Current Fellows

Melanie R. Thornton
Melanie R. Thornton
32nd GSA-USGS
Congressional Science Fellow.
Reports by M. Thornton

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.


Caitlin Keating-Bitonti
Caitlin Keating-Bitonti
33rd GSA-USGS
Congressional Science Fellow.

GSA and the U.S. Geological Survey are pleased to announced Caitlin Keating-Bitonti will serve as the 2018-2019 GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow.

Keating-Bitonti is an Earth scientist with expertise in paleontology. As a native of southeast Michigan, Caitlin grew up collecting ancient marine fossils, developing a strong interest in the planet’s history and concern for its future. Pursuing this passion in graduate school, Caitlin reconstructed ancient climate and ocean conditions studying microfossil assemblages and their isotopic compositions as an NSF Graduate Research Fellow. Her research integrates paleontology, geology, oceanography, physiology, and statistical models to examine how ancient marine organisms responded to past environmental perturbations and how these climate shifts shaped their evolutionary history.

Recognizing that the geosciences are a vital public concern but are rarely included in a typical high school curriculum, Caitlin became committed to geoscience education and outreach. During her graduate career, she mentored over 10 high school students and teamed with two other graduate students to develop and teach a Climate Change Science course at a preparatory school in Palo Alto, CA. After receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University, Caitlin joined the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History as a Peter Buck Postdoctoral Fellow, where she continued her research and also participated in museum outreach. Her time in D.C. solidified her desire to be involved in the policy-making process and to advocate that our practices and policies be informed by scientific knowledge. Caitlin is excited to have to opportunity to serve as the 2018-2019 GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow. Caitlin earned her B.S. in Geology from Syracuse University (NY), her M.S in Geology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison (WI), and her Ph.D. in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University (CA).

Looking to Expand Your Professional Horizons?

Believe in Serving Society Through Science?

Ready for a Unique Challenge?

Put your expertise to work helping shape science and technology policy on Capitol Hill. The GSA-USGS Congressional Science Fellow spends a year working as a staff member for a Member of Congress or congressional committee.

If you are a geoscientist with a broad scientific background, experience in applying scientific knowledge to societal challenges, and a passion for helping shape the future of the geoscience profession, GSA and the USGS invite your application before the 15 January deadline. Please read our detailed fellowship page for more information.

Learn more about fellows’ experiences by reading current and past Congressional Science Fellow reports.

The Congressional Science Fellowship is offered by the Geological Society of America and the U.S. Geological Survey as part of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Congressional Science and Engineering Fellows Program.