× Entry passes are now required to visit the Zoo. Please review the new COVID-19 safety policies and exhibit closures before booking your trip.

Share this page:

Melissa Songer, Ph.D.

Conservation Ecologist
B.S., Georgetown College, M.S., University of Oklahoma, Ph.D. University of Maryland.
Melissa Songer is a Conservation Biologist at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's (SCBI) Conservation Ecology Center. She works primarily on the conservation and landscape ecology of endangered species in Asia and Chad. She uses advanced geospatial technologies to detect human transformation of landscapes and assess its impacts on endangered species and their habitats. Her research integrates extensive collection of ecological data in the field including surveys of endangered species, their movements, and assessments of human communities, with spatial models. She develops science-based strategies for sustaining and restoring species and ecosystems and works extensively with partners on the ground to implement conservation solutions.
Songer’s current projects include restoring Przewalski’s horses to their native range in China and Mongolia, movements of Asian elephants, human-elephant conflict in changing landscapes in Asia, restoring and tracking scimitar-horned oryx in Chad, and restoring giant panda landscapes in China. She also leads the Smithsonian’s Myanmar Initiative to study and sustain the biodiversity of this critical global hotspot. This is a pan-science Smithsonian initiative with the goal of leveraging existing resources and expertise to answer fundamental questions about biology of species, drivers of extinction, landscape function, and ecosystem health.
Songer integrates capacity building with all her research and conservation programs through training and mentoring protected area staff, conservation professionals, and graduate students in conservation GIS and wildlife monitoring. She conducts courses and workshops in the U.S. and abroad and has trained more than 900 individuals representing over 40 countries.
Recent Publications: 
Bai, Wenke, Huang, Qiongyu, Zhang, Jindong, Stabach, Jared, Huang, Jinyan, Yang, Hongbo, Songer, Melissa, Connor, Thomas, Liu, Jianguo, Zhou, Shiqiang, Zhang, Hemin, Zhou, Caiquan and Hull, Vanessa. 2020. Microhabitat selection by giant pandas. Biological Conservation, UNSP 108615-UNSP 108615. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2020.108615
Huang, Qiongyu, Fei, Yuxiang, Yang, Hongbo, Gu, Xiaodong and Songer, Melissa A. 2020. Giant Panda National Park, a step towards streamlining protected areas and cohesive conservation management in China. Global Ecology and Conservation, Article e00947. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2020.e00947
Huang, Qiongyu, Lothspeich, Audrey, Hernandez, Haydee Yanez, Mertes, Katherine, Liu, Xuehua and Songer, Melissa. 2020. What drove giant panda Ailuropoda melanoleuca expansion in the Qinling Mountains? An analysis comparing the influence of climate, bamboo, and various landscape variables in the past decade. Environmental Research Letters. https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/ab86f3