Dr Valentina Mella

Postdoctoral Research Associate
School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Member of Sydney Institute of Agriculture

F07 - Carslaw Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone + 61 2 9351 3259

Biographical details

Valentina's research aims to implement practical solutions to achieve effective long‐term conservation management actions to help threatened species. She currently leads a project examining the behaviour and health of koalas in the Liverpool Plains, NSW, in relation to water availability in the environment. The study provides the first practical management solution to help wild koalas through climate change driven heatwaves and droughts. The project plays a pivotal role for the conservation of koala populations. In the past, Valentina has investigated the effectiveness of wildlife rehabilitation programs in the Sydney metropolitan region, as a mitigation measure against negative human-wildlife interactions in urban areas. In addition, she has helped pioneer the work on personality and problem solving in Australian marsupials and its application to ecology and wildlife management. The remainder of her research is focused on developing solutions to conservation problems using novel twists on behavioural and ecological principles, such as integrating behavioural and physiological responses of native prey to reduce impacts of introduced predators in Australia.

Research interests

Valentina is a zoologist with interests in wildlife ecology, animal behaviour, fauna management and conservation.

Current projects

Valentina's current research is focused on developing solutions to conservation problems integrating ecology, behaviour, physiology and veterinary science to reduce the impacts of climate change on koalas. For the past three years, she has been leading the first koala water supplementation study in Australia, which has overturned the general understanding of how koalas stay hydrated.

Associations

Valentina's research directly involves private landholders, industry, local landcare and farmer groups, government agencies and non-profit organisations in the conservation of one of Australia's most iconic animal. Valentina's work has influenced the direction of State and national koala research, with water supplementation adopted by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, and included as a specific feature of the NSW Koala Research Strategy.

Awards and honours

RESEARCH FUNDING and AWARDS
2019: WWF Australia tax appeal $10,000; 2018: University of Sydney Pave The Way Crowdfunding campaign $150,000; 2017: NSW Industry and Community Engagement Seed Fund $94,500 - Industry partners: The Office of Environment and Heritage and WIRES; 2017: University of Sydney Commercial Development and Industry Partnerships (CDIP) - Industry and Community Fund $53,670 – Industry partner: North West Local Landcare Group; 2016: University of Sydney Faculty of Science Research Equipment and Infrastructure Scheme $73,859; 2014: University of Sydney Postgraduate Award (UPA) $29,844; 2013: University of Sydney Postgraduate Research Support Scheme Grant (PRSS) $1,843; 2008: Small Scheme Grant of the Centre for Ecosystem Diversity

In the media

ABC Documentary - The Magical Land of Oz - 24th Feb 2019 - link

ABC News - Half the world's vertebrates have disappeared since 1970 - 30th Oct 18 - link

Sydney Morning Herald - Wide-ranging aid needed to stem rapid decline of koalas - 28 Oct 18 - link

Thirsty koalas flock to Blinky drinkers - 14th Sep 18 - link

Researchers investigate koalas' need for drinking - 3rd Mar 17 - link

German National Radio - Der Koala - Feinschmecker mit Eukalyptus-Stammbaum - 7th Sep 18 - link

NSW Government - Drinking stations for thirsty koalas - 15th Jan 18 - link

Women’s Weekly - How much can a koala bear? - 1st Jul 17 - link

National Geographic Italia - Koala a secco - 5th Apr 17 - link

Crinkling News - Lapping it up at koala bubblers - 1st Apr 17 - link

National Geographic Australia - Why Koalas Are Suddenly Drinking Extra Water - 31st Mar 17 - link

CSIRO - The quick brown fox learnt to climb trees - 14th Mar 17 - link

International Business Times - Koalas are starving of thirst in Australia - 27th Mar 17 - link

ABC Radio Melbourne - Foxes climb trees to stalk koalas - 25th Mar 17 - link

La Stampa Italy - I koala stanno morendo di sete - 20th Mar 17 - link

The Dodo - Koalas are dying of thirst - 17th Mar 17 - link

BBC News - Parched koalas seek new water sources - 15th Mar 17 - link

Thomson Reuters - Australia's parched koalas seek out new water sources - 15th Mar 17 - link

Radio New Zealand - Parched koalas head to farm for water - 15th Mar 17 - link

NTD TV China - Farmer invents drinking station for thirsty koalas - 15th Mar 17 - link

Malay Mail Online - Climate change drives thirsty koalas to special water stations - 15th Mar 17 - link

Polska Live - Poidła dla australijskich misiów koala - 15th Mar 17 - link

Weather Network USA - As climate change bites, koalas scramble to find water - 15th Mar 17 - link

Philippines News - Climate change drives thirsty koalas to special water stations - 14th Mar 17 - link

Der Standard – Germany - Warum Koalas zu Wassertrinkern warden - 13th Mar 17 - link

ABC Radio Sydney - Evenings with Chris Bath - 6th Mar 17 - link

Weekend Mornings with Simon Marnie - 24th Feb 19 - link

Courrier Australien France - Le réchauffement climatique force les koalas à boire - 6th Mar 17 - link

9 News - Koalas forced to seek out water to survive Aussie heatwaves - 4th Mar 17- link

SBS News - Climate change is turning koalas to drink, scientists find - 3rd Mar 17 - link

7 News - Community rallying to help save Koalas - 9th May 18 - link

Farmer's bid to help koalas - 5th Feb 18 - link

Cause for concern? - 3rd Mar 17 - link

Discovery Channel Canada - Daily Planet Discovery Specials - 15th Feb 17 - link

ABC Radio News - Beware the sly fox - 13th Feb 17 - link

Business Insider - Koalas have started doing something experts didn't expect - 6th Mar 17 - link

Foxes have been caught on camera climbing trees in Australia - 13th Feb 17 - link

N Plus One Magazine Russia - Bye bye koalas – 11th Feb 17 - link

New Scientist - Foxes caught climbing trees to hunt native Australian animals - 10th Feb 17 - link

Namoi Valley Independent - Gunnedah's koalas vital in University of Sydney study - 28th Jan 19 - link

Gunnedah koalas heavily impacted by drought - 5th Sep 18 - link

How drinkers might help save our own Blinky - 15th May 18 - link

Tamworth Landcare hosts koala habitat field day - 9th May 18 - link

Environment minister applauds koala projects - 15th Jan 18 - link

Uni seeks crowdfunding for Gunnedah koala project - 7th Nov 17 - link

Local pioneer koala project - 18th Oct 17 - link

Gunnedah project finds amazing koala results - 1st Nov 16 - link

Time to act to preserve our national icon - 1st Nov 16 - link

Staggering koala results - 23rd Oct 16 - link

Selected grants

2017

  • CDIP Industry & Community Engagement Fund 2017_ Gunendah Koala Water Supplementation Study - OFFICE HERITAGE & ENVIRONMENT -MELLA; Mella V; DVC Research/Industry & Community Engagement Seed Fund (I&CEF).
  • CDIP Industry & Community Engagement Fund 2016 - USYD and The North West Local Land Services - Preservation of koalas VALENTINA MELLA; Mella V; DVC Research/Industry & Community Engagement Seed Fund (I&CEF).

Selected publications

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Book Chapters

  • Troxell-Smith, S., Mella, V. (2017). You Are What You Eat: The Interplay Between Animal Personality and Foraging Ecology. In Jennifer Vonk, Alexander Weiss, Stan Kuczaj (Eds.), Personality in Nonhuman Animals, (pp. 295-305). Cham: Springer International Publishing. [More Information]

Journals

  • Fernandez, C., Schmertmann, L., Higgins, D., Casteriano, A., Irinyi, L., Mella, V., Crowther, M., Meyer, W., Krockenberger, M. (2019). Differences in the genetic diversity of Chlamydia pecorum between neighbouring sub-populations of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus): a potential issue for wildlife corridor construction in population management. Veterinary Microbiology, In Press. [More Information]
  • Schmertmann, L., Kan, A., Mella, V., Fernandez, C., Crowther, M., Madani, G., Malik, R., Meyer, W., Krockenberger, M. (2019). Prevalence of cryptococcal antigenemia and nasal colonization in a free-ranging koala population. Medical Mycology, In Press, 1-10. [More Information]
  • Dargan, J., Moriyama, M., Mella, V., Lunney, D., Crowther, M. (2019). The challenge for koala conservation on private land: koala habitat use varies with season on a fragmented rural landscape. Animal Conservation, In Press, 1-13. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., McArthur, C., Frend, R., Crowther, M. (2018). Foxes in trees: A threat for Australian arboreal fauna? Australian Mammalogy, 40(1), 103-105. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Possell, M., Troxell-Smith, S., McArthur, C. (2018). Visit, consume and quit: Patch quality affects the three stages of foraging. Journal of Animal Ecology, 87(6), 1615-1626. [More Information]
  • Cavigioli, L., Mella, V., Mischischia, N., Bruni, G. (2016). Another case of dicephalism in Vipera aspis francisciredi (Laurenti, 1768), from northern italy. Herpetozoa, 29, 85-86.
  • Mella, V., Krucler, J., Sunderasan, L., Hawkins, J., Pitunugama Herath Mudiyanselage, A., Johnstone, K., Troxell-Smith, S., Banks, P., McArthur, C. (2016). Effective field-based methods to quantify personality in brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Wildlife Research, 43(4), 332-340. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2016). Effects of historically familiar and novel predator odours on the physiology of an introduced prey. Current Zoology, 62(1), 53-59. [More Information]
  • Cremona, T., Mella, V., Webb, J., Crowther, M. (2015). Do individual differences in behavior influence wild rodents more than predation risk? Journal of Mammalogy, 96(6), 1337-1343. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Ward, A., Banks, P., McArthur, C. (2015). Personality affects the foraging response of a mammalian herbivore to the dual costs of food and fear. Oecologia, 177(1), 293-303. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2014). Behavioural responses of free-ranging western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) to olfactory cues of historical and recently introduced predators. Austral Ecology, 39(1), 115-121. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Banks, P., McArthur, C. (2014). Negotiating multiple cues of predation risk in a landscape of fear: What scares free-ranging brushtail possums? Journal of Zoology, 294(1), 22-30. [More Information]
  • Bedoya-Perez, M., Carthey, A., Mella, V., McArthur, C., Banks, P. (2013). A practical guide to avoid giving up on giving-up densities. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(10), 1541-1553. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2010). Predator Odour Does Not Influence Trappability of Southern Brown Bandicoots (Isoodon Obesulus) and Common Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus Vulpecula). Australian Journal of Zoology, 58, 267-272. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2010). Ventilatory frequency as a measure of the response of tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) to the odour of potential predators. Australian Journal of Zoology, 58(1), 16-23. [More Information]

2019

  • Fernandez, C., Schmertmann, L., Higgins, D., Casteriano, A., Irinyi, L., Mella, V., Crowther, M., Meyer, W., Krockenberger, M. (2019). Differences in the genetic diversity of Chlamydia pecorum between neighbouring sub-populations of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus): a potential issue for wildlife corridor construction in population management. Veterinary Microbiology, In Press. [More Information]
  • Schmertmann, L., Kan, A., Mella, V., Fernandez, C., Crowther, M., Madani, G., Malik, R., Meyer, W., Krockenberger, M. (2019). Prevalence of cryptococcal antigenemia and nasal colonization in a free-ranging koala population. Medical Mycology, In Press, 1-10. [More Information]
  • Dargan, J., Moriyama, M., Mella, V., Lunney, D., Crowther, M. (2019). The challenge for koala conservation on private land: koala habitat use varies with season on a fragmented rural landscape. Animal Conservation, In Press, 1-13. [More Information]

2018

  • Mella, V., McArthur, C., Frend, R., Crowther, M. (2018). Foxes in trees: A threat for Australian arboreal fauna? Australian Mammalogy, 40(1), 103-105. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Possell, M., Troxell-Smith, S., McArthur, C. (2018). Visit, consume and quit: Patch quality affects the three stages of foraging. Journal of Animal Ecology, 87(6), 1615-1626. [More Information]

2017

  • Troxell-Smith, S., Mella, V. (2017). You Are What You Eat: The Interplay Between Animal Personality and Foraging Ecology. In Jennifer Vonk, Alexander Weiss, Stan Kuczaj (Eds.), Personality in Nonhuman Animals, (pp. 295-305). Cham: Springer International Publishing. [More Information]

2016

  • Cavigioli, L., Mella, V., Mischischia, N., Bruni, G. (2016). Another case of dicephalism in Vipera aspis francisciredi (Laurenti, 1768), from northern italy. Herpetozoa, 29, 85-86.
  • Mella, V., Krucler, J., Sunderasan, L., Hawkins, J., Pitunugama Herath Mudiyanselage, A., Johnstone, K., Troxell-Smith, S., Banks, P., McArthur, C. (2016). Effective field-based methods to quantify personality in brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Wildlife Research, 43(4), 332-340. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2016). Effects of historically familiar and novel predator odours on the physiology of an introduced prey. Current Zoology, 62(1), 53-59. [More Information]

2015

  • Cremona, T., Mella, V., Webb, J., Crowther, M. (2015). Do individual differences in behavior influence wild rodents more than predation risk? Journal of Mammalogy, 96(6), 1337-1343. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Ward, A., Banks, P., McArthur, C. (2015). Personality affects the foraging response of a mammalian herbivore to the dual costs of food and fear. Oecologia, 177(1), 293-303. [More Information]

2014

  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2014). Behavioural responses of free-ranging western grey kangaroos (Macropus fuliginosus) to olfactory cues of historical and recently introduced predators. Austral Ecology, 39(1), 115-121. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Banks, P., McArthur, C. (2014). Negotiating multiple cues of predation risk in a landscape of fear: What scares free-ranging brushtail possums? Journal of Zoology, 294(1), 22-30. [More Information]

2013

  • Bedoya-Perez, M., Carthey, A., Mella, V., McArthur, C., Banks, P. (2013). A practical guide to avoid giving up on giving-up densities. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(10), 1541-1553. [More Information]

2010

  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2010). Predator Odour Does Not Influence Trappability of Southern Brown Bandicoots (Isoodon Obesulus) and Common Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus Vulpecula). Australian Journal of Zoology, 58, 267-272. [More Information]
  • Mella, V., Cooper, C., Davies, S. (2010). Ventilatory frequency as a measure of the response of tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) to the odour of potential predators. Australian Journal of Zoology, 58(1), 16-23. [More Information]

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