Dr. Paul Ustach

Paul Ustach
SCMA 231



About Dr. Paul Ustach

I am a Central Valley native; I grew up in Modesto, left California for my schooling, and now live in Stockton. If you take one of my biology courses, it is my goal for you to not only learn the main subject matter at hand, but also for you to gain an appreciation for the unique people and habitat that can be found in this region of California.


BS, University of California at Davis

MS, The University of Texas at Arlington 
Thesis title: Ontogenetic Change of Antipredator Behavior Over Metamorphosis in Ambystoma opacum.

PhD, Utah State University
Dissertation title: Patterns and Processes of Population Differentiation in the Chuckwalla (Sauromalus obesus) in Southern Nevada

While research is no longer my first priority, my research interests are broad and varied and can serve as an excellent means of involving students in the scientific process.  What little ties I still have to research stem from my dissertation.  Essentially, I studied a lizard that lives in the Mojave Desert called the Chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater =S. obesus).  This work involved ecological habitat modeling using a geographic information system (GIS), quantifying lizard behavior in the field, genetic characterization of populations by means of mitochondrial DNA analysis and morphological measurements, and recording recovery rates of depleted populations.  I am also a published scientific illustrator and that is presently my closest association to the world of research.  I still have friends who do research, and I like to lend my drawing abilities to the process.  Here's a drawing of a new species of viper from Africa that I drew for a friend from graduate school (pdf).

I spent my summer field seasons as an National Park Ranger.  I was stationed in Yosemite National Park from 2010 to 2016.

Additional Information:

Two things were important in my life growing up in the Central Valley: sports and nature.  These two categories provided me an education about the wonderful diversity of people and habitat unique to California’s Great Central Valley.  I grew up playing football and baseball with the grandchildren of Dust Bowl refugees.  I played soccer with the children of Mexican migrant workers and kids who escaped Laos and Vietnam with only their lives.  I looked for bird nests while picking peaches, clambered to observe snakes and small mammals fleeing flood irrigated orchards, swam and frogged in the canals, and made sure to avoid stinging nettles and the hobo camps in the river bottom forests when looking for snakes, alligator lizards, and birds of prey.

After graduating from U.C. Davis, I lived and worked in Washington, D. C. for a year at the Smithsonian; near Dallas, Texas for five years at the University of Texas at Arlington Natural History Collection; and rural Utah for seven years before settling down presently in Stockton.  In between these residences I have traveled across the United States and toured Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Guatemala by backpack.

It has always been my goal to return to California and establish a professional career dedicated to learning and teaching about it to others.  And that is exactly what I am doing now.

Office / TrAC / Department:
Science and Mathematics Division