Research Laboratory Faculty
Professor of Biology
Frank R. Seaver Chair of Natural Science
Dr. Lee Kats' current research is focused on the ecology and conservation biology of stream animals. This includes examining possible causes of amphibian decline. He and his students focus their studies on the effects of ultraviolet radiation, wildfire, and the introduction of exotic species. He has a significant background in the areas of animal behavior, conservation, animal ecology, tropical biology, and stream ecology. Dr. Kats conducts most of his research in the Santa Monica Mountains of Southern California; however, he also leads classes and conducts research in Costa Rica and Argentina.
Dr. Kats has taught at Pepperdine for over 30 years. He currently serves as the Vice Provost of the University, as well as Academic Director of the Center for Faith and the Common Good and a professor of biology. Dr. Kats has published numerous research articles on amphibian ecology and conservation ecology, served on the Board of Editors for the scientific journal Conservation Biology since 1996, and the editorial board of Hydrobiologia, the European scientific journal on freshwater biology, since 2000.
Research Laboratory Students
Laboratory Student Leader
Elise DeArment is a senior biology major interested in investigating the impact of wildfire on streams in the Santa Monica Mountains. She has engaged in several semesters of research investigating how water quality changes after wildfire, and how this could impact both native and invasive species. She has also been involved in the USGS partnership for three years and is one of the student leaders of the lab.
Research Projects: Wildfire, Water Quality, and Invasive Species
David is a senior biology major interested in studying the effects of insecticides in stream ecology. He has been a member of the lab since his freshman year and led a project focused on the effects of tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin released by the California newt, on mosquito motility, morphology, and mortality. Furthermore, he has collected data for the USGS stream surveys, and he is one of the student leaders of the lab.
Research Projects: Reclaimed Water & Tadpole Behavior
Max is a senior biology and history dual major with research interests in behavioral ecology, population genetics, genomics, phylogeography, and speciation. Max has been a member of Dr. Kats' lab for almost five years now helping on multiple projects and runs the animal care on campus for the laboratory. In addition he has been involved with the laboratory’s USGS work during the summers.
Jack is a senior biology major and is primarily interested in the effects of urbanization and invasive species on native species’ behavior and how this affects conservation practices. He has specifically researched how water quality affects the predator evasion capabilities of the Pacific tree frog’s tadpoles. He has been involved in the laboratory’s USGS partnership and hopes to continue his work in conservation biology upon graduation.
Research Projects: Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis)
Analise is a senior biology major with a minor in Hispanic Studies and Sustainability and is interested in the effects of environmental changes on native and invasive species' interactions. She has done research analyzing how chemical cues from invasive mosquitofish and native Hyre frogs influence crayfish aggression. She is also interested in environmental policy and will be attending Pepperdine's School of Public Policy in the fall.
Research Projects: Invasive Crayfish & Fish
Nolan is a senior biology major whose primary interests are environmental stressors in the Santa Monica Mountains and the effect of steam geomorphology on stream inhabitants. He has been involved in the lab since his freshman year and is currently conducting research on steam geomorphology and the impacts of wildfires in the streams. In summer 2022 he co-lead the USGS partnership, and this summer he will help in a nature reserve with the lab.
Research Projects: Wildfire & Biodiversity
Conor is a senior biology major and is currently working in Dr. Kats’ behavioral ecology laboratory on a year-long project with his partner Nolan Gentile. Conor’s research interests surround geomorphology of streams in riparian ecosystems, the effects of wildfire, and biodiversity. These three interests combine in the study of the effects of wildfire on the geomorphology of streams in riparian ecosystems in the Santa Monica Mountains, and how this could affect the faunal biodiversity in surrounding stream habitats.
Research Projects: Wildfire & Biodiversity
Merry is a freshman biology major who is interested in zoology as well as environmental journalism. She is a new member of the lab, but is excited to be working with the USGS partnership this upcoming summer. She has a special interest in amphibian conservation, and hopes to continue to pursue that passion in the future.
Recent Research Laboratory Student Graduates
Dani graduated with a BS in Biology in December 2021. As an NSF Student-As-Scholar Fellow, she studied the impacts of melanized spots on invasive crayfish feeding behavior. Throughout her undergraduate career, Dani was committed to both conservation and outreach, presenting at research symposiums including the Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research and the Seaver College Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium.
Elyse graduated with a BA in Biology in December 2021. She completed an honors thesis on the emergence of widespread disease symptoms in a local population of California newts. As an NSF Student-As-Scholar Fellow, Elyse studied the impacts of chemical cues on invasive crayfish aggression. She worked collaboratively with the USGS, serving as a fieldworker and survey coordinator. Elyse presented her research findings at the NPS and Partners Annual Stream Team Meeting and the Seaver College Research and Scholarly Achievement Symposium.