Melissa brings over 20 years of leadership experience to her role as the Sun Coast Regional Director of NPCA.

A native Miamian, work throughout the course of her career has resulted in a greater understanding of iconic national parks — including Big Cypress Natl. Preserve and Biscayne and Everglades Nationl Parks — as well as over 200 other protected areas in South Florida, the Caribbean, and island ecosystems abroad. She holds a master’s degree in environmental science and earned a Ph.D. in biology which focused on conservation biology, tropical ecology, and protected areas management. She speaks conversational Spanish and is fluent in Indonesian.

Over the years, Melissa has led major biodiversity conservation efforts in the U.S. and abroad, and is the recipient of several fellowships and awards recognizing her work alongside communities to enhance conservation outcomes. One of her happiest career moments was emerging from a long field expedition to learn from local community members that a landmark cave site in a national park had been named after her. She is the first woman to have led major scientific expeditions exploring several remote tropical forests, from Jamaica’s Cockpit Country to Indonesia’s Moluccan isles, and has discovered species new to science along the way.

Melissa is an enthusiastic leader who believes “the joy of time outdoors — and the wonder of discovery — ignites excitement in the next generation of park protectors.”