Derek D. Houston, Ph.D.


Thornton Chair in Biology

B.S., Brigham Young University, Zoology, 1999 (Chemistry and Conservation Biology minors)
M.S., Brigham Young University, Zoology, 2002
Ph.D., University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Biology, 2009
Office Location
Hurst Hall 143B


How did you discover Western?

I discovered Western when I saw a job advertisement for a faculty position in biology. The more I looked into it, the more I realized that Western was the type of place I wanted to be, and I submitted an application. It's the kind of place I had described to friends as the ideal place to end up when I was in graduate school.

What are some of the highlights of your career?

I have published several papers in peer-reviewed journals, and each one has felt like a major achievement, but I am particularly proud of my conservation genetics work on western North American freshwater fishes. The biological research that I have engaged in has allowed me to conduct extensive fieldwork in several western states, British Columbia and Baja California. Each of these excursions has impacted my life for the better. I have worked with and befriended people from all walks of life at each stage of my career and consider myself to be very fortunate for having been able to do so.

What most excites you about your field?

Rapidly advancing DNA sequencing technologies have revolutionized virtually all biological disciplines, but especially the fields of evolutionary biology and phylogeography. Researchers can now test hypotheses about how organisms have adapted to their environments or attained their current ranges that were unthinkable even just a few years ago. While it can be challenging to stay up-to-date on the most recent laboratory techniques and analytical methods, there are countless opportunities to continue learning about the natural world, and I find that to be exhilarating.

What is your favorite thing about the Gunnison Valley?

The landscape is absolutely beautiful and is well-suited to many of my hobbies, including camping, hiking, fly-fishing and mountain biking. The people at Western (particularly those in the NES department) are fantastic colleagues, and Western students are a lot of fun to interact with.