ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Associate Professor Melanie Massaro

Associate Professor Melanie Massaro

Melanie's area of expertise covers the fields of behavioural ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation biology. Her current research focuses on contemporary adaptation, consequences of population bottlenecks and interactions between native and exotic species. Her research is aimed at understanding mechanisms that underlie severe declines or extinction of animal populations and at integrating novel concepts into conservation management and reintroduction efforts in order to ensure the long-term survival of native species.

Research Interests

  • Management of endangered bird species
  • Reintroduction biology
  • Conservation genetics
  • Conservation physiology
  • Quantifying threats of invasive species and diseases to native fauna

Bachelor of Science, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University, Germany, 1996

Master of Science, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, 2000

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Otago, New Zealand, 2004

External Appointments & Memberships

Australasian Seabird Group (part of Birdlife Australia) (Treasurer)

Australian Evolution Society (member)

International Society for Behavioural Ecology (member)

Australasian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (member)

Yellow-eyes Penguin Trust, New Zealand (member)

Editorial roles on journals

Austral Ecology (Associate Editor)

Full Publications List CRO Research Outputs

Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Publications

Segal, R., Whitsed, R. & Massaro, M. (2021). Review of the reporting of ecological effects of rodent eradications on Australian and New Zealand islands. Pacific Conservation Biology.

Massaro, M., Ainley, D.G., Santora, J.A., Quillfeldt, P., Lescroël, A., Whitehead, A., Varsani, A., Ballard, G. & Lyver, P, O’B. (2020). Diet segregation in Adélie penguins: some individuals attempt to overcome colony-induced and annual foraging challenges, Marine Ecology Progress Series 645: 205-218 DOI:

Lawrence, C., Briskie, J.V. & Massaro, M. (2020). Nest predation rates and identification of predators at songbird nests in Tasmanian woodlands.  Corella, 44: 14-21

Khwaja, N., Massaro, M., Martin, T.E. & Briskie, J.V. (2019). Do parents synchronise nest visits as an antipredator adaptation in birds of New Zealand and Tasmania? Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 7: 389.

Morandini, V., Dugger, K.M., Ballard, G., Elrod, M., Schmidt, A., Ruoppolo, V., Lescroël, A., Jongsomjit, D., Massaro, M., Pennycook, J., Kooyman, G.L., Schmidlin, K., Kraberger, S., Ainley, D.G. & Varsani, A. (2019). Identification of a Novel Adélie Penguin Circovirus at Cape Crozier (Ross Island, Antarctica). Viruses11: 1088.

Hautphenne, S., Massaro, M. & Turner, K. (2019). Fitting Markovian binary trees using global and individual demographic data. Theoretical Population Biology.

Webster, C., Massaro, M., Michael, D.R., Bambrick, D., Riley, J.L. & Nimmo, D.G., (2018) Native reptiles alter their foraging in the presence of the olfactory cues of invasive mammalian predators, Royal Society Open Science, 5 DOI: 10.1098/rsos.180136

Ramos, B., González-Acuña, D., Loyola, D.E., Johnson, W.E., Parker, P.G., Massaro, M., Dantas, G.P.M., Miranda, M.D., Vianna, J.A. (2018) Landscape genomics: natural selection drives the evolution of mitogenome in penguins. BMC Genomics.

Forsdick, N.J., Cubrinovska, I., Massaro, M. et al. (2017) Genetic diversity and population differentiation within and between island populations of two sympatric Petroica robins, the Chatham Island black robin and tomtit.  Conservation Genetics 18: 275. doi:10.1007/s10592-016-0899-1

Lawrence, C., Paris, D., Briskie, J.V., Massaro, M. 2016.When the neighbourhood goes bad: can endangered black robins adjust nest site selection in response to the risk of an invasive predator. Animal Conservation

Paris, D., Nicholls, A.O., Hall, A., Harvey, A., & Massaro, M. (2016) Female-biased dispersal in a spatially-restricted endemic island bird. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

Moodley, Y., Masello, J.F., Cole, T.L., Calderon, L., Munimanda, G.K., Thali, M.R., Alderman, R.,  Cuthbert, R.J., Marin, M., Massaro, M., Navarro, J., Phillips, R.A., Ryan, P.G., Suazo, C.G., Cherel, Y.,  Weimerskirch, H.,  Quillfeldt, P.  (2015) Evolutionary factors affecting the cross-species utility of newly developed microsatellite markers in seabirds. Molecular Ecology Resources 15: 1046-1058.

Varsani, A., E.L. Porzig, S. Jennings, S. Kraberger, K. Farkas, L. Julian, M. Massaro, G. Ballard and D.G. Ainley. 2015. Identification of an avian polyomavirus associated with Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae). Journal of General Virology 96: 851-857.

Grimaldi, W., Hall, R., White, D., Wang, J., Massaro, M., Tompkins, D. (2014) First report of a feather loss condition of Adélie penguins (Pygoscelis adeliae) on Ross Island, Antarctica, and a preliminary investigation into its cause. Emu.

Heinemann, J.A., M. Massaro, D. Coray, and S.Z. Agapito-Tenfen 2014. Reply to comment on sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 12: 387–390.

Briskie, J.V., Shorey, L. and Massaro, M. (2014) Nest-boxes increase fledging success in the declining rifleman Acanthisitta chloris, New Zealand. Conservation Evidence 11: 12-15.

Varsani, A., Kraberger, S., Jennings, S. , Porzig, E.L., Julian, L., Massaro, M., Pollard, A., Ballard, G. and Ainley, D.G. (2014) A novel papillomavirus in Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae) faeces sampled at the Cape Crozier colony, Antarctica. Journal of General Virology 95: 1352-1365.

Massaro, M., Sainudiin, R., Merton, D., Briskie, J.V., Poole,A.M, et al. (2013) Human-Assisted Spread of a Maladaptive Behavior in a Critically Endangered Bird. PLOS ONE 8(12): e79066. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.007906

Sikorski, A., M. Massaro, S. Kraberger, L.M. Young, D. Smalley, D.P. Martin and A. Varsani. 2013. Novel myco-like DNA viruses discovered in the faecal matter of various animals. Virus Research 177: 209-216.

Heinemann, J.A., M. Massaro, D. Coray, S.Z. Agapito-Tenfen and J.D. Wen. (2013). Sustainability and innovation in staple crop production in the US Midwest. International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability.  In press.

Massaro, M., M. Stanbury and J.V. Briskie. 2013. Nesting habitat choice of endangered black robins increases vulnerability to predation by an invasive bird. Animal Conservation. In press.

Massaro, M., L. Ortiz-catedral, L. Julian, J.A. Galbraith, B. Kurenbach, J. Kearvall, J. Kemp, J. van Hal, S. Elkington, G. Taylor, T. Greene, J. van de Wetering, M. van de Wetering, M. Pryde, P. Dilks, S. Heber, T. Steeves, M. Walters, S. Shaw, J. Potter, M. Farrant, D.H. Brunton, M. Hauber, B. Jackson, P. Bell, R. Moorhouse, K. McInnes and A. Varsani. (2012). Molecular characterisation of Beak and feather disease virus (BFDV) in New Zealand and its implications for managing an infectious disease. Archives of Virology 157: 1651-1663.

Ainley, D.G., C.M. Brooks, J.T. Eastman and M. Massaro. (2012). Unnatural selection of Antarctic Toothfish in the Ross Sea, Antarctica. In: Protection of the Three Poles (Ed. F. Huettmann), Springer, Tokyo, Japan.

Starling-Windhof, A., M. Massaro and J.V. Briskie. (2011). Differential effects of exotic-predator control on nest success of native and introduced birds in New Zealand. Biological Invasions 13: 1021-1028.

Blight, L.K., D.G. Ainley, S.F. Ackley, G. Ballard, T. Ballerini, R.L. Brownell Jr., C.-H.C. Cheng, M. Chiantore, D. Costa, M.C. Coulter, P. Dayton, A.L. DeVries, R. Dunbar, S. Earle, J.T. Eastman, S.D. Emslie, C.W. Evans, R.A. Garrott, S. Kim, G. Kooyman, A. Lescroël, M. Lizotte, M. Massaro, S. Olmastroni, P.J. Ponganis, J. Russell, D. B. Siniff, W.O. Smith Jr., B.S. Stewart, I. Stirling, J. Willis, P. Wilson and E.J. Woehler. (2010). Fishing for data in the Ross Sea. Science 330: 1316.

Ortiz-Catedral, L., B. Kurenbach, M. Massaro, K. McInnes, D.H. Brunton, M.E. Hauber, D.P. Martin and A. Varsani. 2010. A new strain of beak and feather disease virus isolated from wild red-fronted parakeets (Cyanoramphus novaezelandiae) in New Zealand. Archives of Virology 155: 613-620.

Conference Papers and Proceedings

Massaro, M. (2019) Post-reintroduction distribution and habitat preferences of a spatially limited island bird species. Paper presented at Australasian Ornithological Congress, Darwin July 3-5.

Current Projects

Computational methods for population-size-dependant branching processes. Hautphenne, S., Nguyen, G. & Massaro, M. (2020-2023) project led by the University of Melbourne. ARC Discovery grant, Total project $380,000

Developing a tool to assess wild penguin welfare. Freire, R. & Massaro, M. (2020-2021) Universities Federation for Animal Welfare (UFAW), $6125

The impacts of feral livestock visitation to waterholes and their flow-on effects for native birds and mammals. Massaro, M., Mihailou, H. (PhD student) (2018-2020) Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, $4705

What are the effects of the rodent eradication on the threatened Lord Howe currawong and its diet? Massaro, M., Whitsed, R. & Segal, R. (PhD student) (2018-2021) Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, $36,240

Can excluding feral livestock from waterholes recreate refuges for savannah birds? Massaro, M., Nimmo, D., Price, J., Mihailou, H. (PhD student) & Vincent, J.(2017-2020) Hermon Slade Foundation, $72,224. Project details

Completed Projects

The impact of feral ungulate visitation to ephemeral savannah waterholes and their flow on effects for native birds. Mihailou, H., Massaro, M., (2017-2018) Birdlife Australia, $3500 Project details

Parenting under pressure: does predation risk influence parental activity in Australian and New Zealand songbirds. Lawrence, C. & Massaro, M. (2016) ANZ Trustees Foundation - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, $3000 Project details

Life-history correlates of nest predation in island and continental passerines. Lawrence, C. & Massaro, M. (2016) Australian Wildlife Society, $1530 Project details

Are high rates of hatching failure and lethal deformities in the Chatham Island black robin caused by calcium deficiencies? Massaro, M.  (2015-2017) Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, $6400

Next generation tools for environmental monitoring in remote and limited access locations. Watson, D.H., Massaro, M., Luck, G., & Finlayson, M. (2015) Research Infrastructure Block Grant (RIBG), $33,583

Who is to blame? Identification of nest predators of Tasmanian songbirds, Massaro, M & Lawrence,C. (PhD candidate), (2014-2015) ANZ Trustees Foundation - Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment, $6000 Project details

Effects of climate variability on Adélie penguins in Antarctica (Principle Investigator: D.G. Ainley). Research grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF)  Antarctic Penguin Project:

Genetics toolkit for the successful management of one of New Zealand's most endangered birds. Research grant from the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust
Black Robin Project:

Beak and Feather Disease Virus in New Zealand endemic and introduced parrots. Research grant from the Brian Mason Scientific and Technical Trust

Internal Grants

Next generation tools for environmental monitoring in remote and limited access locations, Watson, D.H., Massaro, M., Luck, G., & Finlayson, M. (2015) Research Infrastructure Block Grant, $33,583