... exploring the world through the lens of science, using interdisciplinary programs
to increase awareness and action, and inspiring the public and scientists
to engage more comprehensively.


Meet the People Making QuestX Happen...


Sarah Abboud [University of California, Northeastern Univ., Univ. of Richmond]

My involvement in outreach began at University of Richmond, where I completed the Secondary Teacher Licensure Program and got involved in teaching under-represented students, while I cultivated my research skills studying coral diversity. I studied serpulids in coral reefs through Northeastern University [MS] and now study jellyfish genetic diversity at UC Merced [PhD], while teaching and conducting education research. Engaging students in their education is important and I value helping students develop pride in their work. In 2014-2015, I created a program called Enlightened Perspectives. I'm dedicated to education, research, and assessment. A good educator uses research as a tool to prepare for the classroom and brings research into the classroom to reinforce critical thinking and engage students. I am excited to bring my perspective as a teacher and scientist to QuestX.


Gary Abel~ Physics & Stunt Specialist [University of California]

I am a molecular microscopist in the Tao Ye Surface Chemistry Group at UC Merced. I use a specialized toolbox with a set of very tiny tools to study and manipulate single DNA molecules, in hopes of unlocking the secrets of life (or maybe just discovering something cool). I joined QuestX because I see it as a great opportunity to share the amazingness that is Science, and maybe inspire a new scientist or two. When I’m not playing with DNA, I also enjoy creating music and art, going on spontaneous adventures, and getting lost in the woods with my dog.


Morgan Barnes~ Dr. Dirt [University of California]

I'm a soil scientist working on my PhD at the University of California, Merced. I enjoy asking questions, playing around in the dirt, and running experiments in the lab to uncover the answer. My current focus, specifically, is researching the role soil has in providing important nutrients to support overall ecosystem health. I have many years of experience in education and outreach, with an emphasis on outdoor education for all ages. 

Shawn Behling~Resident Mermaid [University of Washington]

My area of research is plant physiology; I am a PhD student in the Canopy Dynamics Dynamics Lab at the University of Washington. I have taught botany field courses in the Amazon, studied peanut agriculture in Mozambique, and forests in the Catskills, Olympics, Shenandoahs, and Adirondacks. When I'm not sciencing I'm painting or scuba diving in Puget Sound.


Sarah Brown [University of California, CalPoly]

I am a post-doctoral researcher at UC Merced where I use both modern and ancient DNA from small mammals to determine how populations change and react in response to past climate change. I have been fascinated by the natural world since I was young, and this prompted me to obtain a B.S. in Wildlife Biology (UC Davis), a M.S. in Biology (Cal Poly SLO), and a Ph.D in Genetics (UC Davis). My past research has included landscape genetics of California black bears, conservation genetics of salt marsh harvest mice, and the origins of dog domestication. I am excited to be a part of QuestX, so that I can help by sharing my enthusiasm for science and research!


Joe Crockett~ TaskMaster General [University of California, CalPoly]

Before beginning my quest to earn a master’s degree at UC Merced, I developed a somewhat varied range of skills. I studied economics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, taught aquaculture, business, and HIV/AIDS awareness in rural Zambia, and eventually ended up at teaching ecology at an outdoor school in Big Bear, CA.  While there, I saw the joy of students experiencing a forest ecosystem for, some at least, the first time in their lives.  As most of my life has been spent outdoors, I underestimated the power that natural environments can have on those who grow up surrounded by concrete.  That’s why I joined Quest: to encourage the joy of ecology in those who may not have as much access to the forests, mountains, and oceans, as I did.


Danaan DeNeve [University of California, University of Washington]

I'm an evolutionary ecologist, which basically means I love studying natural systems and exploring how they got the way they are. Right now I am a PhD student at UC Merced studying carnivore responses to environmental changes. I did my undergrad at University of Washington, where I degreed in ecology/evolution and anthropology. As an ecologist, I love being outside. As a teacher, I love sharing my passion for learning and exploration, and encouraging others to discover the things that inspire them. My mum and I wanted to develop another facet of QuestX, the QuestX documentary series; providing a resource&outlet for science and nature learning that is accessible to everyone and an engaging means of connecting scientists and the general public .


Asa Gardner~ Sous Chef [University of California]

Hello, my name is Asa Gardner. I am a PhD student, studying Cancer Biology at UC Merced. I completed my undergraduate degree in Physiology & Neuroscience from the UC San Diego and completed 3 years of graduate school at The Ohio State University studying the molecular mechanisms of drug addiction and Alzheimer’s disease. My passion is neuroscience and teaching it to other people. I hope to contribute a biomedical perspective to QuestX. I am very involved in teaching and curriculum development and plan to continue it in my goal of being a college professor.

  Jorge Montiel~ Lord of the Vernal Pools[University of California]

Eli Perez-Coronel [University of California]

I am agraduate student at UC Merced. I grew up in Mexico City and recently moved to the U.S.. My research focuses on understanding the effects of climate change on microbial produced greenhouse gas emissions. I am currently studying methane production and consumption in high altitude lakes in the Sierra Nevada. In my spare time I like to read, swim and visit new places.I believe education is the key to making the world a better place and am excited of being part of Quest and sharing my scientific research with the general public.


Jesse Wilson [University of California, CalState]

I graduated from Cal State Channel Islands in 2007 with a degree in Environmental Science and worked various field ecology jobs: tagging bats and surveying small mammals and birds in New England, and sampling Sockeye Salmon in Alaska. I got interested in how small things can have a big impact and when I started graduate school at UC Merced in Environmental Systems decided to focus on how marine microorganisms engineer their surroundings through their metabolisms. My research has recently taken me to Palau studying to what degree microbes are responsible for the conditions found in the many marine lakes there.