Alumnus Kyle Van Houtan Named Science Director at Monterey Bay Aquarium

February 10, 2016

DURHAM, N.C. – Nicholas School of the Environment PhD alum and adjunct associate professor Kyle Van Houtan has been named director of science at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Van Houtan is a conservation ecologist with expertise in marine biodiversity and global change.

In his new position, he will manage, coordinate, and strengthen the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s science programs and partnerships. These include conservation research focused on sea otters, great white sharks, Pacific bluefin tuna, and other iconic California Current species and ecosystems.

For the past six years, Van Houtan has led several initiatives in global change and protected species from the director’s office at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center in Hawaii. His research and teaching focus on multi-faceted approaches to marine biodiversity conservation, and his work spans a range of topics from animal behavior, foraging ecology and physiology, to fisheries stock assessments, climate change and ecosystem-based management.

His latest research paper uses bomb radiocarbon from Pacific nuclear tests to aid in the conservation of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles.

He has also spoken and written widely about issues of environmental policy and ethics.

Van Houtan earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia, a master of science from Stanford University and his Ph.D. from Duke University.

A passionate science and conservation communicator, his research has been featured on National Public Radio, in the New York Times, Nature, Science, National Geographic, WIRED and Smithsonian. He is also a recipient of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers from President Obama for his pioneering research into how climate influences sea turtle populations.

 “We are fortunate to have Kyle Van Houtan as our director of science,” said Margaret Spring, vice president of conservation and science, and chief conservation officer for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. “He brings new perspectives to our work on behalf of iconic ocean wildlife at a time when marine ecosystems face unprecedented challenges from climate change and ocean acidification.”