A Walk on the Wild Side

When Melissa Grigione was growing up in Scarsdale, NY, she would ride her bike to the Bronx Zoo and watch the animals. Repeat: ride her bike 20 miles to the zoo! There, Grigione discovered her true calling–protecting the environment and wildlife all over the world. Learn more about her research…

By Pace student Helen Arase ‘14

“How can we help most as scientists? Be advocates; figure out how to influence the world,” says Melissa Grigione, PhD, associate professor and director of the environmental science graduate program.

Grigione was always a lover of nature. She remembers watching movies with her parents like Born Free and The Last Giraffe, and learning about people who were interesting and saved animals. “It was a calling. It picked me. I felt it deep in my soul,” she said.

In addition to teaching courses including research methods for ecological field studies and research in environmental science on the PLV Campus, she is also heavily involved in research outside of Pace and has traveled around the world to pursue her love: protecting and conserving the environment. However, when she is in the classroom, it is all about applying what the students are learning to real-world issues. Grigione focuses on three avenues–policy, science, and  communication–and uses all of them in her research. As an ecologist, Grigione admits that she cannot battle the huge environmental issues all by herself. She needs to have many tentacles that reach out to policy makers, public health officials, and great communicators. It needs to be a team effort.

What is Griogione currently focusing on? She and her family are working as a team in the Badlands of South Dakota to study the reproductive biology of bison. This effort is aided by the indigenous people of the area.

She is also acutely interested in carnivores, specifically the “secret” carnivores that could be harmful in our ecosystem, like wild cats and coyotes. The challenge with those animals is two-fold: First, can humans learn to accept them? And second, can we create viable habitats for these species? These questions may not have an answer yet. As Grigione notes, we have to take a “lifetime approach” to conservation. For example, Grigione went to Patagonia in South America to do research on why the farmers were killing the puma there. She found that even though the puma were not killing the sheep like the farmers assumed, there was no tolerance for them. The farmers killed them regardless of whether or not they were a true threat. The amount of indifference to the natural world is alarming to Grigione. She says, “It is our duty and moral responsibility to influence change.”

When you see Melissa Grigione walking around campus, stop and think about all the fascinating work she is doing. Ask how you can help. Maybe one day, you too can be traveling around the world to help protect it!