’t doing yourself any favours. I found it tricky to try and show off my knowledge of the literature as I attempted to simply answer the questions my committee was asking without throwing in a citation here or there. It might be awkward to do, but just find a way to insert citations into your answers whenever possible
  5. bring food, glucose may improve people’s mood
    that has some pretty obvious benefits
  6. find all the terms that you think are obvious, and define them
    that seems to be a favourite question among examiners and one of my first questions was a definition of a term that is so central to my thesis that I took its definition for granted and on the spot it may be challenging to try and explain even the most simple of terms
  7. breathe
    all steps along the way
  8. you will not feel good
    during the examination the committee puts on their poker faces and you will not feel good about a single answer. you wont feel anything after you finish and pass except tired. eventually it will hit you, but you will still be tired. Despite this, you did something great so go out and celebrate even if you don’t feel so great about it.

Shrub removal and mimic construction complete!

I completed the shrub removals and mimic construction with the help of Mike, Alex and Taylor on May 3. For a quick update on the project see the blog post on my lab’s website here!


Control shrubs, mimics, and removals will be surveyed for evidence of lizard activity in order to help determine what role the shrubs are playing in determining lizard activity.

Shrub removals/mimic construction

Hello everyone!

Today was the first dog survey with The Working Dogs for Conservation and it was also the first day of shrub removal/mimic construction

We managed to survey just over 50% of the shrubs with the dogs and found a number of lizard scats today and even a few lizards

So far, 13/20 shrubs have been removed and mimics constructed. The last shrubs will be removed tomorrow after they are surveyed with the dogs



Big thanks to Mike, Taylor and Alex for all their help with the removals and shrub mimic construction today…and again tomorrow! see you bright and early
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when one door closes…

another one opens!

Unfortunately the odd phenology in California this year + inadequate planning on my part resulted in my seed addition plants dying out before making it to full biomass. Alas this is ecology and ecological field work

lesson learned! Plan ahead and plant with watering – if only it were that simple.

Although I am disappointed the experiment did not succeed I will be repeating it next year and instead I have been brainstorming on additional projects to do and ways to improve other experiments I have going.

I hope to…
1) continue with Pinnacles bunch grass timed removal experiments layering in some addition abiotic, biotic and landscape level factors
2) conduct landscape and microsite level surveys pre-shrub removal experiment
3) pilot lizard tracking methods and develop survey methods
4) collect seed
5) set up some exciting manipulations for experiments next year pending approval