Josephine Martell | Graduate School

Josephine Martell is associate dean of academics at the Graduate School and a conservation social scientist who studies how communication strategies can influence human behavior to promote equitable outcomes and policy for marginalized communities and wildlife.

Josephine Martell

With over 20-years of experience in public policy, research, and communication, Martell’s career has spanned non-governmental organizations (NGO’s), non-profits, government, and academia. She is a co-lead on the NIH-funded Cornell FIRST program where she co-directs the evaluation core and serves on the steering committee and as an advisor to the faculty development core. She also developed and leads the Cornell Early-Career Grant Mentoring Program. Martell received her B.A. in classics from Reed College, her M.S. in animals and public policy from the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and her Ph.D. in human dimensions of natural resource management, with a minor in communication from Cornell University.

Martell’s research examines how communication tools and tactics can be used to influence human behavior and lead to improved public policy and outcomes for marginalized communities and wildlife. Some of her recent work has looked at how message framing, emotions, and values can be leveraged in strategic communication efforts to promote pro-conservation behaviors. As a community-engaged scholar, her work focuses on real-life campaigns and social issues to provide an immediate impact to the communities she works with. She is a founding member of the Gayogo̲hó:nǫˀ  Learning Project, a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous community members, where she serves on the advisory board to promote Gayogo̲hó:nǫˀ language and culture revitalization and reclamation.

Prior to Cornell, Martell worked both nationally and internationally on issues as varied as the international exotic pet trade to reproductive rights for women. Some of her past projects include relocating big cats from substandard facilities and working on the ground with displaced animals after Hurricane Katrina. She has worked to pass state laws on captive animal issues, women’s reproductive rights, and racial and LGBTQ+ equity, conducted an undercover investigation into poor welfare practices for big cats in captivity, worked closely with federal agencies, drafted federal legislation, and written multiple reports for federal and state legislators. She has also served two terms as an elected alderperson in the fifth ward on Ithaca City Council. Her media appearances include Animal Planet’s hit mini-series Fatal Attractions, as well as The BBC World News, The Today Show, Larry King Live, and 20/20.


  • Doctorate, Cornell University – 2022
  • Master of Science, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University- 2003
  • Bachelor of Arts, Reed College – 1999


  • Cornell CALS Core Value Staff Award, Inclusion
  • Town-Gown Award (TOGO)