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Melissa C Smith

Research Ecologist


Dr. Smith joined the Invasive Plant Research Laboratory in Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a post-doc in 2012 and as a full time Research Ecologist in 2016. Dr. Smith grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a farming family, which despite her best efforts, instilled a strong affinity for plants and the natural world. Dr. Smith attended Willamette University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology while supported by a vocal music scholarship. While in undergrad, Dr. Smith attended the Organization for Tropical Studies tropical ecology semester abroad where it became apparent that people did, in fact, work as ecologists. Before committing to a graduate program, Dr. Smith joined the National Park Service as an education and interpretation ranger, working in Kenai Fjords National Park, Glacier National Park and Everglades National Park. During this time, Dr. Smith became interested by how invasive species impact affect landscapes that are ecologically critical. During her PhD at Washington State University, Dr. Smith worked with Dr. Richard Mack to develop testing protocols to determine invasiveness in plants from a suite of physiological responses. At the Invasive Plant Research Laboratory, Dr. Smith has delved into many collaborative projects to investigate larger ecological questions (e.g., competition, predation, parasitism, succession) within a biological control context. Most recently, Dr. Smith was awarded an ARS Areawide Project to develop IPM for waterhyacinth, the world’s “most invasive” weed, but also to elucidate the larger ecological consequences of IPM measures within the community.