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Pepperdine | Seaver College
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Helen Irene Holmlund

Assistant Professor of Biology
Natural Science, Seaver College
RAC 130

Biography

Dr. Helen Holmlund is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Pepperdine University. She earned her B.S. in Biology at Oklahoma Christian University and her Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. During her graduate work, she also spent a year training at the Australian National University. Her research in the field of plant physiological ecology explores how plants can survive drought, fire, and salinity. In particular, Dr. Holmlund is fascinated with ferns (which typically require abundant water) and how some ferns have adapted to thrive in dry ecosystems, such as the Santa Monica Mountains surrounding Pepperdine. Her research on these “extreme” ferns has also taken her to the Channel Islands, the mangrove swamps of Australia, and the tropical rainforests in Costa Rica. Her research has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Southern California Research Learning Center. Dr. Holmlund has received several fellowships and conference awards, including the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and the Billings Award for her undergraduate research presented at the Ecological Society of America.

As an undergraduate student, Dr. Holmlund first experienced biological research by participating in Pepperdine’s SURB program (Summer Undergraduate Research in Biology). After this experience, she became committed to facilitating undergraduate research. Dr. Holmlund has been mentoring undergraduate research students since 2014, and many of these students have been co-authors on peer-reviewed journal articles and presented their research at national conferences. 

Education

  • PhD, University of California, Santa Cruz, 2020
  • Holmlund HI, SD Davis, FW Ewers, NM Aguirre, G Sapes, A Sala, J Pittermann. (2020) Positive root pressure is critical for whole-plant desiccation recovery in two species of terrestrial resurrection ferns. Journal of Experimental Botany 71(3): 1139-1150.
  • Holmlund HI, RB Pratt, AL Jacobsen, SD Davis, J Pittermann. (2019) High-resolution computed tomography reveals dynamics of desiccation and rehydration in fern petioles of a desiccation-tolerant fern. New Phytologist 224(1): 97-105. Featured on the cover.
  • *Aguirre NM, *GN Palmeri, *ME Ochoa, HI Holmlund, *SR Reese, *ER Pierce, *KE Sauer, SD Davis, RL Honeycutt, CL Blomquist, GC Adams. (2018) First report of stem canker and subsequent plant death caused by Botryosphaeria dothidea on Malosma laurina in southern California. Plant Disease 102(7).
  • *Holmlund HI, *VM Lekson, *BM Gillespie, *NA Nakamatsu, *AM Burns, *KE Sauer, J Pittermann, SD Davis. (2016) Seasonal changes in tissue water relations for eight species of ferns during historic drought in California. American Journal of Botany 103(9): 1607-1617.

(*Denotes undergraduate student)

  • 2019, Botanical Society of America: Best Student Oral Presentation in the Physiology or Ecophysiology Sections
  • 2017, UCSC Graduate Research Symposium: Best Presentation in Division of Physical and Biological Sciences
  • 2015, Ecological Society of America: Dwight Billings Award for Physiological Ecology (awarded to best student oral presentation in physiological ecology section)

Invited Presentations

  • 2018,* "Niche segregation in water utilization as a mechanism of fern survival in chaparral shrub understories during extreme drought." Oral Presentation, California Native Plant Society Conservation Conference. Los Angeles, CA.
  • 2015,* “Ferns exhibit differential water utilization traits in the Santa Monica Mountains.” Oral Presentation, Santa Monica Mountains Science Day (NPS), Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • 2015, "Ferns living on the edge: Differential traits for survival during California's historic drought." Oral Presentation, Ecological Society of America 100th Annual Meeting, Baltimore, MD.
  • 2014, “Dehydration tolerance of California ferns in relation to stem hydraulics and mechanical strength.” Poster Presentation, Council on Undergraduate Research’s REU Symposium, Arlington, VA.

Conference Oral Presentations

  • 2019, “High-resolution computed tomography reveals dynamics of desiccation and rehydration in a desiccation-tolerant fern.” Oral Presentation, Botanical Society of America 113th Annual Meeting, Tucson, AZ.
  • 2018, “Positive root pressure drives desiccation recovery in two desiccation-tolerant California chaparral ferns.” Oral Presentation, Ecological Society of America 103rd Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA.
  • 2018, “Positive root pressure drives desiccation recovery in two desiccation-tolerant California chaparral ferns.” Oral Presentation, Gordon Research Seminar: Multiscale Plant Vascular Biology, Mount Snow, VT.
  • 2015, “Contrasting water utilization patterns in ferns during California’s historic drought.” Oral Presentation, Southern California Conference on Undergraduate Research, Claremont, CA.
  • 2014, “Dehydration tolerance of California ferns in relation to stem hydraulics and mechanical strength.” Oral Presentation, Oklahoma Academy of Science 103rd Annual Technical Meeting, Broken Arrow, OK.
  • 2013, “Variation of mechanical strength of ferns in the Santa Monica and Santa Cruz Mountains.” Oral Presentation, Oklahoma Academy of Science 102nd Annual Technical Meeting, Lawton, OK.

Conference Poster Presentations

  • 2018, “Positive root pressure drives desiccation recovery in two desiccation-tolerant California chaparral ferns.” Poster Presentation, Gordon Research Seminar: Multiscale Plant Vascular Biology, Mount Snow, VT.
  • 2017, “Resistance to xylem cavitation in evergreen ferns correlates with seasonal dehydration levels, not mechanical strength.” Poster Presentation, Ecological Society of America 102nd Annual Meeting, Portland, OR.
  • 2016, “Foliar water uptake in ferns on Santa Cruz Islands versus the Santa Monica Mountains.” Poster Presentation, 9th California Islands Symposium, Ventura, CA.
  • 2016, “Differential response of eight fern species to severe drought in California.” Poster Presentation, Botanical Society of America 110th Annual Meeting, Savannah, GA.
  • 2014, “Relationship between dehydration tolerance of California ferns and the mechanical strength of their stipes.” Poster Presentation, Ecological Society of America 99th Annual Meeting, Sacramento, CA.

Public Talks

  • 2019,* “Return of the dead: How resurrection plants come back to life.” Oral Presentation, Science on Tap (monthly event hosted by UCSC Women In Science and Engineering). Santa Cruz, CA.
  • 2018,* Davis SD, HI Holmlund. “Ferns living on the edge of survival in the Santa Monica Mountains.” Joint Oral Presentation, Public Meeting of the Channel Islands Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. Ventura, CA.
  • 2018,* "Water use strategies in ferns." Oral Presentation, UCSC Grad Slam. (This is a 3-minute thesis competition. I was selected as one of 12 finalists for the UCSC competition.) Santa Cruz, CA.

(*Targets non-academic audience)

  • 2020, NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology (recommended for funding, but not accepted by Dr. Holmlund), $138,000
  • 2019, UCSC EEB Departmental Summer Research Grant, $1,500 2019, Botanical Society of America Pteridological Section Student Travel Award, $150
  • 2018, NSF Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide: Australia, $5,000 2018, UCSC Graduate Student Association Travel Award, $400
  • 2018, UCSC EEB Departmental Summer Research Grant, $858 2017, Southern California Research Learning Center, grant to Stephen D. Davis. “Comparative Foliar Water Uptake between Ferns on Santa Cruz Island and the Santa Monica Mountains: A Common Garden Experiment.” I am a co-author. $9,197
  • 2017 Langenheim Fellowship, $1,500 2017, UCSC EEB Departmental Summer Research Grant, $1,500
  • 2017, UCSC Graduate Student Association Travel Award, $500 2016, NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, $138,000 2016, National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship (declined award to accept NSF GRF), $146,400
  • 2016, University of California, Santa Cruz: Chancellor’s Fellowship, $24,000
  • 2015, ESA Physiological Ecology Section: Student Travel Award, $500
  • 2015, Southern California Research Learning Center, grant to Stephen D. Davis. “Foliar Water Uptake by Ferns in Island versus Mainland Ecosystems.” I am a co-author. $4,500

Topics

  • Plant physiological ecology - understanding plant structure and function within the ecological context
  • Plant water relations - how chaparral shrubs and ferns have adapted to seasonal drought in California
  • Impacts of climate change (esp. chronic drought and fire) on California plants
  • Desiccation tolerance - how "resurrection" plants in California can survive complete drying
  • Salt tolerance - how mangrove ferns thrive in salty water
  • Island biology - how ferns in the Channel Islands have adapted to the island habitat
  • Foliar water uptake - how plants use fog or dew to improve hydration
  • Plant pathology - how a fungus has caused increased mortality in dominant chaparral shrub species

Courses

  • Biology of Plants
  • Plants and the Environment
  • Ecology
  • Statistical and Research Methods Laboratory