PhD Candidate

Melanie Wells


Current research

Owing to their plasticity, little penguins are one of very few species of seabird that exploit urbanised environments and thrive. They are generalist inshore foragers and occupy a diverse array of breeding sites.Tasmania is thought to be home to over 60% of Australia’s little penguin population, however very little is known regarding population trends and threatening factors, with few long-term data sets or population estimates. Tasmania is also the last remaining strong hold for this species, with breeding birds restricted to offshore islands or inaccessible beaches on the mainland due to the presence of introduced predators.This project seeks to investigate spatial variability in health of little penguins around Tasmania. By investigating several proxies of health, such as parasite infestation, toxicology, breeding success and body condition this project seeks to identify key factors likely to threaten little penguin health.

What my project involves

Picking ticks off penguins’ faces… what a dream come true!

Fun trivia about my research

The scientific name for little penguin, Eudyptula minor means ‘good little diver’

Research project in a haiku

Ticks may spread disease
Warm wet climates make good homes
Should we remove them?

Research-related interests

Ecology inspires me as there is no certainty in our natural world. All of life is constantly in flux, responding and adapting to a living world in perpetual motion. I could be so lucky to ponder the dynamics of some of these relationships. I also really love seabirds because of their amazing exploitation of my favourite forces, the sea & wind (penguins excluded).

About me

I enjoy a lifestyle of frugal hedonism, being a marriage celebrant and revelling in the embrace of wilderness whenever possible!

Previous work I've done

I have spent the last 10 years in various seabird field assistant, bird banding or research assistant related roles. This has allowed me the opportunity to work in some incredible places from the Bahamas to SouthAfrica, to spending 22 months on a subantarctic island working on a wildlife monitoring program. Previously I have coordinated a project training guardian dogs to protect little penguins from fox predation. I have dabbled in consulting and guiding on and off and am a registered civil celebrant. This PhD venture is certainly the most challenging!

Committees and affiliations

‍University of Tasmania Post-graduate Society of Biological Sciences - treasurer

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