I am interested in the effects of contingency on plant community dynamics, particularly in the context of regeneration after disturbance.

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Research

Weather patterns and competition in post-fire regeneration

My dissertation focuses on how weather patterns shape regeneration and species’ interactions after disturbance. I study conifer seedlings in Sierra Nevada forests under experimentally manipulated weather and competition conditions. This experiment is being combined with a large observational dataset to simulate the effects of climate change on forest recovery after fires.

My field project in chaparral communities at McLaughlin Natural Reserve examines how post-fire weather affects diversity and succession on different soil types. These questions become increasingly urgent in the face of the recent California drought and climate change projections.

Elwha River restoration

I studied early successional patterns on the Elwha river after the largest dam removal project in the United States. Working with the National Park Service’s revegetation team, I found that revegetation communities were impacted by location and the timing of soil exposure, showing the importance of contingency in community assembly after disturbance.

Lasting priority effects in California grasslands

I led a UC Davis graduate student/post doc team to sample a grassland restoration experiment. We found evidence of long-term persistence of priority effects, particularly of native grasses which would otherwise be subordinate to perennial forbs.

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Publications

Werner, Chhaya M. Spatial and temporal contingency in rapid primary succession after dam removal on the Elwha River, Washington. In Revision.

Young, Truman P., Katharine L. Stuble, Jennifer A. Balachowski, Megan E. Lulow, Chhaya M. Werner, and Kristina Wolf. 2017. Experimental approaches to addressing climate change challenges in prairie restoration. Grasslands special issue: Climate change and grasslands 27(2) pp 10-15

Young, Truman P., Katharine L. Stuble, Jennifer A. Balachowski, and Chhaya M. Werner. 2017. Using priority effects to manipulate competitive relationships in restoration. Restoration Ecology. 

Werner, Chhaya M., Kurt J. Vaughn, Katharine L. Stuble, Kristina Wolf, and Truman P. Young. 2016. Persistent asymmetrical priority effects in a California grassland restoration experiment. Ecological Applications 26(6) pp 1624-1632.

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About

I am a fourth-year PhD student in the Population Biology program at UC Davis, studying plant community ecology.

My work combines experimental manipulations and computational analysis of landscape-scale data to identify the effects of initial conditions on plant communities, the persistence of these effects through time, and the impacts of projected climate change across the landscape.

This past year I co-led the field sections of Plant Community Ecology, writing and delivering in-stitu lectures, developing sampling exercises, and grading assignments and exams. I am co-advised by Truman Young and Susan Harrison. [CV]

Contact me: cwerner@ucdavis.edu

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News and Photos

Check out my latest research updates and photography on my blog