Melissa is a Postdoctoral Associate in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and with the Gund Institute at the University of Vermont. Melissa’s research takes a cross-scale approach to understanding the impacts of global environmental changes spanning processes happening at the leaf and microbe levels to the functioning of whole ecosystems.
Currently, Melissa is exploring soil carbon dynamics across space and time in New England forests. She is investigating how winter climate change (e.g., reduced snow pack) affects carbon cycling and whether microbes can adapt to more frequent soil freeze-thaw cycles. She is also interested in how microclimate affects soil carbon storage across complex mountainous landscapes. For example, she is exploring whether valleys prone to temperature inversions from "cold air pooling" could act as microrefugia for the species most vulnerable to climate change, and whether these cold pockets can serve as hotspots for carbon storage. Melissa’s past research used innovative global change field experiments to investigate how changes in atmospheric CO2, climate, nitrogen deposition, and biodiversity affect plant ecophysiology and carbon and nitrogen cycling. Prior to arriving at UVM, much of Melissa’s research took place in a tidal marsh at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center and in a Minnesota prairie at the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve.
Melissa is strongly committed to teaching, mentoring, and increasing accessibility and inclusivity in higher education, research, and science. She is intrigued with the unique qualities each student brings to the classroom and lab and engages learners within their individual zones of development as shaped by their own life and academic experiences to empower personal growth. She has experience teaching a variety of courses ranging from intro-level to advanced undergraduate courses, as well as graduate courses.