Melissa grew up strongly influenced by her late father James Mance, Sr., whose mastery and teaching of traditional waterfowl decoy carving taught her a love of birds and the observation skills necessary to render them with realism and creativity. She earned a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art and MFA in painting from Rochester Institute of Technology. In parallel with her career as a fine artist Melissa has developed her skills as a naturalist, licensed wildlife rehabilitator and raptor bander. She also is an art educator at the Byron-Bergen School District, teaching children to express themselves in a variety of media. Her work has been exhibited at numerous venues including the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York and The Roger Tory Peterson Institute in Jamestown, NY.