Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas

Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas
Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas

Dr Jessica Melbourne-Thomas: BSc (Hons), PhD
Marine ecologist and ecosystem modeller

Research interests

I’m a Research Scientist with the Australian Antarctic Division and a Project Leader with the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC). My research uses mathematical models of marine ecosystems to understand how these systems function and how they might respond to climate change and other human activities. In particular, my team and I use ecosystem models to simulate different future scenarios and to help determine what’s driving change in particular components of the system. These results can then inform where and how we might best coordinate and invest in further research and monitoring. This work is part of the Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics (ICED) program, which aims to develop a coordinated circumpolar approach to understanding climate interactions in the Southern Ocean, the implications for ecosystem dynamics, and the development of sustainable management procedures. I am particularly interested in the translation of science into decision-making.

In 2017 I was named as one of Science & Technology Australia’s 30 STEM Superstars, and was also named Tasmania’s Young Tall Poppy of the Year in 2015 for my research, science communication and policy engagement. I am a co-presenter of the successful MOOC on Marine and Antarctic Science, which has engaged nearly 20 000 students. I am passionate about encouraging greater representation of women in science leadership, and am the co-founder of the Homeward Bound project which took 78 women with a background in science on a leadership journey to Antarctica in 2016. I was awarded my PhD in Quantitative Marine Science from UTAS in 2010, and was a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford from 2003-2005.

Current projects

  • Projecting ecosystem change in the Southern Ocean using end-to-end models (Chief Investigator) (#4347)
  • Assessing status and trends of marine ecosystems in the Indian Sector of the Southern Ocean (#4343)
  • Using size-based models to understand the role of mesopelagic fish and squid in Southern Ocean ecosystems (#4366)
  • Designing regular krill surveys of predator monitoring sites (#4321)
  • Assessment of habitats, productivity and food webs on the Kerguelen Axis in the Indian Sector of the Southern Ocean (#4344)

National and international collaboration/representation

  • Project leader, ACE CRC project R2.3 on Status and Trends in Ecosystems, 2014-2019
  • Theme co-convenor and local organising committee member for 2018 International Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean
  • Member of the Australian delegation to CCAMLR, 2013-2016
  • Southern Ocean Knowledge & Information (SOKI) Wiki Editor, 2012 – present 

Key outcome areas

  • Marine Ecosystem Assessment for the Southern Ocean (MEASO)
  • Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics (ICED)
  • Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
  • Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS)
  • Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)

Selected publications

Melbourne-Thomas, J., A. J. Constable, E. A. Fulton, S. P. Corney, R. Trebilco et al. In Press. Integrated modelling to support decision-making for marine social-ecological systems in Australia. ICES Journal of Marine Science. doi:1093/icesjms/fsx078

Melbourne-Thomas, J., S. P. Corney, R. Trebilco, K. M. Meiners, R. P. Stevens, S. Kawaguchi, M. D. Sumner, and A. J. Constable. 2016. Under ice habitats for Antarctic krill larvae: Could less mean more under climate warming? Geophysical Research Letters 43:10–322–10–327.

Constable, A. J., D. P. Costa, O. Schofield, L. Newman, E. R. Urban Jr, E. A. Fulton, J. Melbourne-Thomas et al. 2016. Developing priority variables (“ecosystem Essential Ocean Variables” — eEOVs) for observing dynamics and change in Southern Ocean ecosystems. Journal of Marine Systems 161:26–41.

Marzloff, M. P., Melbourne-Thomas, K. G. Hamon, E. Hoshino, S. Jennings, I. E. van Putten, and G. T. Pecl. 2016. Modelling marine community responses to climate-driven species redistribution to guide monitoring and adaptive ecosystem-based management. Global Change Biology 22:2462–2474.

Constable, A. J., J. Melbourne-Thomas, S. P. Corney, K. R. Arrigo, C. Barbraud et al. 2014. Climate change and Southern Ocean ecosystems I: how changes in physical habitats directly affect marine biota. Global Change Biology. doi:10.1111/gcb.12623.

Melbourne-Thomas, J., A. Constable, S. Wotherspoon, and B. Raymond. 2013. Testing paradigms of ecosystem change under climate warming in Antarctica. PLoS ONE 8:e55093.

Melbourne-Thomas, J., S. Wotherspoon, B. Raymond, and A. Constable. 2012. Comprehensive evaluation of model uncertainty in qualitative network analyses. Ecological Monographs 82(4):505-519.