Dr. Michael H. Young

Michael Young has over 35 years of professional experience, from academic research to Federal (regulatory) to private industry, in the general areas of environmental geosciences, hydrology, and soil sciences/physics. He has significant field, laboratory and numerical modeling experience that, taken together, provides a more comprehensive assessment of the processes affecting our environment. From 2010-2020, he was the associate director for environmental research at BEG, coordinating research across the Environment Division. Previously, he worked at the Desert Research Institute (DRI), Nevada, where he served as Acting Executive Director of the Division of Hydrologic Sciences and as Research Professor. He also has broad experience in teaching, student advising, and mentorship. His personal research directions are in vadose zone hydrology, soil science and ecohydrology. Michael has published extensively in the fields of water resources and soil science and is a former Editor for Vadose Zone Journal, a leading publication in unsaturated zone processes. Michael also sits on the Graduate Studies Committee in the Jackson School of Geosciences at UT Austin. He was recently elected as Fellow of the Geological Society of America and Soil Science Society of America.

Researcher ID


Research Interests

Water/energy nexus

Soil/water/plant interactions and solute transport in arid vadose zones

Groundwater recharge

Connections between water resources, landscape development, and human interactions


Ph.D., Soil and Water Science (Soil Physics/Hydrology), Univ. of Ariz., Tucson, AZ, 1995

M.S., Geological Sciences (Hydrogeology), Ohio University, Athens, OH, 1986

B.A., Geology (cum laude with honors), Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY, 1983

Professional History

Senior Research Scientist, 2010 – present and Associate Director for Environmental Research (2010 – 2020), Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, Univ. of Texas at Austin, TX

Acting Executive Director-Division of Hydrologic Sciences, 2008-2010-Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV

Assistant/Associate/Research Professor—Division of Hydrologic Sciences, 2000-2010, Desert Research Institute, Las Vegas, NV

Senior Research Scientist-School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 1998-2000-Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA

Assistant Research Scientist-Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, 1996-1998-University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Research Specialist (Senior)-Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science, 1990-1996-University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

Hydrogeologist/Field Ops. Leader, 1988-1990-C.C. Johnson & Malhotra, Silver Spring, MD

Hydrogeologist/Project Manager—Division of Waste Management, 1986-1988-U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Comm., Wash., DC

Selected Publications Since 2012

Hopmans, J.W., T.R. Green, M.H. Young. 2022. Western USA Multistate Research Project on “Water Movement in Soils” – A Retrospective. Vadose Zone J. doi:10.1002/vzj2.20245

Rueda, V., M.H. Young, K. Faust, A.M. Rateb, B.D. Leibowicz. 2022. System Dynamics Modeling in Local Water Management: Assessing Strategies for the City of Boerne, Texas. Water. 14, 3682. doi:10.3390/w14223682.

Vereecken, H., W. Amelung, S.L. Bauke, … M.H. Young, J. Vanderborght, and Y. Zhang. 2022. Soil hydrology in the Earth’s system. Nat Rev Earth Environ 3, 573–587. doi:10.1038/s43017-022-00324-6.

Burnham, B.S., P.P. Flaig, B.R. Rea, M. Spagnolo, M.H. Young. 2022. Catastrophic thermokarst lake drainage and rapid deposition may limit carbon release. GSA Today (Groundwork). v. 32. doi:10.1130/GSATG529GW.1.

Arciniega-Esparza, S., A. Hernández-Espriú, M.H. Young. 2022. Implications of unconventional oil and gas development on groundwater resources. Current Opinion in Environ Science & Health. v. 27. doi:10.1016/j.coesh.2022.100346.

Acevedo, J.P., C.R. Lemons, G. McDaid, M.H. Young, B.R. Scanlon. 2022. Analysis of Wastewater Injection and Prospect Regions for Induced Seismicity in the Texas Panhandle, USA. AAPG/DEG Environmental Geosciences. doi:10.1306/eg.01072120005.

Gearon, J.H. and M.H. Young. 2021. Geomorphic Controls on Shrub Canopy Volume and Spacing of Creosote Bush in Northern Mojave Desert, USA. Landscape Ecol. doi:10.1007/s10980-020-01149-8.

Thompson, J., M.H. Young, R. Kreitler. 2021. Reply to comment received from Robert E. Mace, published in the Texas Water Journal (2021) 12(1):202-205, regarding “Exploring Groundwater Recoverability in Texas: Maximum Economically Recoverable Storage. Texas Water Journal. Vol. 12, n. 1. doi:10.21423/twj.v12i1.7140.

Thompson, J., R. Kreitler, M.H. Young. 2020. Exploring Groundwater Recoverability in Texas: Maximum Economically Recoverable Storage. Texas Water Journal. Vol 11, n. 1. 152-171.

Smith, F.S., J.P. Pierre, M.H. Young, D.A. Devitt. 2020. Estimation of Future Native Seed Demand for Restoration of Oil and Gas-Energy Sprawl in West Texas, USA. Ecol. Restor. 385:4, pp. 237-245.

Arciniega-Esparza, S., A. Hernández-Espriú, J.A. Breña-Naranjo, M.H. Young, A. Pedrozo-Acuña. 2020. A Multivariate Outlier Detection Approach for Water Footprint Assessments in Shale Formations: Case Eagle Ford Play (Texas). Environ. Earth Sci. 79:454. doi:10.1007/s12665-020-09197-8.

Pierre, J.P. J. R. Andrews, M.H. Young, A.Y. Sun, B.D. Wolaver. 2020. Projected Landscape Impacts from Oil and Gas Development Scenarios in the Permian Basin, USA. Env. Mgmt. doi.org/10.1007/s00267-020-01308-2.

Devitt, D.A., M.H. Young, J.P. Pierre. 2020. Assessing the potential for greater solar development in West Texas, USA. Energy Strategy Review. Vol. 29. doi.org/10.1016/j.esr.2020.100490.

Abolt, C.J., M.H. Young. 2020. High-resolution mapping of spatial heterogeneity in ice wedge polygon geomorphology near Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Nature Sci. Data. v. 7, no. 87 doi.org/10.1038/s41597-020-0423-9.

Abolt, C.J., M.H. Young, A.L. Atchley, D.R. Harp, and E.T. Coon. 2020. Thawing ice wedges in the high Arctic stabilized by geomorphic feedbacks. J. Geophys Res: Earth Surface. 125, e2019JF005349. doi.org/10.1029/2019JF005349

Fatichi, S., D. Or, R. Walko, H. Vereecken, M.H. Young, T. Ghezzehei, T. Hengl, S. Kollet, N. Agam, R. Avissar. 2020. Soil Structure – An Important Omission in Earth System Models. Nature Communications. v.11, no 522. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14411-z

Hernández-Espriú, A., Wolaver, B. D., Arciniega-Esparza, S., Scanlon, B. R., Young, M. H., Nicot, J.-P., Macías-Medrano, S., and Breña-Naranjo, J. A., 2019, A screening approach to improve water management practices in undeveloped shale plays, with application to the transboundary Eagle Ford Formation in northeast Mexico: J. of Env Mgmt, v. 236, p. 146–162, doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.11.123.

Caldwell, T.G., T. Bongiovanni, M. Cosh, T. Jackson, A. Colliander, C.J. Abolt, T. Larson, B.R. Scanlon, M.H. Young. 2019.  The Texas Soil Observation Network: A comprehensive soil moisture dataset for remote sensing and land surface model validation. Vadose Zone. J. doi: 10.2136/vzj2019.04.0034.

Weintraub, S., A.N. Flores, W.R. Wieder, D. Sihi, C. Cagnarini, D.R.P. Gonçalves, M.H. Young, L. Li, Y. Olshansky, R. Baatz, P.L. Sullivan, P. M. Groffman. 2019.  Leveraging Environmental Research and Observation Networks to Advance Soil Carbon Science. J. Geophys. Res.: Biogeosciences. 124. doi.org/10.1029/2018JG00495.

Abolt, C.J., M.H. Young, A. Atchley, and C. Wilson. 2019. Rapid machine learning-based extraction and measurement of ice wedge polygons in airborne lidar data. The Cryosphere. doi.org/10.5194/tc-13-237-2019.

Abolt, C.J., M.H. Young, A. Atchley, and D. Harp. 2018. Microtopographic control on the ground thermal regime in ice wedge polygons. The Cryosphere. 12:1957–1968. doi.org/10.5194/tc-12-1957-2018.

Baatz, R, Sullivan, P.R., Li, L., Weintraub, S.R., Loescher H.W., Mirtl, M., Groffman, P.M., Young, M. H., and others, 2018, Steering operational synergies in terrestrial observation networks: opportunity for advancing Earth system dynamics modelling: Earth Surface Dynamics, 9:593-609, http://doi.org/10.5194/esd-9-593-2018.

Caldwell, T.G., M. Cosh, T. Bongiovanni, C. Halley, M.H. Young 2018. Field and Laboratory Evaluation of the CS655 Soil Water Content Sensor. Vadose Zone J. http://doi.org/10.2136/vzj2017.12.0214.

Arciniega-Esparza, S., J.A. Breña-Naranjo, A. Hernández-Espriú, A. Pedrozo-Acuña, B.R. Scanlon, J.-P. Nicot, M.H. Young, B.D. Wolaver. 2017. Baseflow recession analysis in a large shale play: climate variability and anthropogenic alterations mask effects of hydraulic fracturing. J. Hydro. 533:160-171. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2017.07.059.

Pierre, J.P., M.H. Young, B.D. Wolaver, J.R. Andrews, C.L. Breton. 2017. Time series analysis of energy production and associated landscape fragmentation in the Eagle Ford shale play. Env. Mgmt. 60:852-866. doi:10.1007/s00267-017-0925-1.

Young, M.H., J.H. Andrews, T.G. Caldwell, K. Saylam. 2017. Airborne Lidar and Aerial Imagery to Assess Potential Habitats for the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Rem. Sensing. 9:458. doi:10.3390/rs9050458.

Young, M.H., L.F. Fenstermaker, J. Belnap. 2017. Monitoring water content dynamics of biological soil crusts. J. Arid Env. 142:41-49. doi: 10.1016/j.jaridenv.2017.03.004.

Anderson, J.S., D.D. Romanak, C. Yang, J. Lu, S.D. Hovorka, M.H. Young. 2017. Gas source attribution techniques for assessing leakage at geologic CO2 storage sites: Evaluating a CO2 and CH4 soil gas anomaly at the Cranfield CO2-EOR site. Chem Geology 454:93-104. doi: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2017.02.024.

Abolt, C.J., M.H. Young. T.G. Caldwell. 2017. Numerical modeling of ice-wedge polygon geomorphic transition. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes. 28:347-355. doi: 10.1002/ppp.1909.

Vereecken H., A. Schnepf, J.W. Hopmans, M. Javaux, D. Or, T. Roose, J. Vanderborght, M.H. Young, et al. 2016. Modelling Soil Processes: Key challenges and new perspectives. Vadose Zone J. 15:5, doi:10.2136/vzj2015.09.0131.

Kelleners, T.J., J. Koonce, R. Shillito, J. Dijkema, M. Berli, M.H. Young, J.M. Frank, W.J. Massman. 2016. Numerical modeling of coupled water flow and heat transport in soil and snow. Soil Sci Soc. Am. J. doi:10.2136/sssaj2015.07.0279.

Sueki, S., K. Acharya, J. Healey, R. Liebert, J. Huntington, R. Jasoni, M.H. Young. 2015. Defoliation Effect of Tamarisk Biocontrol agent, Diorhabda carinulata, on Evapotranspiration and Groundwater. Ecohydrology. doi: 10.1002/eco.1604.

Zhu, J., D. Sun, M.H. Young, T.G. Caldwell, F. Pan. 2015. Shrub Spatial Organization and Partitioning of Evaporation and Transpiration in Arid Environments. Ecohydrology. doi: 10.1002/eco.1576. 

Skaggs, T., M.H. Young, J. Vrugt. 2015. Reproducible research in vadose zone sciences. Vadose Zone J. doi:10.2136/vzj2015.06.0088.

Chen, L., L. Xiang, M.H. Young, J. Yin, Z. Yu, M.Th. van Genuchten. 2015. Optimal Parameters for the Green-Ampt Infiltration Model under Rainfall Condition. J. Hydrol. Hydromech. 63:93-101, doi: 10.1515/johh-2015-0012.

Karagunduz, A., M.H. Young., K.D. Pennell. 2015. Influence of Surfactants on Unsaturated Flow and Solute Transport. Water Resour. Res. 51:1977-1988. doi: 10.1002/2014WR015845

Pierre, J.P., C.J. Abolt, M.H. Young. 2015. Impacts from above-ground activities in the Eagle Ford Shale play on landscapes and hydrologic flows, La Salle County, Texas. Env. Mgmt. 55:1262-1275. doi: 10.1007/s00267-015-0492-2. 

Meyer, N.A., D.O. Breecker, M.H. Young, M.E. Litvak. 2014. Simulating the Role of Vegetation in Formation of Pedogenic Carbonate. Soil Sci Soc. Am. J. doi:10.2136/sssaj2013.08.0326.

Wolaver, B.D., C.E. Cook, D.L. Sunding, S.F. Hamilton, B.R. Scanlon, M.H. Young, X. Xu, R.C. Reedy. 2014. Potential Economic Impacts of Environmental Flows for Central Texas Freshwater Mussels. J. Am Water Res. Assoc. doi: 10.1111/jawr.12171.

Young, M.H., R. L. Green, M. McCullough, D.A. Devitt, L. Wright, B. Vanderford, S.A. Snyder. 2014. 
Field-Scale Monitoring of Pharmaceutical Compounds Applied to Active Golf Courses by Recycled Water. J. Environ. Qual. 43:658–670. doi:10.2134/jeq2013.07.0299.

Yang, C., S.D. Hovorka, M.H. Young, R. Trevino. 2014. Geochemical sensitivity to CO2 leakage: Detection in potable aquifers at carbon sequestration sites. Greenhouse Gases: Science and Technology. 4:1-16. DOI: 10.1002/ghg.1406.

Vrugt, J.A., D. Or, M.H. Young. 2013. Vadose Zone Journal: The First Ten Years. Vadose Zone J. doi:10.2136/vzj2013.10.0186.

Scanlon, B.R., R.C. Reedy, I.J. Duncan, W. F. Mullican, M.H. Young. 2013. Controls and Trends in the Water Footprint of Thermoelectric Generation: Case Study Texas, U.S. Env. Sci. and Tech. doi: 10.1021/es4029183.

Devitt, D.A., L. Wright and M. H. Young. 2013. Water and salt balances of turfgrass and bare soil irrigated with recycled water in an arid environment. Agron. J. 105:1051–1060. doi:10.2134/agronj2012.0126.

Zhang, Y., C. Papelis, M.H. Young, M. Berli. 2013. Challenges in the application of fractional-derivative models in capturing solute transport in porous media: Darcy-scale fractional dispersion and the influence of medium properties. Math Prob. in Engin. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/878097.

Caldwell, T.G., T. Wohling, M.H. Young, D.P. Boyle. E.V. McDonald. 2013. Characterizing disturbed desert soils using multiobjective parameter optimization. Vadose Zone J. doi: 10.2136/vzj2012.0083.

Yu, Z. W. Dong, M.H. Young, Y. Li, T. Yang. 2013. On evaluating characteristics of solute transport in the arid vadose zone. Groundwater. doi: 10.1111/gwat.12026.
Caldwell, T.G., M.H. Young, E.V. McDonald, J. Zhu. 2012. Soil heterogeneity in arid shrublands: biotic and abiotic processes. Water Resour. Res. doi:10.1029/2012WR011963.

Chief, K., M.H. Young, D.S. Shafer. 2012. Low-intensity, fire-induced changes of soil structure and hydraulic properties in a woodland-rangeland ecosystem. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J. 76:1965–1977. doi:10.2136/sssaj2012.0072.

Wright, L., D.A. Devitt, M.H. Young, J. Gan, B. Vanderford, S.A. Snyder, M. McCullough, and L. Dodgen. 2012. Fate and transport of Thirteen pharmaceutical and personal care products in a controlled and irrigated turfgrass system. Agron. J. 104:1244-1254.

Current Services

Graduate Studies Committee, Jackson School of Geosciences, UT-Austin, 2010 – present

Graduate Studies Committee, Energy and Earth Resources Program, UT-Austin, 2014 – present

Consulting Editor, Vadose Zone Journal, 2016 – present

Co-Director, International Soil Modeling Consortium, 2016 – present

Member, Soil Systems and Critical Zone Processes, AGU, 2012 – present

Member, National Academies, Geoscience Briefing Consortium, 2015 – present

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