Santa Clara University

Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences

Virginia Matzek


Virginia Matzek

Assistant Professor

Office: Varsi Hall 217
Phone: (408) 551-6006

Ph.D., 2006, Stanford University

Go to Virginia Matzek's research lab webpage

Curriculum vitae

Teaching and Research Vision

Scientists like me, and undergraduate students like the ones I teach, have more in common than one might think. The job of both is to inquire-to seek answers to questions. The big difference is that the student tends to see inquiry as a process of looking up facts and ideas in books, while the scientist sees inquiry as a means to generate new facts and ideas. My research and teaching are animated by the desire to turn the student into a scientist. I hope that students in my courses come to see themselves as experimenters and analysts who can use data to find their own answers to novel questions.

My research examines the ecosystem service benefits to humans that may accrue from restoring natural ecosystems. My lab’s current main focus is in quantifying the amount of carbon sequestered by a 25-year effort to replant riparian vegetation on the floodplain of the Sacramento River. Understanding carbon sequestration in this system, and how it might be compensated monetarily in a carbon credit system, will permit landowners to make better decisions about the costs and benefits of converting flood-prone orchards and farms to native vegetation. We are also studying carbon and nitrogen cycling in this system to understand the time course of a return to ecosystem function during reforestation.  Another principal area of my lab group's research is in invasive species. Current and former projects include the functional ecology of plant invaders, prospects for non-herbicidal management of yellow starthistle, and ways to make scientific research on invasive species more useful and relevant to California managers. Undergraduates assist on these projects doing fieldwork, benchwork, and library research, and are encouraged to take on projects, present posters at conferences, and co-author articles for publication. SCU students who wish to get experience in environmental research should contact me to see if opportunities are available.

Courses Taught

Recent Publications

Underlined text indicates undergraduate co-author.

Matzek, V., Justin Covino, Jennifer L. Funk, and Martin Saunders. 2013. Closing the knowing-doing gap in invasive plant management: accessibility and interdisciplinarity of research results. Conservation Letters doi: 10.1111/conl.12042. Access this article here.

Matzek, V. 2012. Trait values, not trait plasticity, best explain invasive species’ performance in a changing environment. PLoSOne 7(10):e48821. Access this article here.

Kareiva, P., Ruckelshaus, M., Arkema, K., Geller, G., Girvetz, E., Goodrich, D., Nelson, E., Matzek, V., Pinsky, M., Reid, W., Saunders, M., Semmens, D., Tallis, H. 2012.  “Impacts of Climate Change on Ecosystem Services,” in Staudinger, M. et al. Biodiversity, Ecosystems, and Ecosystem Services: Technical Input to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. Cooperative Report to the 2013 National Climate Assessment. 296 pp.

Matzek, V. and Hill, S. 2012. Response of biomass and seedbanks of rangeland functional groups to mechanical control of yellow starthistle. Rangeland Ecology and Management 65:96-100.

Matzek, V. 2011. Superior performance and nutrient-use efficiency of invasive plants over non-invasive congeners in a resource-limited environment. Biological Invasions 13:3005-3014.

Matzek, V. 2010. A lesson in sustainability from Cuba. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8: 59