Curriculum vitae



PhD, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology                                                                           2016
University of Arizona                                                                                              Tucson, AZ

Dissertation: Interacting effects of predation and competition in the field and in theory
Advisor: Dr. Peter Chesson
Committee Members: Dr. Judith L. Bronstein, Dr. Katrina Dlugosch, Dr. Robert Steidl

BA (Honors), Biology, cum laude                                                                                      2007
Scripps College                                                                                                  Claremont, CA

Thesis: Catastrophes as causes of error in population viability analysis
Thesis advisor: Dr. Diane Thomson



Postdoctoral Associate                                                                                               2017-present
University of Colorado Boulder                                               Advisor: Dr. Steven K. Schmidt
·         Conducting microcosm experiments and fieldwork in Antarctica
·         Analyzing DNA and biogeochemical data
·         Mentoring undergraduates
·         Writing grants and peer-reviewed articles

Postdoctoral Associate                                                                                                     2016
Duke University                                                Advisor: Dr. Steven K. Schmidt (CU Boulder)
·         Conducted microcosm experiments and fieldwork in Antarctica
·         Mentored undergraduates
·         Analyzed DNA and biogeochemical data
·         Drafted grants and peer-reviewed articles



Graduate and Professional Student Council Research Grant                                      2015
Conducted stable isotope tests of C and N on seedlings from greenhouse experiments.

University of Arizona/NASA Space Grant Outreach Fellowship                    2012 – 2014
Piloted a residential K-12 science school (UA Science: Sky School) at an astronomical observatory in the mountains north of Tucson.

Galileo Circle Scholarship, University of Arizona’s College of Science                   2014
Recognition of academic excellence.

Graduate Service Award, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Dept.              2013 & 2014
Recognition of service for piloting UA Science: Sky School and the Robert Tindall Conservation Biology Internship.

Emerging Public Policy Leader, American Institute of Biological Sciences           2013
Honorable Mention

Western National Parks Association Research Grant                                                2012
Designed and conducted field research on an invasive grass in Saguaro National Park.

NSF G-K12 Fellowship (BioME)                                                                         2011-2012
Partnered with two seventh-grade teachers at low-income, high minority population junior high school for 15 hours/week.

Award in Desert Studies, Garden Club of America                                                   2011
Designed and conducted field research on invasive grass in the Sonoran Desert.

Science and Society Fellowship, Biosphere 2                                                           2010
Gave public lectures, started a blog, and designed and built an exhibit.



Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. In review. Effects of predator avoidance behavior
on the coexistence of competing prey.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. In prep. Grass invasion limits recruitment of
native perennials primarily through resource competition.

Sommers, Pacifica, John L. Darcy, Eli Gendron, Lee Stanish, Dorota Porazinska, Steven K.
Schmidt. 2018. Diversity patterns of microbial eukaryotes mirror those of bacteria in Antarctic cryoconite holes. FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 94(1): fix167.

Schmidt, S.K., Darcy, J.L., Sommers, P., Gunawan, E., Knelman, J.E. and Yager, K., 2017.
Freeze–thaw revival of rotifers and algae in a desiccated, high-elevation (5500 meters) microbial mat, high Andes, Perú. Extremophiles, 21(3): 573-580.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. 2016. Caching rodents disproportionately
disperse seeds near invasive grass. Ecosphere. 7(12): 1-12

Franklin, K.A., Sommers, P.N., Aslan, C.E., López, B.R., Bronstein, J.L., Bustamante, E.,
Búrquez, A., Medellín, R.A. and Marazzi, B., 2016. Plant biotic interactions in the Sonoran Desert: current knowledge and future research perspectives. International Journal of Plant Sciences, 177(3): 217-234.

Marazzi, B., Bronstein, J.L., Sommers, P.N., López, B.R., Ortega, E.B., Búrquez, A., Medellín, R.A., Aslan, C. and Franklin, K., 2015. Plant biotic interactions in the Sonoran Desert: conservation challenges and future directions. Journal of the Southwest, 57(2): 457-501.



Sommers, Pacifica, John L. Darcy, Eli Gendron, Lee Stanish, Dorota Porazinska, Steven K.
Schmidt. Microbial community composition of Antarctic cyroconite holes is more variable for larger organisms. Contributed oral presentation accepted for presentation at the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research Biology Symposium, Leuven, Belgium, July 2017.

Sommers, Pacifica. My body as a glacier? What Antarctica can teach us about our bodies
as ecosystems. Women in Science and Engineering’s SciComm Symposium, April 2017.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Caching rodents disproportionately disperse
seeds near invasive grass. Contributed oral presentation given at ESA Annual Meeting, August 2016.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Buffelgrass excludes native plants through
resource competition rather than allelopathy or intensifying consumption by animals. Talk given at the Society for Ecological Restoration’s Southwest Chapter Annual Meeting, November 2015.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Interspecific effects on establishment: How an
introduced grass might exclude a native tree without altering the fire cycle. Contributed oral presentation given at ESA Annual Meeting, August 2014.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Spatial variability in the mechanism by which an
invasive plant affects native seedlings. Contributed poster given at ESA Annual Meeting, August 2013.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) potentially
inhibits recruitment of suite of Sonoran perennials. Contributed poster given at ESA Annual Meeting, August 2012.

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Stage of invasion: how does buffelgrass affect
sensitive seedlings? Poster presented at University of Arizona’s Student Showcase, November 2011. Awarded 2nd place for Biological Sciences.

Sommers, Pacifica. Mechanism of buffelgrass’ impact on Sonoran Desert biodiversity.
Talk given at University of Arizona’s Environmental Gradblitz, November 2011. Awarded Honorable Mention (2nd place award for overall presentations).

Sommers, Pacifica, and Peter Chesson. Predator avoidance behavior increases apparent
competition. Contributed oral presentation given at ESA Annual Meeting, August 2011.

Thomson, Diane M. and Pacifica Sommers. The long and the short of population viability
analysis: how much data do we need to estimate extinction risk? Poster presented at Ecological Society of America Conference, August 2007.

Sommers, Pacifica, Louise Gava, Caitlin R. Kight, and John P. Swaddle. GIS
impervious land cover metrics predict fitness variation in a neotropical migrant, the house wren (Troglodytes aedon). Poster presented at Ecological Society of America Conference, August 2007.



Co-founder and Instructor                                                                                     2012-2015
UA Science: SkySchool
University of Arizona                     Collaborators: Dr. Benjamin Blonder, Dr. Alan Strauss
·           Overnight residential outdoor science school program for 5th-12th grades
·           Participants work with graduate students to conduct their own scientific research

Graduate Teaching Assistant                                                                                   2012, 2014
Ecology and Natural History of the Sonoran Desert and Upper Gulf of California
University of Arizona                                                         Lead instructor: Dr. Kevin Bonine
·          Three week residential field course
·          Included camping and international travel
·          Assisted with logistics, instruction, and assessment of students

NSF G-K12 Fellowship                                                                                              2011-2012
BioME: Biology from Molecules to Ecosystems
University of Arizona                                    PIs: Dr. Judith L. Bronstein, Dr. Kathleen Walker
·          Attended seminar course on pedagogy, curriculum standards, and logistics
·          Partnered with two seventh-grade teachers for 15 hours/week in classroom
·          Organized field trips to Saguaro National Park’s BioBlitz and to pull invasive grass
·          Served as chaperone on four-day trip to Catalina Island Marine Institute

Graduate Teaching Assistant                                                                                2009 – 2011 University of Arizona                Head Instructors: Mitch Pavao-Zuckerman, Kevin Bonine
·          Led two lab sections (including field trips), gave guest lectures, and assisted with exam writing and grading for the following courses (one semester each):
–          Ecology (300 level, required for majors)
–          Environmental Biology (200 level, non-science majors)
–          Vertebrate Physiology (400 level, advanced students)
–          Conservation Biology (400/500 level, graduate and undergraduates)



Blogger                                                                                                               2010-present
·           Blog approximately once a month about biological diversity and its conservation at
·           Started and maintained blog for collaborative Antarctic research project at

Supervisor, Undergraduate research projects                                               2011-present
University of Arizona & University of Colorado Boulder
·          Supervised seven undergraduates in independent research related to my projects for credit or volunteer experience that they presented in a departmental forum or even published as a co-author (E. Gunawan in Schmidt et al. 2017)

Mentor, Tindall Conservation Biology Internship                                              2013-2015
University of Arizona
·          Recruited as the inaugural mentor to establish internship for undergraduates from underrepresented backgrounds with financial need to gain exposure to the field of conservation biology.
·          Helped department institutionalize selection of future mentors and mentees.

Certified Outing Leader                                                                                          2009-2015
Sierra Club’s Tucson Inspiring Connections Outdoors
·          Led several hikes per year for underprivileged youth.

Tent Manager, Tucson Festival of Book’s Science City                                                2015
University of Arizona
·         Managed a tent neighborhood for earth and life sciences outreach during the largest nonprofit book festival in the western United States.

Mentor, Arizona Assurance Scholarship                                                              2010-2015
·         Mentor first year undergraduates on a scholarship for low income and first generation college students.

Leader, Undergraduate Biology Research Program’s Ethics Retreat               2010, 2014
University of Arizona
·          Designed and led a workshop for undergraduates on environmental ethics for researchers.



Current member of professional societies
·         Ecological Society of America
·         American Society for Microbiology
·         International Society for Microbial Ecology
·         American Academy for the Advancement of Science

Co-coordinator, Boulder Pod of 500 Women Scientists                               2017-present
Boulder, CO
·          Assist in community coordination of emerging movement and organizations of and for female scientists who seek to increase diversity in STEM and increase data-driven public policy and discourse.

Emerging Leader Council Member, National Wildlife Federation                 2010-2014
·           Provided input on direction and priorities of NWF’s campaigns remotely.

Graduate Student Departmental Representative                                              2010-2011
University of Arizona
·           Represented graduate student interests to the faculty at faculty meetings
·           Organized weekly pizza lunch with visiting seminar speakers
·           Represented the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department to the Associated Graduate Students of the College of Science



Spanish (intermediate)
·          Studied abroad in Ecuador, spring 2006 with the School for International Training’s Ecology and Conservation Program
·          Participated in tri-national research forum Next Generation of Sonoran Desert Researchers 2013-2015, conducted half in English and half in Spanish

Portuguese (beginner)
·          Assisted with research in the Brazilian Amazon for three weeks in 2014 and three weeks in 2015, interacting with Portugese speakers in the field and town



Campaign Associate, Partnership Project                                                       2008 – 2009
Washington, D.C.                                                                               Supervisor: Mike Town
·           Assisted coordination of advocates and community organizers supporting climate change legislation through a joint campaign of ten national environmental organizations.

Legislative Intern, National Wildlife Federation                                                       2008
Washington, D.C.                                                                     Supervisor: Corry Westbrook
·          Assisted with advocacy of legislation to protect wildlife and its habitat

Biology Intern, Bureau of Land Management                                                          2007
Chicago Botanic Gardens Conservation and Management Internship Program
Caliente, NV                                                                                     Supervisor: Alicia Styles
·          Assisted writing NEPA documents, surveying range land quality, and other tasks