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Jessica Young

Jessica Young

Professor of Environment and Sustainability, Global Sustainability Director


Ph.D., Purdue University, Population Biology and Behavioral Ecology
B.A., University of California San Diego, Ecology, Behavior and Evolution


Dr. Young has worked in the field of conservation biology since the 1990s. Her research, along with others, resulted in the recognition of a new species, the Gunnison Sage-grouse, as well as documenting its imperiled habitat and status. During her career, she has supervised student research on a variety of projects and participated in local stakeholder working groups as well as advised the United Nations International Union for the Conservation of Nature specialist grouse group on global conservation issues. Her graduate students focus on a range of topics including: sustainable development and community empowerment abroad; human-wildlife conflict mitigation in a variety of species (e.g., black bears, leopard frogs, Gunnison Sage-grouse, mountain lions, grizzly bears, etc.); applied conservation for management agencies and nonprofits, environmental education, science communication, air and habitat monitoring, and climate action planning. Dr. Young is also the Master in Environmental Management program’s global coordinator and a member of the M.S. in Ecology faculty team.

Q&A With Professor Young

How did you discover Western?

I was a graduate student from Purdue University conducting field research on sage grouse when I noticed the campus and introduced myself to the biology faculty and students. Those students became my field assistants for the next five years, making great contributions to our understanding of the ecology and behavior of the Gunnison Sage-grouse.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

While there have been many including working with a team of Western students and scientists from across the United States to create the body of work leading to the recognition of the Gunnison Sage-grouse as a newly discovered species, helping establish the ENVS major, working at a national level on STEM leadership and reform, and serving the campus as a senior academic administrator for nine years; the most significant highlights have been the success of so many students who have touched my life through classes, research and projects. It is the students that brought me back to teach and mentor in the newly conceived Master in Environmental Management and Master’s in Ecology programs.

What most excites you about your field?

My field is applied ecology and sustainability where my students do projects that aid communities and wildlife create coexistence and increased resilience and sustainability. I cannot imagine a more important endeavor given the challenges of climate change, population growth and land conversion. Being part of solutions and projects that students do around the world excites and challenges me as a lifelong learner and faculty member. I have students working in the fields of human wildlife conflict in Kenya, California, Durango and Gunnison while others work in environmental communication, wildlife planning, air quality, sustainable business and nature inspired design. These solution-prone individuals are the future.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

Gunnison is both an intellectual capital, a natural resource mecca and a warm, caring community. I love being intellectually and physically challenged by a place that has a supportive nurturing community of interesting people. I also love that in less than 30 minutes from my home, I can feel solitude and wilderness surround me and ground me as a person.

Graduate Students Advised

2014-2016 Cohort

Cassidy Brush: The Collaboration Connection; A project connecting conservation communities in Costa Rica to Colorado. Community Sponsor: Debra Hamilton, Director of the Monteverde Institute, Costa Rica.

Tyler Grimes: The Nduru Sustainable Development: A partnership between Eco2librium and New Creations Self-Help Group, Kenya. Community Sponsor: Dr. Mark Lung, President Eco2librium

Dominique Naccarato: T4U: Transit Collective for the Upper Arkansas, Colorado. Community Sponsors: Wendell Pryor, Director of Economic Development, Chaffee County and County Commissioner Bob Christiansen

Ryan Wilbur Assessing Potential Bias in Black Bear Conflict Reporting; Community Sponsor: Stacy Lischka, Human Dimensions Researcher Colorado Parks and Wildlife

2015-2017 Cohort

Joe Acampora: Connecting the San Francisco Bay Area with its Wild Pumas : Courtney Coon, Wildlife Biologist, Felidae Conservation Fund. Please see his project video @ https://vimeo.com/213422358

Nell Jordan: Environmental Communications and Storytelling, Community Sponsor: Michelle Auerback. Please see her videos @ https://vimeo.com/user60398182

2016-2018 Cohort

Taylor Asao: Sustainable fisheries and marketing for social causes: Community Partner Loki and Local I’a. Sponsor Petra MacGowan.

Hedda Peterson: An analysis of the barriers and opportunities for impacting Southwestern Land Trust’s ability to implement climate-inclusive conservation. Community partner, Land Trust Alliance

Lance Kittel: Montevida Sustainability Center: using green building in environmental planning. Community partner, Cold Harbour.

Alison Yeates: Ranier Valley Nature Alliance: Urban Community Renewal and Engagement with an asset-based approach. Community Sponsor, Forterra.

Julie Russell: Peace Corps Master’s International student working in sustainable community development in Paraguay. Julie will be completing her MEM program abroad while serving in the Peace Corps.

2017-2019 Cohort

Aurora Flynn: Climate Resiliency: Enabling Transformation of the Human Social Infrastructure. Community Sponsor: Western’s Sustainability Action Committee.

Stephanie Lein: Particulate Matter Monitoring in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Community Sponsor Organization: JAJA, Inc. (Junte Ambiental Juvenil Arrecibo)

Ellen Ross: Solarize Gunnison County: A community solar group-purchase program. Community Sponsor: Solar Energy International.

Rachel Weakland: Building Bridges and empowering global leaders. Community Sponsor. BuildOn, Global Leaders, and Iracambi Rainforest Conservation.

Clarinda Wilson: Remote Identification Methods for Habitat of the Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens) in the Gunnison National Forest. Community Sponsor: US Forest Service, GMUG.

2018 – 2020 Cohort

Melissa Butynski: Corridors for Coexistence: Landscape Genetics as a Tool for Conservation in the Ewaso Ecosystem, Kenya. Community Sponsor associated with Yale Ph.D. Program.

Kelsie Dougherty: Large Landscape Conservation Initiative: Restoring Cross Boundary Wildlife Corridors Through Habitat Improvement and Community Engagement. Community Sponsor Organization: Northern Rockies Regional Office, National Parks Conservation Association.

Timon Keller: Global Forest Conservation & Restoration. Community Sponsor Organizations: Adventure Unlimited Ranches and and Iracambi, Atlantic Rainforest, Brazil

Will Tucker: Project Pickup. Community Sponsor Organization: Downtown Wichita Falls Development.

Pete Wampler: The Masai Regenerative Building Project. Community Sponsor: Regenerative Systems.

2019 – 2021 Cohort

Tim Albares (MEM) – Environmental education and environmental literacy in Nepal.

Chloe Beaupre (MEM) – Summer Recreational Trail Influence on Ungulates in the Gunnison Basin. Community Partner: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Courtney King (MS) – Snowcats and Snow-Adapted Cats: Examining Canada Lynx Prey Abundance and Habitat in Relation to Winter Recreation within the Gunnison National Forest. Community Partners: United States Forest Service and Vail Resorts.

Cassandra Mendoza (MS) – Reducing Human-Bear Conflicts: Researching Factors Influencing Past Conflicts and Creating a Gunnison City Conflict Management Plan. Community Sponsor Organization: Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Gillian Steininger (MEM) – Sister Cities: Connecting climate change action in Panama, Colorado and India. Community Sponsor: Mountain Resilience Corps

Graduate Courses

  • Science of Environmental Management
  • Integrated Skills in Environmental Management
  • Conservation Ecology, Building Bridges and Creating Corridors: A Costa Rica Field Course (Graduate and Undergraduate)
  • International Conservation Strategies
  • MEM Project Development,
  • MEM Project and Portfolio
  • Ecology MS Proposal Development
  • Ecology/Conservation Thesis Research.

Undergraduate Courses

  • Animal behavior
  • Biology of Food
  • Ecology
  • Field Biology
  • Galapagos and Ecuadorian Rainforest Explorations
  • Marine Biology in Baja California
  • Marine Mammal Behavior in Belize
  • Ornithology
  • Conservation Genetics
  • Environmental Biology
  • Science technology and the environment
  • Speciation
  • Wildlife Biology

Selected Publications and Published Reviews

  • Young, J. R. Animal Behavior Wildlife Techniques Manual Volume 1, 8th Edition 2020. Nova Silvey Editor  Chapter 23, 8th ed.  The Wildlife Society, Bethesda MD.
  • Schroeder, Michael A., Sara Oyler McCance, Cameron Aldridge, Jessica R. Young and Clait E. Braun. Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Birds of North America revision, in prep 2021.
  • K.M. Langin, C.L. Aldridge, J.A. Fike, R.S. Cornman, K.M. Martin, G.T. Wann, A.E. Seglund, M.A. Schroeder, D.P. Benson, B.C. Fedy, J.R. Young, S.D. Wilson, C.E. Braun, and S.J. Oyler-McCance. (2018). Characterizing range-wide population divergence in an alpine-endemic bird: a comparison of genetic and genomic approaches. Conservation Genetics, 19(6), 1471-1485.
  • Wilbur, R. C., Young, J. R., Lischka, S. A., & Johnson, H. E. (2018). Experience, attitudes, and demographic factors influence the probability of reporting human–black bear interactions. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 42(1), 22–31. https://doi-org.ezproxy.western.edu/10.1002/wsb.854
  • Young, Jessica R., Clait E. Braun, Sara J. Oyler-McCance, Cameron L. Aldridge, Patrick A. Magee and Michael A. Schroeder. (2015). Gunnison Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus minimus), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/gusgro DOI: doi:10.2173/bna.721
  • Braun, Clait E., Oyler-McCance, Sara J., Nehring, Jennifer A., Commons, Michelle L., Young, Jessica R., and Potter, Kim M., 2014, The historical distribution of Gunnison Sage-Grouse in Colorado: Wilson Journal of Ornithology, v. 126, iss. 2, p. 207-217.
  • Young, J. R. 2012. Animal Behavior: In “Research and Management Techniques for Wildlife and Habitat” Ed. Nova Silvey 7th ed. The Wildlife Society, Bethesda MD.
  • Fedy B.C., Martin K., Ritland, C., and J. R. Young. 2008. Genetic and ecological data provide incongruent interpretations of population structure and dispersal in naturally subdivided populations of white-tailed ptarmigan (Lagopus leucur). Molecular Ecology.
  • Young, J. R. 2007. Blue Grouse: Their Biology and Natural History. Canadian Field Naturalist 121(1):101. Book Review
  • Taylor, S. A. and J. R. Young. 2006. A comparative behavioral study of three greater sage-grouse populations. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology. 118(1):36-41.
  • Martin K. M., G. A. Brown, and J. R. Young. 2004. The Historic and Current Distribution of the Vancouver Island White-Tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucurus saxatilis). Journal of Field Ornithology. 75(3):239-256.
  • Young, J. R., Braun, C. E., Oyler-McCance, S. J., Hupp, J. W. and T. W. Quinn. 2000. A new species of Sage-Grouse from Southwestern Colorado. Wilson Bulletin 112(4):445-453.
  • Schroeder, Michael A., Jessica R. Young and Clait E. Braun. (1999). Greater Sage-Grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America: https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/saggro DOI: 10.2173/bna.425
  • Young, J. R. 1999. An Ecology Study Guide. Ecology 80(7):2452-2453. (Book review)
  • Kahn, N. W., C. Braun, J. R. Young, S. Wood, D. Mata, and T. W. Quinn. 1999. Molecular analysis of genetic variation among large- and small-bodied Sage Grouse using mitochondrial control-region sequences. Auk 116:819–824.
  • Howard, R. D. and J. R. Young. 1998. Individual variation in male vocal traits and female mating preferences in Bufo americanus. Anim Behav. 55:1165-1179.
  • Young, J. R. 1997. Proceedings of the 6th International Grouse Symposium. Quarterly Review of Biology, 72(3):342.
  • Young, J. R. 1995. Reproductive Behavior in Arena Birds. Ecology 76(4):1363. (Book Review)
  • Braun, C. E., Martin, K., Remington, T. E. & Young, J. R. 1994. North American Grouse: issues and strategies for the 21st century. Trans. N. A. Wildl. and Nat. Resour. Conf. 59:428-438.
  • Young, J. R., J. W. Hupp, J. W. Bradbury, and C. E. Braun. 1994 Phenotypic divergence of secondary sexual traits among sage grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus, populations: Animal Behaviour 47(6) 1353-1362.

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