Evolutionary Ecologist Joins the Department

April 14, 2020

Bringing with her a fresh 'plant perspective' to a department with a deep knowledge of soil and geochemistry, Alicja Babst-Kostecka joins the Department of Environmental Science as an assistant professor.


Alicja Babst-Kostecka
Courtesy of Alicja Babst-Kostecka

*As of the publishing of this article, Babst-Kostecka resides Poland and will travel to the University of Arizona when it is safe and possible to do so.*

Babst-Kostecka wants to use her expertise in population genetics, evolutionary ecology and phenotyping to better understand plant adaptation in changing environmental conditions. She is especially interested in studying the microbes, soil and plants of polluted and contaminated areas like Superfund sites.

After several visits and many exciting scientific and personal discussions with people in the Department of Environmental Science, I am convinced that this is the best possible place for me to realize my professional goals and dreams. 

Learn more about our newest faculty member!

Tell us a bit about yourself

I was born in Cracow, one of the oldest and certainly most picturesque town in Poland.

I love activities that bring me closer to nature—hiking, climbing, ski touring, snorkeling and diving. Some of my adventures have been physically and technically challenging, which is something that I enjoy.

For about 10 years, I was part of a professional belly-dance group, which allowed me to live my love for music and dancing. I love travelling and am fascinated by remote places and the natural wonders they hide.


Alicja Babst-Kostecka joins the UArizona Department of Environmental Science
Alicja Babst-Kostecka

Can you describe your research and what you will be working on at the University of Arizona?

I synthesize expertise and techniques in population genetics, evolutionary ecology, and phenotyping to achieve an integral knowledge on plant adaptation to changing environmental conditions.

I am particularly interested in identifying mechanisms that facilitate heavy metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation at polluted sites. More recently, I have become increasingly interested in the soil microbiome in metalliferous landscapes, which had emerged as the missing puzzle piece in my analyses.

I look forward to integrating my “plant perspective” to the strong ongoing research on the soil microbiome and geochemistry in the department. This will open up exciting new research avenues.

I am equally excited to work closely with the Lowell Institute of Mineral Resources and the Center for Environmentally Sustainable Mining to promote the mission and vision of making University of Arizona an international leader in creating fundamental knowledge for sustainable mining.

For teaching, I will start in 2021, and my anticipated courses will focus on the reclamation and remediation of degraded lands.

What are you excited about coming to Tucson?

I’ve lived in Tucson for almost four years and I absolutely loved it! I am very much looking forward to have 286 sunny days a year and beautiful mountain ranges all around.

I am fascinated by the Sonoran Desert landscape, where one can not only admire its stunning beauty, but also experience and study the fascinating world of plants and animals that have adapted to harsh conditions in this arid environment. I look forward to learn more about the mechanisms that underlie these adaptations.

Regarding Arizonians, I like their friendly, relaxed, and authentic style. It is also enjoyable that many people in Tucson are related to the university. Almost everywhere you can find somebody to chat about interesting topics!

I am both grateful for this next career step and highly motivated to be my best self. I am looking forward to connecting with people in the department and working together towards all kinds of possible and impossible goals.

Alicja Babst-Kostecka


My Research Interests

  • Plant adaptation to changing environmental conditions
  • Metal tolerance and hyperaccumulation
  • Plant-soil interactions in metalliferous habitats
  • Phytoremediation and restoration of arid lands 


  • Ph.D in Biology (Genetics of Populations & Evolutionary Ecology), Institute of Botany Polish Academy of Sciences