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Meet Kai Zhu

Professional photo of ecologist Kai Zhu from the University of California Santa Cruz, a 2021 Early Career Fellow of ESAKai Zhu is an assistant professor of environmental studies at the University of California Santa Cruz. His research interests include global change ecology, ecological modeling and environmental data science. In 2021, Kai was named an Early Career Fellow of ESA.

Kai was elected a fellow based on work blending classical ecological theories with modern computational tools to study global issues like climate change. His recent projects include quantifying climate change impacts on forest geographic distribution and growth in North America, synthesizing a multi-factor global change experiment in California grassland, understanding soil fungi and tree mutualisms across geographical gradients in the United States, and detecting land surface phenology change in  the Northern Hemisphere. Kai is also dedicated to educational initiatives that promote a 21st-century data-capable workforce and STEM-literate citizenry to the field of ecology.

Kai has been an ESA member since 2011, in the Asian Ecology Section. To him, being part of ESA means not only learning cutting-edge science but being able to interact with world-renowned scholars, and both establishing collaborations and making friends at the Annual Meeting. Kai said, “As an Asian ecologist, I also enjoy ESA’s efforts to bring more diversity and inclusion to the field, where Asians and other people of color have been underrepresented in ecology.”

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