Dr Jennie Mallela

Honorary Senior Lecturer
Research School of Biology

I am a multidisciplinary environmental scientist and coastal expert. My career journey has taken me from exploring the marine biodiversity of 2nd World War shipwrecks to researching climate change and pollution impacts on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I have worked in academia, developed successful Australian Research Council grants, run a successful scientific diving consultancy and contract to government. I am available to give guest talks and welcome new collaborative opportunities.


Areas of expertise

  • Climate Change Processes
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science And Management
  • Geochemistry
  • Marine And Estuarine Ecology (Incl. Marine Ichthyology)
  • Environmental Monitoring

Research interests

I'm interested in how humans impact the natural environment, biodiversity and ecosystem function. My research focuses on how past, present and future environmental disturbances (natural and anthropogenic) influence ecological resilience and ecosystem development (e.g. biodiversity, coral recruitment, marine calcification and erosion), and also how such disturbances impact resource management.

Current multidisciplinary projects:

  1. Agricultural runoff (e.g. sediments and nutrients) and their impacts on coral reefs
  2. How mining activities in the nearshore zone influence coral reef development
  3. Coral bleaching (temperature stress) and reef development
  4. Changing catchment use and river runoff on coral reefs
  5. Plastic pollution on coral reefs
  6. Coral reef carbonate budgets and responses to environmental stress

I have an interdisciplinary background in the bio-geo sciences and broad research interests which include: catchment to reef interactions, reef health, calcification, carbonate budgets, reef monitoring, geochemical proxies, coral sclerochronology (growth rings), hurricanes, bleaching, coral recruitment, land-based stressors, climate change and marine resource management.

For my PhD research I developed a coral reef carbonate budget model to assess how river runoff influenced rates and styles of reef development and carbonate accretion in Jamaica. As a Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Trinidad, I expanded on this research to incorporate climate change variables into my carbonate budget approach. We designed and implemented a long-term reef monitoring program, assessed the effects of hurricanes and bleaching on coral recruitment and coral disease. We then took cores from coral colonies in order to build proxy records of climate change and terrestrial runoff, used stable isotopes (δ13C and δ15N) to assess sources of energy and pollution on the reef, and used in-situ experiments to assess reefal calcification in relation to global (e.g. climate change), regional (e.g. Orinoco River runoff) and local (e.g. sewage) disturbances. Currently I am an ARC-DECRA fellow. I am focusing on the effects of land-based runoff on the development of the Great Barrier Reef: past, present and future. Please contact me if you are interested in any of this work.


  • Ellis, B, Grant, K, Mallela, J et al. 2019, 'Is XRF core scanning a viable method for coral palaeoclimate temperature reconstructions?', Quaternary International, vol. 514, pp. 97-107.
  • Martinez Escobar, D & Mallela, J 2019, 'Assessing the impacts of phosphate mining on coral reef communities and reef development', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 692, pp. 1257-1266.
  • Hamylton, S & Mallela, J 2019, 'Reef development on a remote coral atoll before and after coral bleaching: A geospatial assessment', Marine Geology, vol. 418, no. 106041, pp. 1-14.
  • Lewis, S & Mallela, J 2018, 'A multifactor risk analysis of the record 2016 Great Barrier Reef bleaching', American Meteorological Society, Bulletin, vol. 98, no. 12, pp. S144-S149.
  • Mallela, J 2018, 'The influence of micro-topography and external bioerosion on coral-reef-building organisms: recruitment, community composition and carbonate production over time', Coral Reefs, pp. 1-11pp.
  • Mallela, J & Fox, R 2018, 'The role of parrotfish in the destruction and construction of coral reefs', in Hoey, Andrew, S., Bonaldo, Robera M., (ed.), The Biology and Ecology of Parrotfishes, CRC Press, Florida, USA, pp. 161-196.
  • Mallela, J., Milne, B.C., Martinez-Escobar, D. 2017, 'A comparison of epibenthic reef communities settling on commonly used experimental substrates: PVC versus ceramic tiles', Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, vol. 486, pp. 290-295.
  • Leavesley, A, Cooper, N, Kendall, D et al. 2017, 'Defining success in bushfire management: critical moments in the 2012-13 ACT bushfire season', Australian Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 1-6pp.
  • Mallela, J, Hetznger, S & Halfar, J 2016, 'Thermal stress markers in Colpophyllia natans provide an archive of site-specific bleaching events', Coral Reefs, 35:181-186
  • Cinner, J, et al 2015, 'A framework for understanding climate change impacts on coral reef social-ecological systems', Regional Environmental Change, doi:10.1007/s10113-015-0832-z.
  • Mallela, J, Lewis, S & Croke, B 2013, 'Coral Skeletons Provide Historical Evidence of Phosphorus Runoff on the Great Barrier Reef', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 8, no. 9, pp. e75663-e75663.
  • Mallela, J 2013, 'Calcification by Reef-Building Sclerobionts', PLOS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 8, no. 3, pp. e60010/ 1-10.


  • Lewis SE, Brodie JE, McCulloch MT, Mallela J, Jupiter SD, et al. (2012) An assessment of an environmental gradient using coral geochemical records, Whitsunday Islands, Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Marine Pollution Bulletin 65: 306-319.
  • Mallela, J, Hermann, J, Rapp, R et al. 2011, 'Fine-scale phosphorus distribution in coral skeletons: combining X-ray mapping by electronprobe microanalysis and LA-ICP-MS', Coral Reefs, vol. 30, no. 3, pp. 813-818.
  • Graham, N, Ainsworth, T, Baird, A et al. 2011, 'From microbes to people: tractable benefits of no-take areas for coral reefs', Oceanography and Marine Biology: an annual review, vol. 49, pp. 105-136.
  • Mallela J (2011) Tobago: A Sustainable Future for Buccoo Reef. In: Burke L, Reytar K, Spalding M, Perry A (eds) Reefs at risk revisited. World Resources Institute. http://www.wri.org/publication/reefs-at-risk-revisited, Washington, pp130
  • Eakin, C, Morgan, J, Heron, S et al. 2010, 'Caribbean corals in crisis: Record thermal stress, bleaching, and mortality in 2005', PLoS ONE (Public Library of Science), vol. 5, no. 11, pp. 1-9.
  • Harrod, C, Mallela J & Kahilainen, K 2010, 'Phenotype-environment correlations in a putative whitefish adaptive radiation', Journal of Animal Ecology, vol. 79, pp. 1057-1068.
  • Mallela, J & Crabbe, M 2009, 'Hurricanes and coral bleaching linked to changes in coral recruitment in Tobago', Marine Environmental Research, vol. 68, pp. 158-162.
  • Mallela, J., Day, O., Parkinson, R. (2009) An assessment of reef health in Tobago. Caribbean Journal of Science. 45(2)
  • Mallela J., Parkinson R (2008) Coral disease succession in Tobago: from yellow band to black band disease. Coral Reefs 27: 787
  • Mallela, J., Harrod, C. (2008) δ13C and δ15N reveal significant differences in the coastal foodwebs of the seas surrounding the islands of Trinidad and Tobago. Marine Ecology Progress Series 368: 41-52
  • Mallela, J. (2007) Coral reef encruster communities and carbonate production in cryptic and exposed coral reef habitats along a gradient of terrestrial disturbance. Coral Reefs. 26:775-785
  • Mallela, J., Perry, C. T. (2007) A coral reef carbonate budget for two contrasting sites along a fluvial gradient, Rio Bueno, Jamaica. Coral Reefs. 26: 129-145.
  • Mallela, J., Roberts, C., Harrod, C., Goldspink, C. (2007) Reef fish distributions along a fluvial turbidity gradient. Journal of Fish Biology. 70: 523-537.
  • Mallela, J., Perry, C. T., Haley, M. P. (2004) Reef morphology and community composition along a turbid, fluvially influenced embayment, Rio Bueno, Jamaica. Caribbean Journal of Science, 40: 299-311.

Updated:  25 June 2024/Responsible Officer:  College of Science/Page Contact:  https://iceds.anu.edu.au/contact