Maria Melissa Rojas-Downing, PhD

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Photo of Melissa Rojas-Downing
Research Interest: 
Environment: Sustainable Ecosystem Modeling, Animal Production
Professional Title: 
Research Associate

524 S. Shaw Lane
230 Farrall  Hall
East Lansing, MI 4882


Research Interests:

  • Remote sensing applications to assess sustainability, climate change and variability on livestock and crop production.
  • Food, energy and water system modeling.
  • Evaluation of adaptation and mitigation strategies to combat climate change and variability impacts on livestock productions.
  • Improvement of the sustainability of livestock productions.

Academic Background: 

  • Evaluation of the impacts of climate change and variability on grazing dairy production.
  • Development of a new footprint to measure the sustainability of grazing dairy farms.
  • Development of a new concept of sensitivity analysis to help understanding the resiliency of the different pasture compositions in grazing dairy farms.
  • Evaluation of adaptation strategies to combat climate change impacts on grazing dairy productions.
  • Evaluation of Climate-Food-Energy-Water Nexus in the context of grazing dairy production.
  • Application of remote sensing data to assess climate change and variability on livestock production.
  • Application of decision support system technology to develop a best management practice allocation plan for sediment control.
  • Review of the impacts of climate change on livestock production and vice versa.
  • Evaluation of climate-smart agriculture for enhanced food security.
  • Development of a life cycle and economic assessment of anaerobic co-digestion of dairy manure and food waste.
  • Evaluation of the environmental and economic impacts due to anaerobic digestion on pasture-based dairies.
  • Environmental and economic evaluation of the transition from confinement to pasture-based dairies.
  • Evaluation of the effect of an annual cover crop in alleviation compaction of agricultural soil.
  • Analysis of the levels of soil compaction associated to tillage of sugarcane
Ph.D., Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University, 2017
Ph.D. Specialization, Environmental Science and Policy, Michigan State University, 2017
M.S., Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Michigan State University, 2013
Professional License, Agricultural Engineering, University of Costa Rica, 2012
B.S., Agricultural Engineering, University of Costa Rica, 2010
  • ASABE Annual International Meeting outstanding NRES oral presentation, 2017
  • Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2017
  • Professional Development Fellowship, 2017
  • Recognition of Graduate Student Excellence and Support of Graduate Programming, 2017
  • ESPP Climate, Food, Energy and Water Summer Research Fellowship, 2016
  • BAE Service Recognition fellowship, 2016
  • Be Spartan Green Outstanding Achievement award, 2016
  • Bill and Rita Stout Scholarship, 2014
  • Merle and Catherine Esmay Scholarship, 2013
  • Environmental Science and Policy Program Doctoral Recruiting Fellowship, 2013

Rojas-Downing, M.M., Nejadhashemi, A.P., Elahi, B., Cassida, K., Daneshvar, F., Hernandez-Suarez, J.S., Abouali, M., Herman, M., Dawood, S., Harrigan, T., 2017. Food Footprint as a Measure of Sustainability for Grazing Dairy Farms. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, in review.

Rojas-Downing, M.M., Nejadhashemi, A.P., Daneshvar, F., Abouali, M., Herman, M., Dawood, S., Zhang, Z., 2017. Pasture Diversification to Combat Climate Change Impacts on Grazing Dairy Production. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change. doi:10.1007/s11027-017-9740-5

Rojas-Downing, M.M., Nejadhashemi, A.P., 2017. Climate Change and Livestock: Impacts, Adaptation, and mitigation. Climate Risk Management, 16: 145-163.

Rojas-Downing, M.M., Harrigan, T., Nejadhashemi, A.P., 2017. Resource Use and Economic Impacts in the Transition from Confinement to Pasture-Based Dairies. Agricultural Systems, 153: 157-171.

Liu C., Rojas-Downing, M.M., Dreelin E., 2016. Michigan State University Water Consumption Preferences: Tap vs. Bottled Water. ESPPulse, a publication of the Michigan State University Environmental Science and Policy Program.

Chen, R., Rojas-Downing, M.M., Zhong, Y., Saffron, C., Liao, W., 2015. Life Cycle Assessment and Economic Analysis of Anaerobic Co-Digestion of Dairy Manure and Food Waste. Industrial Biotechnology, 11(2): 127-139.