Melissa began her foray into the world of ecology while an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina. With an initial interest in medicine, she soon learned of a field that would combine her love of biology with an increasing desire for a career that would have an impact on our understanding of how human-driven global change like habitat loss and fragmentation and climate change affect the natural world. At the suggestion of her advisor at UNC, she seized an opportunity to spend a semester during her senior year at the Highlands Biological Station (western NC) taking field-based classes while also gaining her first hands-on experience with ecological research. For Melissa, those experiences put her on the path to becoming an ecologist. Through job experience after UNC, obtaining a master’s degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Tennessee (2013), and experience as the Project Manager for the Corridor Project, she has focused her career goal: to become a professor so that she can continue research while mentoring and teaching students.
In Fall 2019, Melissa joins Dr. Susan Whitehead’s lab in the Department of Biological Sciences to pursue her PhD. Her research will investigate the effects of human-mediated global change factors, such as habitat fragmentation and climate change, on plant-animal interactions (e.g. seed dispersal, herbivory, etc.) and will aim to connect these effects to community patterns. Melissa has spent the last 5 years conducting research on the effects of habitat connectivity on longleaf pine savanna plant and ant communities, and she looks forward to continuing to conduct research in this hotspot of biological diversity. Melissa feels that the solutions to global change issues like habitat connectivity and climate change necessitate an interdisciplinary approach, and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to explore these challenges as an IGC fellow during her PhD!
Peer Reviewed Publications
Burt, M.A. and Brudvig, L.A. Pollen limitation and self-compatibility in three pine savanna herbs. Accepted to Southeastern Naturalist in February 2019.
Haddad, N.M., Gonzalez, A., Brudvig, L.A., Burt, M.A., Levey, D.J, and Damschen, E.I. 2017. Experimental evidence does not support the Habitat Amount Hypothesis. Ecography 40(1): 48-55.
Burt, M.A., Dunn, R.R., Nichols, L., and Sanders, N.J. 2014. Interactions in a warmer world: The relative effects of experimental warming, intraspecific seedling density, and insect herbivory on seedling dynamics. Ecosphere 5(1): Article 9. http://www.esajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1890/ES13-00198.1
Kendall, K.D., Niemiller, M., Dittrich-Reed, D., Chick, L., Wilmoth, L., Milt, A., Burt, M.A., Lopes, N., Cantwell, L., Rubio, L., Allison, A., and E. Schussler. 2013. Departments Can Develop Teaching Identities of Graduate Students. CBE Life Sciences Education.12(3): 316-317. http://www.lifescied.org/content/12/3/316.full.pdf+html
Brannon, M.P., Burt, M.A., Bost, D.M., and M.C. Caswell. 2010. Discarded bottles as a source of shrew species dstributional data along an elevational gradient in the southern Appalachians. Southeastern Naturalist. 9(4):781-794.