Dr. Curtis Robert Young

Understanding how ecological and evolutionary processes create and maintain biodiversity, including ecological responses to human-mediated environmental change, is one of the most important and difficult problems facing the biological sciences. My research, broadly defined, seeks to do just that.

I have worked on a variety of systems, from marine organisms to large mammals. Recently, I have become interested in understanding microbial communities. The genomic revolution has opened many exciting avenues of research in the study of biodiversity, none more so than the study of the largest reservoir of genetic and metabolic diversity, the microbial biosphere. My research involves several areas of interest related to genomics and evolutionary biology. These areas of interest include eukaryotic speciation, intracellular symbiont evolution, and the application of metagenomics and metatranscriptomics to understand microbial ecological systems. I use a combination of laboratory and quantitative approaches to address these questions. My research includes:

  1. Empirical studies aimed at understanding larval dispersal and host-symbiont interactions in globally distributed hydrothermal vent taxa. This work has led to the study of how geological and ocean transport processes (i.e., extinction and recolonization and bathymetrically-driven deep ocean circulation) affect diversity in these environments.
  2. Developing statistical tools to answer ecological and evolutionary questions that arise in my empirical research.
  3. Developing ecological theory that identifies important biological processes (e.g., mating behavior) that might interact with policy decisions in the management of natural populations. This work has been applied to the Sealous Game Reserve in Tanzania.
  4. Understanding how marine microbial communities respond, both taxonomically and metabolically, to environmental conditions.

These foci require a multidisciplinary scientific approach that combines empirical, statistical and theoretical pursuits that bridge the fields of genetics, population biology, behavior, benthic ecology, microbiology, physical oceanography, and geology. My deep-sea field work has been conducted during 17 research cruises to explore seeps or hydrothermal vents and seeps in areas such as Monterey Bay, Juan de Fuca/Gorda Ridges, East Pacific Rise, Pacific-Antarctic Ridge, Fiji/Lau Basin, and the Central Indian Ridge. Many of these cruises were either on WHOI’s research vessel the R/V Atlantis (the mothership of the DSV Alvin), MBARI’s vessel, the R/V Western Flyer (the mothership of the ROV Tiburon) or the R/V Knorr / R/V Melville (using the ROV Jason). To see a few pictures of my travels, visit the 9N Alvin 2000 or Indian Ocean 2001 pages. A complete list of the research cruises that I have participated in can be found in my c.v..

  Degree/Position Institution
1998 B.S., Biology University of South Carolina
1998-2000 Research Technician University of South Carolina
2000 Research Technician MBARI
2006 Ph.D., Ecology and Evolution University of California, Santa Cruz
2006-2009 Postdoctoral Research Fellow Harvard University
2009-present Postdoctoral Research Associate MIT