Hurvis Center Staff Bios

Leah Melber, Ph.D.

Leah Melber, Ph.D., is senior director of Lincoln Park Zoo's Hurvis Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology  

Senior Director
Hurvis Center for Learning Innovation and Collaboration


  • Ph.D. – Educational Psycholology, University of Southern California
    Dissertation: "Maternal Scaffolding Strategies in Two Museum Exhibition Halls"
  • M.A. – Education, Pepperdine University
  • B.A. – Zoology, University of New Hampshire

Areas of Expertise

  • Public understanding of science/public understanding of research
  • Integrating research and practice
  • Program evaluation
  • Innovative programming models
  • Integrating formal and informal education

About Leah Melber:

Leah began her career in informal education while a college student in 1991 by joining the staff of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County as an interpreter within their children’s Discovery Center. She was immediately intrigued by how the physical setting of a museum or zoo can completely redefine, and reinvigorate, the learning process. She eventually earned a Ph.D. focusing on these learning processes and how the physical environment can shape experience. Leah has forged a robust career in the field to include experiences in exhibit design, research on learning processes, program development and actively influencing the professional museum and zoo community through committee service. She’s advocated for innovative approaches to programming to better meet the needs of today’s learners, from use of technology to putting the learner in charge of the experience. Most critically, Leah’s focus is on effectively integrating learning research into programmatic and experience design, in addition to initiating further research. Her philosophy is to strike the appropriate balance between being inspired by existing successes while striving to explore new frontiers in learning to ensure the best possible experience for learners.


Ross, S.R., Melber, L., Gillespie, K., Lukas, K.E. 2012. Balancing Ape Needs and Visitor Needs: The Impact of Modern, Naturalistic Exhibit Design on Visitor Behavior. Visitor Studies, 15(1): 3-15.

Ash, D., Rahm, J., Melber, L. M., Eds. 2012. Putting Theory into Practice: Tools for Research in Informal Settings. Sense Publishers: Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

Cox-Petersen, A., Melber, L. M., & Patchen, T. 2012. Teaching Science to Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students. Allyn & Bacon: Boston, MA.

Melber, L. M., Santymire, R., & Bergren, R. 2011. Beyond Borders: Zoo as Training Location for Wildlife Biologists. Journal of Museum Education, 36: 29-43.

Melber, L. M. 2009. Integrating Language Arts and Social Studies. Sage: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Melber, L. M. 2008. Informal Learning and Field Trips: Engaging Students in Standards Based Experiences Across the K-5 Curriculum. Corwin Press: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Melber, L. M. 2008. Science Museums and the Young Learner. Dimensions of Early Childhood Education, 36: 22-29.

Melber, L. M. 2007. Maternal Scaffolding in Two Museum Exhibition Halls. Curator, 50: 341-354.

Melber, L. M. 2006. Learning in Unexpected Places: Empowering Latino Parents. Multicultural Education, 13, 36-40.

Melber, L. M. & Cox-Petersen, A. M. 2005. Teacher Professional Development and Informal Learning Environments: Investigating Partnerships and Possibilities. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 16: 95-102.

Melber, L. M. 2003. Partnerships in Science Learning: Museum Outreach and Elementary Gifted Education. Gifted Child Quarterly, 47: 251-8.

Cox-Petersen, A., Marsh, D.D., Kisiel, J. & Melber, L. M. (2003). An Investigation of Guided School Tours, Student Learning, and Science Reform: Recommendations at a Museum of Natural History. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 40: 200-218.

Melber, L. M. & Abraham, L. M. 2002. Science Education in U.S. Natural History Museums: A Historical Perspective. Science and Education, 11: 45-54.