Dr Belinda Wright’s research is broadly focussed on conservation of Australia’s threatened species. Belinda’s PhD involved using genomic techniques to investigate disease resistance in Tasmanian devils and also to inform population management of the species. Belinda has gone on to apply genomics to conservation questions in Koalas and Bilbies. With a strong interest in wildlife health and disease, Belinda seeks ways to best apply emerging genomic technologies to address the disease challenges facing Australia’s wildlife, with the aim of improving outcomes for threatened populations.
DR VALENTINA MELLA, POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH FELLOW
Valentina is a Research Fellow in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. Valentina’s research aims to implement practical solutions to achieve effective long‐term conservation management actions to help koalas. She currently leads a project examining mortality of koalas in NSW in relation to heat-stress. The final aim of the study is to develop a forecasting tool to predict heat stress risk for koalas based on weather forecast and historical clinical records of koala admission into care. In the past, Valentina has investigated the behaviour and health of koalas in the Liverpool Plains, NSW, in connection with water availability in the environment. The study provided the first practical management solution to help wild koalas through climate change driven heatwaves and droughts. At present, Valentina is also investigating behavioural and health predictors of koala survival following rehabilitation and release back into the wild by evaluating current triage criteria for koalas in care.
Dr CAROLINE MARSCHNER
Caroline graduated in Veterinary Medicine at the University of Vienna in 2012 and has followed her passion for wildlife to Vancouver Aquarium, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and also the Avian Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital at the University of Sydney. She joined the Koala Infectious Diseases Research Group in 2013 and since completing her PhD, has been a great contributor to the KHH and koala research, leading training of students, carers and koala managers in sample collection and necropsy and more recently supporting field studies.
DR ANDREA CASTERIANO (TECHNICAL OFFICER)
Andrea graduated with a PhD in microbiology from the University of Sydney in 2014, joining the Koala Health Hub later that year. She oversees the operational aspects of the KHH’s diagnostic services, including the real-time PCR tests for Chlamydia and maintaining our koala DNA database. Andrea is also involved in client-based consultancy work and offers technical advice, support and supervision to undergraduate and post-graduate students undergoing training in koala health research in the Hub.
PROFESSOR DAVID PHALEN
David is Associate Professor in Exotic Animal Medicine and Surgery and Wildlife Health and Conservation. He joined the University of Sydney as the Director of the Wildlife Health and Conservation Centre and the Avian Reptile and Exotic Pet Hospital in 2006 and has taught exotic pet and wildlife medicine and husbandry, and conservation biology since 1993. He is coordinator for the Masters of Wildlife Health and Population Management program. David’s research interests include diseases of wildlife and exotic animals, as well as wildlife ecology and conservation. His current koala research involves habitat use, genetic diversity and the impact of disease on low density koala populations in the lower Blue Mountains, Campbelltown, and the Wollondilly and Wingecarribee Shires and also far southeastern New South Wales.
PROFESSOR MARK KROCKENBERGER
Mark Krockenberger is Associate Professor of Veterinary Pathology at the University of Sydney who has been working with koalas for the past 20 years. He is a Fellow of the Australian and New Zealand College of Veterinary Scientists in Veterinary Anatomical Pathology and a registered specialist veterinary pathologist and he is Associate Head of Clinical Services in the Sydney School of Veterinary Science. Mark is an active researcher in koala diseases, particularly cryptococcosis, and assists many groups and vets managing this disease in captive or wild animals. Currently, he is involved in a large and exciting research project examining the intersection between ecology and disease in the Gunnedah region.
ASSOC PROFESSOR DAMIEN HIGGINS (KHH LEAD)
Damien’s main area of research interest is the ecology and pathology of wildlife diseases, particularly the impact of human activities on the host-pathogen relationship of diseases in fragmented populations of two threatened species – the koala and the Australian sealion. He has a strong interest in fostering multidisciplinary and applied wildlife health research through communication and stakeholder engagement. His teaching reflects his diverse background and covers general pathology, laboratory disease investigation, wildlife disease ecology and management, and threatened species management.