The Lab will be taking new graduate students in the fall of 2022. Please see application information, below.  

Application Process from Dr. Young

Applying to the lab

If you are interested in wildlife loss, ecosystem function, and interacting drivers of global change then our lab might be for you. Before applying to the lab please first read some of our recent lab papers and look at some of the projects.

If the work coming out of our lab is interesting to you please contact me with a statement of your interests, a copy of your CV (GPA scores and GRE scores are helpful but not required), and contact information for at least two references. If you have a written sample of your science writing (a paper you have drafted or co-drafted, or a GRFP application) please send that along too. Tell me why you think our lab is the right fit for you and how it relates to previous research you have been involved in.  On that note, I typically expect applicants to our lab to have been meaningfully engaged in ecological research prior to applying, with a strong preference to students who have seen research through from idea generation to analysis and manuscript preparation. However, our laboratory is strongly committed to fostering diversity and recognize that some students may not have had the opportunity to engage in such activities. If you come from a diverse or underserved background or are first generation student or have any other extenuating circumstances, please highlight this to me in your initial contact and certainly let me know about any challenges you have experienced in gaining research experience or otherwise.  Don’t be frightened about applying just because you don’t have perfect scores or GPA – I value your ideas and your research experience (and especially evidence of your experience through publications and recommendations) much more than your ‘numbers’ which I view only as a very imperfect proxy for your scientific potential.

Laboratory expectations and mentoring style

Our lab is intellectually very diverse, and we have students working in many different ecosystems and parts of the world, although much of my current work and funding is focused in California (oak woodland and high Sierra ecosystems) and in Pacific atoll ecosystems. I usually encourage new students to work on an ongoing project in the lab for their first year (and many students join a field team the summer prior to matriculating). This research often becomes a first paper.  During the first two years students are expected to develop their own questions and study design on questions related to laboratory interests but these projects are always independent and self-driven (you are not “given” a project). I believe this academic freedom is critical to your scientific development and I encourage you to develop completely novel projects. To that end, while it can be very helpful to work in one of our established systems where we have background data and (often) funding that is not required.

I expect to meet with early career students weekly (in addition to lab meetings) to help them develop their projects and plan their course of study. In later years I meet with students only as needed.  I see myself as most helpful in helping guide you on scientific question development, experimental design, critical thinking, writing, mentoring, work strategies, communication. I try not to micromanage my students or their data.

There is very little required coursework at UCSB EEMB graduate program.  However, we ask all lab students to participate in 1-2 hours of lab meetings weekly I expect all my students to either have or gain a strong background in statistics and strongly encourage my students to obtain a concurrent Master’s in statistics at UCSB. All students in our lab are expected to have a field-based component to their research, but I also ask all students to have a more theoretical, analytical, statistical or integrative component to their research as well.

Lastly, we strongly value our sense of lab community and often collaborate. Our students have very different skill sets and expertise and find that we are strongest when we work as a group. We expect everyone joining the lab to be part of a supportive and collaborative lab community.


Students in my lab are supported in many ways – including individual fellowships, departmental support, TAships, and RAships (through my grants). The department works very hard to ensure that all students are supported throughout the tenure in the lab. That said, funding is often a limitation both to admitting students and to the types of work a student can do once admitted. I ask all eligible students applying to our lab to apply for an NSF GRFP; notably, students awarded a GRFP prior to admission will receive an additional year of university support. The application also is very helpful to me in understanding your ideas and interest. 


Students in our lab are encouraged to explore research driven careers in conservation as well as careers in academics. More and more research-based conservation positions at NGOs and government agencies require PhDs and I am equally happy to help and support you in either career path. That said, there are other programs that have stronger links to applied careers – including wildlife science and fisheries programs in particular. If you know you wish to go into an applied direction you may want to discuss this goal with me so you can understand strengths and weaknesses. Regardless of your career path producing strong publications are a critical asset and that will be a priority in my lab.

The Process

Please contact me with a statement of interest in the fall (see info above on what to send). I can usually very quickly tell you if you are likely to be a good fit for the lab and will encourage you to apply or not. In order to ensure opportunities for a diverse set of applicants, I do not do phone interviews until after all applications are received.