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Megan Young

Research Hydrologist

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Short Biography

Megan Young specializes in isotope biogeochemistry research as a member of Carol Kendall’s Isotope Tracers Project at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California.  She also manages the Menlo Park Tritium Laboratory, providing tritium analysis for groundwater age dating within the USGS.  Megan received her Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Puget Sound, Washington, and her Ph.D. in Geological & Environmental Sciences from Stanford University in 2006, working with Dr. Adina Paytan.  Her research has focused on using a wide range of natural tracers, including stable isotopes, geochemical constituents, and radioactive isotopes to trace natural and anthropogenic nutrient sources through surface and groundwater systems, and on the development and application of new isotope tracing techniques.  Megan is currently working on large scale multi-isotope tracer studies in rivers, estuaries, and ground water in the San Francisco Bay Delta and Central Valley, California. One focus of her current research is on expanding the use of the oxygen isotopic composition of phosphate into freshwater systems as a tracer of phosphate sources and cycling, and she has co-authored several articles and book chapters on this topic.

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Kendall, C., Young, M.B., Silva, S.R., Kraus, T.E.C., Peek, S., and Guerin, M. (2015) Tracing nutrient and organic matter sources and biogeochemical processes in the Sacramento River and Northern Delta: proof of concept using stable isotope data. U.S. Geological Survey, Data Release: ; and online 109 page report: [Link]

Lehman, P.W., Kendall, C., Guerin, M.A., Young, M.B., Silva, S.R., Boyer, G.L., and Teh, S.J. (2015) Characterization of the Microcystis bloom and its nitrogen supply in San Francisco Estuary using stable isotopes. Estuaries & Coasts, 38:165-178.

Kendall, C., D. Doctor, M. Young (2014) Environmental Applications in Hydrologic Studies. In: Volume 5 of Treatise on Geochemistry: Fresh Water Geochemistry, Weathering, and Soils. J. Drever, ed. Elsevier.

McLaughlin, K., M. B. Young, A. Paytan, C. Kendall (2013) The oxygen isotopic composition of phosphate: A tracer for phosphate sources and cycling. In: Application of Isotope Techniques for Assessing Nutrient Dynamics in River Basins.International Atomic Energy Association, Vienna. IAEA-TECDOC-1695, 235 pp.

Kendall, C., M.B. Young, S.R. Silva (2010) Applications of stable isotopes for regional to national-scale water quality monitoring programs. In: Isoscapes: Understanding movement, pattern, and process on Earth through isotope mapping. West, J.B., G.J. Bowen, T.E. Dawson, K.P. Tu (eds). Springer, 487 p.

Zohar, I., Shaviv, A., Young, M., Kendall, C., Silva, S., Paytan, A. (2010) Phosphorus dynamics in soils irrigated with reclaimed waste water or fresh water- A study using oxygen isotopic composition of phosphate. Geoderma. doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2010.07.002.

Young, M.B., K. McLaughlin, C. Kendall, W. Stringfellow, M. Rollog, K. Elsbury, E. Donald, and A. Paytan (2009) Characterizing the oxygen isotopic composition of phosphate sources to aquatic ecosystems. Environmental Science & Technology 43(14) 5190-5196. doi: 10.1021/es900337q.

Elsbury, K.E., A. Paytan, N.E. Ostrom, C. Kendall, M.B. Young, K. McLaughlin, M.E. Rollog, and S. Watson. (2009) Using oxygen isotopes of phosphate to trace phosphorus sources and cycling in Lake Erie. Environmental Science & Technology. 43(9) 3108-3114. doi: 10.1021/es8034126.

Young, M., M. Eagle, D. Fong, W. Moore, J. Herrera-Silveira, A. Paytan. (2007) Characterizing sources of groundwater to a tropical coastal lagoon in a karstic area using radium isotopes and water chemistry. Marine Chemistry 109: 377-394.

Geibert, W., M. Charette, G. Kim, W.S. Moore, J. Street, M. Young, A. Paytan, (2007) The release of dissolved actinium to the ocean: A global comparison of different end-members, Marine Chemistry 10.1016/j.marchem.2007.07.005

Paytan, A., Shellenbarger, G., Street, J., Gonneea, M., Davis, K., Young, M., Moore, W. (2006) Submarine groundwater discharge: an important source of new inorganic nitrogen to coral reef ecosystems. Limnology & Oceanography 51(1) 343-348.

McLaughlin, K., Kendall, C., Silva, S., M. Young, A. Paytan. (2006) Phosphate oxygen isotope ratios as a tracer for sources and cycling of phosphate in North San Francisco Bay, California. Journal of Geophysical Research, Biogeosciences 111, G03003, doi: 10.1029/2005JG000079.

Young, M., M. Eagle, J. Herrera-Silveira, and A. Paytan. (2005) Export of dissolved and particulate carbon and nitrogen from a mangrove-dominated lagoon, Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. International Journal of Ecology and Environmental Sciences31(3): 189-202


My Science Topics

Science Topic
Ecology and Environmentaquatic ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentecological processes
Ecology and Environmentecosystem functions
Water Resourcesestuaries
Water Resourcesground-water quality
Water Resourcessurface water
Water Resourcessurface water quality
Water Resourceswater quality
Ecology and Environmentestuarine ecosystems
Ecology and Environmentfreshwater ecosystems
Environmental Issuesground-water quality
Environmental Issueshuman impacts
Environmental Issuesnonpoint-source pollution
Environmental Issuessurface water quality
Environmental Issueswater quality

My USGS Science Strategy Areas

Climate Variability & Change

The Role of Environment and Wildlife in Human Health

Understanding Ecosystems & Predicting Ecosystems Change

Isotope Tracers Project Websites

Menlo Park Tritium Laboratory

The Menlo Park Tritium Laboratory provides tritium analysis for customers within the United States Geological Survey in support of groundwater age dating and tracing studies. We accept samples as raw unfiltered water (stored in either high density polyethylene bottles or glass), and prepare them for analysis through distillation and electrolytic enrichment. Tritium in the concentrated samples is then measured using liquid scintillation counters. Samples with very high tritium may not need enrichment, and can be measured directly on the scintillation counters.  Please contact me (; 650-329-4544) for more information, and for sample submission forms,  sampling instructions, and available detection limits based on sample size.

Contact Information

Megan Young
345 Middlefield Road
Menlo Park, CA 94025
650-329-5590 - Fax
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