Melanie R. Thornton is excited to serve as the 2017-2018 GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow. Thornton will be working in the office of Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) on a range of science policy issues.
Melanie was raised in Houston, Texas, and earned the Girl Scout’s Gold Award, where she collaborated with a YMCA camp, serving underprivileged youth, to create an activity program focused on education and wellbeing. Melanie earned a B.S. cum laude from Texas A&M University in 2011 with an Environmental Geoscience major and Geography minor. While at Texas A&M, she participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program and wrote her undergraduate thesis on the Southern Ocean and Antarctica's contribution to changing climatic conditions.
Melanie received an M.S. (2012) and Ph.D. (2017) in Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences from Washington State University (WSU). Her doctoral research was part of an interdisciplinary project, supported by a USDA-NIFA grant, which sought to address water resource sustainability in the Pacific Northwest. The focus of her research was on the Spokane River Basin, where she utilized collaborative modeling and worked with stakeholders and scientists to jointly solve regional watershed challenges. She developed an integrated surface-groundwater hydrology model, and facilitated workshops with stakeholders that guided the development of short-term recommendations for bi-state water management and education.
Melanie has extensive leadership expertise, having served as the graduate-professional student body president at WSU for two years, and as Director of Communication for the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students. She has experience in collaboration and communicating scientific information, as her stakeholder engagement project required leading meetings and workshops with both scientific and non-scientific audiences.
She is enthusiastic about collaborations between science, policy and public outreach, and developing strategies that use science to empower humanity for the betterment of our communities. In her fellowship year, she is looking forward to utilizing her communication and problem-solving skills, and deepening her understanding of how Congress and federal agencies work together to draft public policies and prioritize funding.