Science Alumni Spotlight: Gisselle Mejía (Ph.D. ’22, Earth and Environmental Sciences)

February 6, 2023

Now a postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth, Mejía studies soil microbes in urban and rural forests.

Gisselle Mejia

Gisselle Mejía (Ph.D. ’22, Earth and Environmental Sciences) studies the interactions of plants and soils in forests in both urban and rural areas and the emergence of new, often invasive, species in these ecosystems. She studies soil microbial processes (e.g., nitrogen cycling) and plant communities and uses statistical modelling to understand what is driving the new species.

Mejía is now a Guarini Dean’s postdoctoral fellow in environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she is investigating the effects of land-use legacies on secondary forests in rural settings. She is also teaching an urban ecology course, drawing on her Ph.D. research and valuable experience teaching at CUNY through the Graduate Center Teaching Fellowship.

For her doctoral dissertation, Mejía collaborated with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation to investigate the impacts of its MillionTreesNYC initiative, which aimed to expand the urban canopy, increase biodiversity, improve air and water quality, and enhance other key ecosystem services provided by urban forests. One of the challenges of such initiatives is the lack of attention paid to the condition of urban soils, which are often altered by previous land use and management practices. Mejía investigated the short- and long-term impacts of these afforestation efforts and provided baseline empirical information on soil conditions and nutrients to inform parkland management.

Learn More About the Ph.D. Program in Earth and Environmental Sciences

Gisselle Mejia
Mejía conducting research in the field

Before starting the Ph.D. program, Mejía, a New York City native, worked as a forester with the New York City parks department. She managed green infrastructure and street planting projects. She also served in the Peace Corps while pursuing a master’s in forestry at Michigan Technological University. For her master’s thesis, she studied small-scale woodlot management in the highlands of El Salvador while serving as an agroforestry extensionist.

Mejía’s research goals are to expand the field of urban ecology by combining basic and applied science to inform management of urban ecosystems.

She says she is grateful to her adviser, Professor Peter Groffman; her graduate committee members, Professors Karin Block (GC/City College, Earth and Environmental Studies), Andrew Reinmann (Earth and Environmental Studies, Biology), and Morgan Grove, and honorary member Brian Giebel; and all of her colleagues at the Graduate Center who supported and contributed to her successful Ph.D. experience.