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Dr Jane Melville

Senior Curator, Terrestrial Vertebrates

About me

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I obtained my PhD in Zoology at the University of Tasmania in December 1998, on the evolution of ecology, morphology and behaviour in Tasmanian snow skinks. On completion, I took up a postdoctoral research position in 1998 with Prof. Jonathan Losos at Washington University, St Louis – he is now at Harvard University.

In 2001, I was awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellowship and an additional Large ARC Grant based in Professor Rick Shine’s research group at the University of Sydney. In 2002 I was offered the position of Curator of Herpetology at Museum Victoria and in 2008 the Senior Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates. Since 2002, I have also held an honorary position at the School of Biosciences, University of Melbourne.

My research combines field-based studies on reptiles and amphibians across conservation, genetics, ecology, taxonomy and evolution. Currently, my research focuses on revising the taxonomy of agamid lizards by integrating genetic and morphological information. I am also studying the evolutionary basis of morphological and ecological diversity in dragon lizards.

Other projects include investigating the impacts of habitat disturbance, particularly the recent Victorian bushfires, on frog populations in the Kinglake region and the impacts of habitat fragmentation on diversity of immune-system genes (MHC) in box-ironbark woodland birds. I am also running genetics projects aimed at the conservation of endangered reptiles and frogs, such as grassland earless dragons and growling grass frogs.

Qualifications

PhD Zoology, University of Tasmania, 1998

Key publications

Potvin D, Parris K, Smith-Date K, Keely C, Bray R, Hale J, Hunjan S, Austin J, Melville J. (2017) Genetic erosion and escalating extinction risk in frogs with increasing wildfire frequency. Journal of Applied Ecology 54 (3), 945-954. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.12809

Melville J, Hunjan S, McLean F, Mantziou G, Boysen K, Parry LJ. 2016. Expression of hindlimb-determining factor Pitx1 in the forelimb of the lizard Pogona vitticeps during morphogenesis. Royal Society of London Open Biology 6 (10), p.160252. DOI: 10.1098/rsob.160252

Melville, J., Haines, M. L., Hale, J., Chapple, S., Ritchie, E. G. 2016. Concordance in phylogeography and ecological niche modelling identify dispersal corridors for reptiles in arid Australia. Journal of Biogeography 43: 1844–1855. DOI:10.1111/jbi.12739

Melville, J, Smith K, Hobson R, Hunjan S, Shoo L (2014) The role of integrative taxonomy in the conservation management of cryptic species: the taxonomic status of endangered earless dragons (Agamidae: Tympanocryptis) in the grasslands of Queensland, Australia. PLoS ONE 9(7): e101847. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101847. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101847

Smith KL, Hale JM, Gay L, Kearney M, Austin JJ, Parris K, Melville J. 2013. Spatio-temporal changes in the structure of an Australian frog hybrid zone: a 40-year perspective. Evolution 67: 3442–3454. DOI: 10.1111/evo.12140

Projects and events

Molecular Systematics and Taxonomy

This research on the molecular systematics and phylogeography of Australia's agamid lizards. In particular, we are currently focusing research efforts on determining diversification, evolution of species boundaries and taxonomic status of species in the genera Diporiphora, Tympanocryptis, Pogona, Amphibolurus, and Lophognathus. In addition to this molecular research, we are integrating geometric morphometrics, based on CT scans, into our research of morphological diversity. I recently received an ABRS-sponsored Churchill Fellowship to travel to Europe in 2016 to visit museum collections and learn micro X-ray CT scanning techniques in lizards.

Conservation genetics

In herpetology, we are currently running a number of projects that incorporate novel techniques and approaches to conservation genetics, such as the use of historical museum specimens to investigate changes in genetic diversity of Melbourne frog species through time. Our project to investigate the long-term impacts of severe bushfires on the population genetics of Victorian frog species. In addition, Dr Melville has run a number of conservation genetics projects on endangered Victorian reptile species in collaboration with Dr Joanna Sumner, Museum Victoria.

I have been leading research investigating the impacts of fire and habitat fragmentation on a number of frog species in the Melbourne region, including the endangered Growling Grass Frog. I also have ongoing research projects on the conservation genetics of endangered Grassland Earless Dragons, Grampians Mountain Dragons and endangered alpine skinks. All of my conservation research projects have involved collaborations with community groups (e.g., Landcare) and/or government agencies, with project results being communicated directly to these collaborative partners and findings feeding directly into conservation action plans and management. As such my research has made quantifiable and direct contributions to the conservation of a number of endangered Australian lizards and frogs. I recently participated in two IUCN workshops run as part of its Global Reptile Assessment to assess conservation status of all Australia’s reptile species (~1000).

Functional genetics in evolution and conservation

We are running a number of research projects that are integrating functional genetics into studies of evolutionary diversification and conservation biology. I am investigating the evolutionary development of morphological diversity in agamid lizards. My research team has been investigating a number of genes, including SHH, PITX1, PITX2 and GHR, using qPCRs and immunohistochemistry across developmental stages in two agamids lizards (Ctenophorus pictus & Pogona vitticeps). This was published recently in Royal Society Open Biology. We are now investigating the evolutionary diversity of teeth in Australian agamid lizards, integrating geometric morphometrics with developmental genetics.

We have also been using functional genetics to investigate the effect of habitat loss and fragmentation in agricultural landscapes by comparing the effective population size, genetic structure and population dynamics of bird species in landscapes that have experienced different levels of habitat loss. As part of this large collaborative project I ran a project on the effects of habitat fragmentation on the diversity of immune system genes (MHC IIb). In particular, looking at whether highly fragmented landscapes are associated with a loss in genetics diversity of this important gene complex and whether there is an associated increase in infection rates of blood parasites.

Teaching and students

I'm available for student supervision.

Current Lab Members

Post-Doctoral Researchers: 

  • Christy Hipsley

PhD Students:

  • Kirilee Chaplin

PhD Student (visiting):

  • Breno Hamdan

Master Students (MSc):

  • Sakib Kazi

Past Lab Members

Post Doctoral Researchers:

  • Katya Boysen
  • Maggie Haines
  • Sumi Hunjan
  • David Chapple
  • Euan Ritchie
  • Luke Shoo
  • Danielle Edwards
  • Georgia Mantziou
  • Jeremy Austin

PhD Students:

  • Claire Keely
  • Shandiya Balasubramaniam
  • Maggie Haines
  • Katie Smith Date
  • Josh Hale

Masters Students (MSC):

  • Brittany Carter
  • Anna Phillips
  • Peter Smissen

Honours Students:

  • Rebecca Bray
  • Susie Maldonado
  • Rebecca Rose
  • Julienne Ng
  • Felicity McLean

Publications

Peer-reviewed articles

Miller, K, Melville J, Thompson M, Chapple D. Sex-specific shifts in morphology and colour pattern polymorphism during the spread of an invasive lizard. Journal of Biogeography (Accepted for publication).

Melville J, Haines M, Boysen K, Hodkinson L, Kilian A, Smith Date K, Potvin DA, Parris KA. 2017. Identifying hybridization and admixture using SNPs: Application of the DArTseq platform in phylogeographic research on vertebrates. Royal Society Open Science (In press)

Haines ML, Stuart- Fox D, Sumner J, Clemann N, Chapple DG, Melville J. 2017. A complex history of introgression and vicariance in a threatened montane skink (Pseudemoia cryodroma) across an Australian sky island system.  Conservation Genetics doi:10.1007/s10592-017-0945-7.

Potvin D, Parris K, Smith-Date K, Keely C, Bray R, Hale J, Hunjan S, Austin J, Melville J. (2017) Genetic erosion and escalating extinction risk in frogs with increasing wildfire frequency. Journal of Applied Ecology 54 (3), 945-954.

Melville, J., Haines, M. L., Hale, J., Chapple, S., Ritchie, E. G. 2016. Concordance in phylogeography and ecological niche modelling identify dispersal corridors for reptiles in arid Australia. Journal of Biogeography 43: 1844–1855. doi:10.1111/jbi.12739

Melville J, Hunjan S, McLean F, Mantziou G, Boysen K, Parry LJ. 2016. Expression of hindlimb-determining factor Pitx1 in the forelimb of the lizard Pogona vitticeps during morphogenesis. Royal Society of London Open Biology 6 (10), p.160252.

Haines ML, Melville J, Sumner J, Clemann N, Chapple DG, Stuart‐Fox D. 2016. Geographic variation in hybridization and ecological differentiation between three syntopic, morphologically similar species of montane lizards. Molecular ecology 25: 2887–2903. doi:10.1111/mec.13652.

Balasubramaniam S, Bray RD, Mulder RA, Sunnucks P, Pavlova A, Melville J. 2016. New data from basal Australian songbird lineages show that complex structure of MHC class II β genes has early evolutionary origins within passerines. BMC evolutionary biology 16 (1):1.

Balasubramaniam, S., Mulder, R.A., Sunnucks, P., Pavlova, A., Melville, J., 2016. MHC class II β exon 2 variation in pardalotes (Pardalotidae) is shaped by selection, recombination and gene conversion. Immunogenetics, pp.1-11.

Edwards DL, Melville J, Joseph L, Keogh JS (2015) Ecological divergence, adaptive diversification and the evolution of social signalling traits: an empirical study in arid Australian lizards. American Naturalist 186 (6), E144-E161.

Doughty P, Kealley L, Shoo LP, Melville J (2015) Revision of the Western Australian pebble-mimic dragons (Tympanocryptis cephalus: Reptilia: Agamidae). ZooTaxa 4039 (1): 085–117.

Keely CC, Hale JM, Heard GW, Parris KM, Sumner J, Hamer AJ, Melville J (2015) Genetic structure and diversity of the endangered Growling Grass Frog in a rapidly urbanising region. Royal Society Open Science 2(8), 140255.

Clemann N, Rowe KMC, Rowe KC, Raadik T, Gomon M, Menkhorst P, Sumner J, Bray D, Norman M, Melville J. 2014. Value and impacts of collecting vertebrate voucher specimens, with guidelines for ethical collection. Memoirs of Museum Victoria 72: 141–151.

Haines ML, Moussalli M, Fox D-S, Clemann N, Melville J. 2014. Phylogenetic evidence of historic mitochondrial introgression and cryptic diversity in the genus Pseudemoia (Squamata: Scincidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 81: 86-95.

Oliver PM, Laver RJ, Melville J, Doughty P. A new species of Velvet Gecko (Oedura: Diplodactylidae) from the limestone ranges of the southern Kimberley, Western Australia. ZooTaxa 3873: 49-61.

Melville, J, Smith K, Hobson R, Hunjan S, Shoo L. 2014. The role of integrative taxonomy in the conservation management of cryptic species: the taxonomic status of endangered earless dragons (Agamidae: Tympanocryptis) in the grasslands of Queensland, Australia. PLoS ONE 9(7): e101847.

Ng J, Clemann N, Chapple SNJ, Melville J. 2014.0Phylogeographic evidence links the threatened ‘Grampians’ Mountain Dragon (Rankinia diemensis Grampians) with Tasmanian populations: conservation implications in south-eastern Australia. Conservation Genetics 15:363–373.

Balasubramaniam S, Mulder R, Sunnucks P, Pavlova A, Amos JN, Melville J. 2013. Prevalence and diversity of avian haematozoa in three passerine species in fragmented habitats. Emu 113: 353-358.

Smith KL, Hale JM, Gay L, Kearney M, Austin JJ, Parris K, Melville J. 2013. Spatio-temporal changes in the structure of an Australian frog hybrid zone: a 40-year perspective. Evolution 67: 3442–3454.

Smissen PJ, Melville J, Sumner J, Jessop TS. 2013. Mountain barriers and river conduits: phylogeographic structure in a large, mobile lizard (Varanidae: Varanus varius) from eastern Australia. Journal of Biogeography 40: 1729–1740.

Smith KL, Hale JM, Kearney MR, Austin JJ, Melville J. 2013. Molecular patterns of introgression in a classic hybrid zone between the Australian tree frogs, Litoria ewingii and L. paraewingi: Evidence of a tension zone. Molecular Ecology 22: 1869–1883.

Chen IP, Symonds MRE, Hugall AF, Melville J, Stuart-Fox D. 2013. Factors shaping the evolution of colour patterns in Australian agamid lizards (Agamidae): a comparative study. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 109: 101–112.

Hale JM, Heard GW, Smith KL, Parris KM, Austin JJ, Kearney M, Melville J. 2013. Evidence of urbanization-driven fragmentation of growling grass frog metapopulations. Conservation Genetics. 14: 313-322.

Couper P., Melville J., Emmott A., Chapple SNJ. 2012. A new species of Diporiphora from the Goneaway Tablelands of Western Queensland. Zootaxa 3556: 39–54.

Doughty P., Luke Kealley L., Melville J. 2012. Taxonomic assessment of Diporiphora (Reptilia: Agamidae) dragon lizards from the western arid zone of Australia. Zootaxa 3518: 1–24.

Maldonado SP, Melville J, Peterson GNL, Sumner J. 2012. Human-induced versus historical habitat shifts: identifying the processes that shaped the genetic structure of the threatened grassland legless lizard, Delma impar. Conservation Genetics 13:1329–1342.

Smith KL, Harmon LJ, Shoo LP, Melville J. (2011). Evidence that stabilizing selection constrains phenotypic evolution in a cryptic species complex of agamid lizards. Evolution 65: 976-992.

Smith KL, Hale JM, Austin JJ. Melville J. (2011). Isolation and characterization of microsatellite markers for the Litoria ewingii complex and their use in conservation and hybridization studies. Conservation Genetic Resources 3:621–624.

Edwards D, Melville J (2011). Extensive phylogeographic and morphological diversity in Diporiphora nobbi (Agamidae) leads to a taxonomic review and a new species description. Journal of Herpetology 45: 530-546.

Melville J, Ritchie E, Chapple SNJ, Glor RE, Schulte, JA II (2011). Evolutionary origins and diversification of dragon lizards in Australia’s tropical savannah woodlands. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 58: 257–270.

Wagner P, Melville J, Wilms TM, Schmitz A. (2011). Opening a box of cryptic taxa – the first review of the North African desert lizards in the Trapelus mutabilis Merrem, 1820 complex (Squamata: Agamidae) with descriptions of new taxa. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 163: 884–912.

Hale JM, Heard GW, Smith KL, Blacket MJ, Austin JJ, Melville J. (2011). Microsatellite loci for the endangered growling grass frog (Litoria raniformis), with cross amplification in other Australian frog species. Conservation Genetics Resources 3: 593–595.

Byrne M, Steane D, Joseph L, Yeates D, Jordan GJ, Crayn D, Aplin K, Cantrill D, Cook LG, Crisp, MD, Keogh JS, Melville J, Moritz C, Porch N, Sniderman JMK, Sunnucks P, Weston PH. (2011). Decline of a biome: evolution, contraction, fragmentation, extinction and invasion of the Australian mesic zone biota. Journal of Biogeography 38: 1635–1656.

Edwards D, Melville J (2010) Phylogeographic analysis detects congruent biogeographic patterns between a woodland agamid and Australian wet tropics taxa despite disparate evolutionary trajectories. Journal of Biogeography 37: 1543-1556.

Melville J., J. M. Hale, G. Mantziou, N. B. Ananjeva, K. Milto and N. Clemann. 2009. Historical biogeography, phylogenetic relationships and intraspecific diversity of agamids lizards in the Central Asian deserts of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53: 99-112.

Melville J., and J. M. Hale. 2009. Length variation in the in the N-terminal domain of the recombination-activating gene 1 (RAG1) across squamates. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 898-903.

Clemann, N., Melville, J., Ananjeva, N.B., Scroggie, M.P., Milto, K., Kreuzberg, E. 2008. Microhabitat occupation and functional morphology of four species of sympatric agamid lizards in the Kyzylkum Desert, central Uzbekistan. Animal Biodiversity and Conservation 31.2: 1-12.

Melville J., Shoo L. P., and P. Doughty. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships of the heath dragons (Rankinia adelaidensis and R. parviceps) from the southwestern Australian biodiversity hotspot. Australian Journal of Zoology 56: 159-171.

Byrne M., D. K. Yeates, L. Joseph, M. Kearney, J. Bowler, M. A. Williams, S. Cooper, S. C. Donnellan, J. S. Keogh, R. Leys, J. Melville, D. J. Murphy, N. Porch, K-H. Wyrwoll. 2008. Birth of a biome: insights into the assembly and maintenance of the Australian arid zone biota. Molecular Ecology 17: 4398-4417.

Harmon L. J, J. Melville , A. Larson A. and J. B. Losos. 2008. The Role of Geography and Ecological Opportunity in the Diversification of Day Geckos (Phelsuma). Systematic Biology 57(4): 562–573.

Shoo L. P., R. Rose, P. Doughty, J.J. Austin and J. Melville. 2008. Diversification patterns of pebble-mimic dragons are consistent with historical disruption of important habitat corridors in arid Australia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48: 528–542.

Melville J. 2007. Evolutionary correlations between microhabitat specialisation and locomotor capabilities in the lizard genus Niveoscincus. Australian Journal of Zoology 55, 351–355.

Doughty P., B. Maryan, J. Melville, and JJ. Austin. 2007. A new species of Ctenophorus (Lacertilia: Agamidae) from Lake Disappointment, Western Australia. Herpetologica 63(1): 72-86.

Melville, J., S. Goebel, C. Starr, J.S. Keogh and J.J. Austin. 2006. Conservation genetics and species status of an endangered Australian dragon, Tympanocryptis pinguicolla (Reptilia: Agamidae). Conservation Genetics 7: 185-195.

Melville, J., L. Harmon and J.B. Losos. 2006. Intercontinental community convergence in lizards. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 273: 557 – 563.

Austin, J. J. and J. Melville. 2006. Incorporating historical museum specimens into molecular systematic and conservation genetics research. Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 1089-1092.

Austin J. J., R. J Rose and J. Melville. 2006. Polymorphic microsatellite markers in the painted dragon lizard, Ctenophorus pictus. Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 194-196.

Rose, R. J., and J. Melville. 2006. A New Technique for Measuring Body Color of Small Lizards in the Field. Herpetological Review 37 (2): 191-194.

Rose, R. J., J. Ng and J. Melville. 2006. A New Technique for Measuring Lizards in the Field. Herpetological Review 37 (2): 194-195.

Melville, J., J. A. Schulte II and A. Larson. 2004. A molecular study of phylogenetic relationships and evolution of anti-predator strategies in Australian Diplodactylus geckos, subgenus Strophurus. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 82: 123-138.

Melville, J., and R. Swain. 2003. Evolutionary correlations between escape behaviour and performance ability in eight species of snow skinks from Tasmania (Niveoscincus: Lygosominae). Journal of Zoology (London) 261: 79-89.

Schulte II, J.A., J. Melville and A. Larson. 2003. Molecular phylogenetic evidence for ancient divergence of lizard taxa on either side of Wallace’s Line. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270: 597-603.

Melville, J. 2002. Competition and character displacement in two species of scincid lizards. Ecology Letters 5: 386-393

Melville, J., J. A. Schulte II and A. Larson. 2001. A molecular phylogenetic study of ecological diversification in the Australian lizard genus Ctenophorus. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Molecular and Developmental Evolution) 291: 339-353.

Melville, J., and J. A. Schulte II. 2001. Correlates of active body temperatures and microhabitat occupation in nine species of central Australian agamid lizards. Austral Ecology 26: 660-669.

Melville, J., and R. Swain. 2000. Evolutionary relationships between morphology, performance and habitat openness in the lizard genus Niveoscincus (Scincidae: Lygosominae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70: 667-683.

Melville, J., and R. Swain.2000. Mitochondrial dna-sequence based phylogeny and biogeography of the snow skinks (Squamata: Scincidae: Niveoscincus) of Tasmania. Herpetologica 56: 196-208.

Melville, J. and R. Swain 1999 Home Range Characteristics of an Alpine Lizard, Niveoscincus microlepidotus (Scincidae), on Mt Wellington, Southern Tasmania. Wildlife Research 26(3): 263-270.

Melville, J., and R. Swain. 1999. Habitat associations and natural history of the Tasmanian "snow skinks" (Niveoscincus spp.). Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 133 (1): 57-64.

Melville, J., and R. Swain. 1998. Evolutionary relationships within the snow skinks (Squamata: Scincidae: Niveoscincus) of Tasmania. IN: Evolutionary Biology at High Southern Latitudes. Australian Institute of Biology, Canberra.

Melville, J., and R. Swain. 1997. Spatial separation in two sympatric skinks, Niveoscincus microlepidotus and N. metallicus, from Tasmania. Herpetologica 53(1): 126-132.

Melville, J., and R. Swain. 1997. Daily and seasonal activity patterns in two species of high altitude skink, Niveoscincus microlepidotus and N. metallicus, from Tasmania. Journal of Herpetology 31(1): 29-37.

Non peer-reviewed articles

Popular science articles

Melville J, Potvin D (2017) The Future of Frogs in the Face of Fire. Australasian Science 38 (3): 38-40.

Melville, J. 2005. Venomous Venture. Museum Victoria Magazine: Winter 2005.

Melville, J. 2005. Disappearing Dragons. Australian Academy of Sciences Newsletter: April-July 2005.

Book Chapters

Melville, J. 2006. Frogs (Ch. 14); Freshwater turtles (Ch. 15); Lizards (Ch. 16); Snakes (Ch. 17). In: Wildlife of Melbourne, Museum Victoria Press, Melbourne.

Book Reviews

Melville, J. 2013. Tree Thinking: An Introduction to Phylogenetic Biology. Copeia 2013(4), 783-784.

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