Melissa began her foray into ecology while an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina. She had always thought that she would go into medicine, but during her junior year she learned of a career that would combine her love of biology with an increasing desire for a career that would have an impact on understanding how human-driven global changes like habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change affect our natural world. Prior to graduating from UNC, she spent a semester at the Highlands Biological Station (western NC) taking field-based classes while also getting some hands-on experience with ecological research. These experiences put her on the path to becoming an ecologist. After post-bac field tech jobs, a master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Tennessee (2013), and additional work experience as the Project Manager for the Corridor Project, Melissa goal is back in graduate school at Virginia Tech.
Melissa is currently a PhD candidate in Dr. Susan Whitehead’s lab in the Department of Biological Sciences. Her dissertation research investigates the effects of human-mediated global change factors, such as habitat fragmentation and climate change, on plant-ant interactions and ant community dynamics. She thinks the solutions to global change issues like habitat connectivity and climate change need an interdisciplinary approach, and is excited to have to have the opportunity to explore those as an IGC fellow during her time at Virginia Tech.