Dr Melissa (Mel) Neave is an environmental geographer with experience in natural resource management and a particular interest in water resources. She teaches in the undergraduate and postgraduate Environment and Planning program at RMIT.
Melissa (Mel) is currently responsible for the following courses: Coastal and Catchment Management (ARCH1266/ARCH1288), Emissions and Waste Management (ENVI1156) and Natural Resource Management (ENVI1196/ENVI1132). Her main objective is to improve our understanding of how natural systems operate and of how humans use natural systems to achieve both environmental and social objectives.
Prizes and awards
- 2008 Faculty of Science Citation for Excellence in Teaching Award, University of Sydney
- 1997 Graduate Student Excellence in Teaching Award, SUNY Buffalo
Mel’s research spans the social and physical sciences and seeks to find solutions to natural resource problems at scales ranging from the local to the international. She is currently working on a major project (funded by RIRDC) that aims to investigate the drivers and implications of land ownership change in rural Australia but is also interested in the links between biological and physical systems in these environments.
Mel’s main areas of research include:
- Investigating patterns of non-urban land ownership change in rural Australia
- Considering the environmental implications of rural land ownership change in Australia
- Examining links between river flooding processes and soil condition in semiarid environments
- Deciphering the complex links between hillslope runoff and erosion processes
- Examining the biogeomorphic influences of small mammals in semiarid environments
Prospective topics for research students:
- Environmental implications of rural land ownership change
Rural landscapes in Australia are experiencing rapid rates of land ownership change. This is occurring as a result of many concurrent processes, including farm consolidation and fragmentation, the rise of corporate farming and an increase in absentee and foreign farm ownership. Although we have a basic understanding of the nature of these ownership changes, little is known about the implications of these changes on sustainable farming practices, land clearance, and other environmental factors associated with farming (e.g., the use of fertilisers and pesticides, water resource management, pest and weed management). This project would seek to address these issues by investigating farm practices, and land use and land cover changes in the context of changing land ownership.
- Economic and environmental consequences of the transformation of native grasslands to native scublands
The invasion of former grasslands by woody native plants (termed invasive native scrub) is a common occurrence in semi-arid Australia. From a farming perspective, this tends to be viewed as a negative occurrence as it reduces the grazing potential of the affected lands. However, such areas may potentially be beneficial to native fauna and may also help to remediate environmental problems in arid lands (such as rising soil salinity, high rates of Aeolian and fluvial soil erosion or poor soil fertility). This study seeks to investigate both the positive and negative effects of invasive native scrub and to come up with a set of recommendations for how best to manage these systems across a range of scales (from individual farms to entire landscapes) and institutions (from landholders and national parks to catchment management authorities and state and federal environmental and land management agencies).
- Geomorphic and hydrologic consequences of invasive species in semi-arid Australia
Across Australia, invasive plant and animal species are abundant. Owing to their competitive advantages, these organisms often negatively impact on the native flora and fauna that were present prior to their arrival. Many researchers have investigated the biological consequences of the arrival of invasive species into an area, and infer that these consequences are brought about almost solely through ecological processes. Importantly, however, it is becoming apparent that many of these species are also effective ecosystem engineers, who can transform the landscape to suit their own needs and thereby strengthen their competitive advantage. This project will seek to address this issue by investigating how invasive mammal and plant species affect the geomorphology, soil character and hydrology of semi-arid floodplains and hillslopes in Australia, and how any changes observed might serve to improve their own biological fitness at the expense of that for native species.
- BA (Hons), Monash University, 1991
- Ph.D. State University of New York at Buffalo, 1999, Thesis title: 'Impact of small mammal disturbances on water and sediment yields in the Jornada Basin, southern New Mexico'
Mel has spent the majority of her career working in academia, first as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography at Frostburg State University (USA), then as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Sydney, followed by a brief stint at the New South Wales Department of Environment and Climate Change (as a geomorphologist on the Tweed Heads Sand By-Pass project) before moving to RMIT.
Mel is an advocate for the discipline of Geography and, as such, has been an active member of the NSW Geographical Society (serving as a Councillor and Vice-President for several years) and has represented the Society on the Australian Academy of Sciences National Committee for Geography. She is also Associate Editor of the Journal Australian Geographer and is a member of a number of other professional organisations including the Institute of Australian Geographers.
- Dias Baptista, M.,Livesley, S.,Parmehr, E.,Neave, M.,Amati, M. (2018). Variation in leaf area density drives the rainfall storage capacity of individual urban tree species In: Hydrological Processes, 32, 3729 - 3740
- Dias Baptista, M.,Livesley, S.,Parmehr, E.,Neave, M.,Amati, M. (2018). Terrestrial laser scanning to predict canopy area metrics, water storage capacity, and throughfall redistribution in small trees In: Remote Sensing, 10, 1 - 22
- O'Keeffe, P.,Neave, M. (2017). Experiences of wheat growers in Australia's western Wimmera following deregulation of the export wheat market In: Rural Society, 26, 1 - 17
- Mallis, J.,Hamilton, R.,Rayburg, S.,Neave, M. (2016). Conversion of a decommissioned oxidation lagoon into a functional wetland In: International Journal of GEOMATE, 10, 2011 - 2017
- Neave, M.,Rayburg, S. (2016). Winter urban heat island magnitudes of major Australian cities In: International Journal of GEOMATE, 11, 2322 - 2327
- Covarrubia, J.,Rayburg, S.,Neave, M. (2016). The influence of local land use on the water quality of urban rivers In: International Journal of GEOMATE, 11, 2155 - 2161
- Neave, M.,Rayburg, S. (2016). Designing urban rivers to maximise their geomorphic and ecologic diversity In: International Journal of GEOMATE, 11, 2468 - 2473
- Al-Gretawee, H.,Rayburg, S.,Neave, M. (2016). The cooling effect of a medium sized park on an urban environment In: International Journal of GEOMATE, 11, 2541 - 2546
- Llausas, A.,Beilin, R.,Buxton, M.,Neave, M. (2016). Environmental objectives of local planning in peri-urban landscapes: neglected values, contested outcomes In: Conflict and Change in Australia's Peri-Urban Landscapes, Taylor and Francis, United Kingdom
- Pritchard, B.,Neave, M.,Hickey, D.,Troy, L. (2012). Rural land in New South Wales: Spacial patterns of ownership change: Aggregation and fragmentation (Publication No. 12/128) In: Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Barton, Australia
3 PhD Completions8 PhD Current Supervisions and 1 Masters by Research Current Supervisions