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Zaya, David

Associate Scientist, Plant Ecologist

Address and Contact Information

900 W. Taylor St, Rm 1027
Chicago, IL 60607
UIC Campus Mail, IL  00002

Research Interests

Much of my work as a Plant Ecologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey focuses on plant communities across Illinois, how communities have changed over time, and factors associated with those changes. 

Additional research interests include

  • Rare plant species biology and conservation
  • Monarch butterfly interactions with milkweeds and nectar plants
  • Population genetics
  • Plant reproductive biology
  • Demography
  • Phenological shifts in plants with climate warming

Also, I'm interested in all things Celastrus (bittersweets, or staff vines).

Research Biography


PhD in Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago. Advised by Dr. Mary V. Ashley

BS in Biological Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago

Selected Publications

Molano-Flores B, Coons J, Zaya DN. 2021. Population Surveys and Viability Assessments for Coryphantha scheeri var. robustispina, a Federally Protected Cactus of the Sonoran Desert. Natural Areas Journal 41(3):213-217.

Mola JM, Richardson LL, Spyreas G, Zaya DN, Pearse IS. 2021. Long-term surveys support declines in early season forest plants used by bumblebees. Journal of Applied Ecology 58(7):1431-1441.

Zaya DN, Leicht-Young SA, Pavlovic NB, Ashley MV. 2021. Heterospecific pollination by an invasive congener threatens the native American bittersweet, Celastrus scandens. PLOS ONE 16 (3): e0248635.

Zinnen J, Spyreas G, Zaya DN, Matthews JW. 2021. Niche ecology in Floristic Quality Assessment: Are conservative species more specialized? Ecological Indicators 121: 107078.

Augspurger CK, Zaya DN (2020) Concordance of long-term shifts with climate warming vary among phenological events and herbaceous species. Ecological Monographs 90(4):e01421.

Janssen ED, Zaya DN, Yao LX, Molano-Flores B (2020) Assessment of seed germinability after prolonged seed storage for Synthyris bullii (Plantaginaceae), a rare endemic of the Midwestern USA. The American Midland Naturalist 183(1):116-129.

Molano-Flores B, Zaya DN, Baty J, Spyreas G (2019) An assessment of the vulnerability of Illinois’ rarest plant species to climate change. Castanea 84(2):115-127.

Annis J, Coons J, Zaya DN, Molano-Flores B (2019) Environmental influences on foliar anthocyanin production in Pinguicula planifolia (Lentibulariaceae). The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 146(4):269-277.

Pearse IS, Sofaer HR, Zaya DN, Spyreas G (2019) Non-native plants have greater impacts because of differing per-capita effects and nonlinear abundance-impact curves. Ecology Letters 22(8):1214-1220.

Kim ES, Zaya DN, Fant JB, Ashley MV (2019) Reproductive trade-offs maintain bract color polymorphism in Scarlet Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea). PLOS ONE 14(1):e0209176.

Primer SB, Molano-Flores B, Zaya DN, Helm C, Coons J (2018) Effect of habitat structure on reproduction and prey capture of a rare carnivorous plant, Pinguicula lutea.  Arthropod-Plant Interactions 12:671-683

Zaya DN, Leicht-Young SA, Pavlovic NB, Hetrea CS, Ashley MV (2017) Mislabeling of an invasive vine (Celastrus orbiculatus) as a native plant (C. scandens) in horticulture. Integrated Plant Science and Management 10:313-321

Koenig WD, Knops JHM, Pesendorfer MB, Zaya DN, Ashley MV (2017) Drivers of synchrony of acorn production in the valley oak (Quercus lobata) at two spatial scales. Ecology 98:3056-3062

Zaya DN, Pearse IS, Spyreas G (2017) Long-term trends in Midwestern milkweed abundances and their relevance to monarch butterfly declines. BioScience 67:343-356

Zaya DN, Molano-Flores B, Feist MA, Koontz JA, Coons J (2017) Assessing genetic diversity for the USA endemic carnivorous plant Pinguicula ionantha R.K. Godfrey (Lentibulariaceae). Conservation Genetics 18:171-180                                                                                                               

Zaya DN, Leicht-Young SA, Pavlovic NB, Feldheim KA, Ashley MV (2015) Genetic characterization of hybridization between native and invasive bittersweet vines (Celastrus spp.). Biological Invasions 17:2975-2988

Kim ES, Zaya DN, Fant JB, Ashley MV (2015) Genetic factors accelerate demographic decline in rare Asclepias species. Conservation Genetics 16(2):359-369

Ruffatto DM, Zaya DN, Molano-Flores B (2015) Reproductive success of the gynodioecious prairie species Lobelia spicata Lam. (Campanulaceae): female frequency, population demographics, and latitudinal patterns. International Journal of Plant Sciences 176:120-130

Grundel R, Frohnapple KJ, Zaya DN, Glowacki GA, Weiskerger C, Patterson TA, Pavlovic NB (2014) Geographic coincidence of abundance, richness, conservation value, and response to climate of U.S. landbirds. Ecological Applications 24:791-811

Zaya DN, Ashley MV (2012) Plant genetics for forensic applications. Pages 35–52 in Sucher NJ, Hennell JR, Carles MC, eds. Plant DNA Fingerprinting and Barcoding. New York, NY: Humana

Abraham ST, Zaya DN, Koenig WD, Ashley MV (2011) Interspecific and intraspecific pollination patterns of valley oak, Quercus lobata, in a mixed stand in coastal central California. International Journal of Plant Sciences 172:691-699

Weekley CW, Zaya DN, Menges ES, Faivre AE (2010) Multiple causes of seedling rarity in scrub plum, Prunus geniculata (Rosaceae), an endangered shrub of the Florida scrub. American Journal of Botany 97:144-155

Zaya DN, Howe HF (2009) The anomalous Kentucky coffeetree: megafaunal fruit sinking to extinction? Oecologia 161:221-226

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