Melita Low

Melita Low

Higher Degree by Research Candidate

School of Biological Sciences

Faculty of Sciences


My research focuses on DNA identification tools for economically important timber species belonging to the Family Dipterocarpaceae on the island of Borneo. The use of DNA identification methods as a tool for identifying illegally sourced wood has grown in the last decade, improving the traceability of tropical timber and supporting legal and responsible forest utilisation. Borneo’s tropical rainforests are among the tallest and most biologically diverse in the world and are a critical last refuge to endangered animals such as the orangutan but alarmingly are being cleared at an unprecedented rate by selective logging, fire and conversion to palm oil plantations. I will use a multispecies approach through DNA barcoding for species identification and a more focused phylogeographic approach for determining region of origin for high value Shorea species. My aim is to develop simple fit-for-purpose DNA tests that can be routinely applied by laboratories in timber producing countries to strengthen timber supply chains and combat illegal logging. 

I originally started my research career in marine sciences where I used chemical, morphological and genetic methods to study population structure in the Giant Australian Cuttlefish. Interested to see what life was like elsewhere I then worked for engineering consultancies and within the aviation industry for ten years. My interest in research never disappeared and I have been lucky to find a research project that I am passionate and excited about and in a field to which I hope I can make a positive contribution. 

2020 International Tropical Timber Organization Fellowship

2019 Bill Retalic Prize for Science and Justice, University of Adelaide 

2019 Bob Anderson Memorial Student Scholarship, Society for Wildlife Forensic Science

2019 Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) Stipend and RTP Fee-Offset Scholarship, The University of Adelaide

2004 Nature Foundation of South Australia 

2004 Michael Smyth Memorial Prize for the highest first class in the Honours Degree of Bachelor of Science in Environmental Biology (Zoology), The University of Adelaide

2004 Faculty of Sciences Student Scholarship, The University of Adelaide

2004 Gilbert P. Whitley Memorial Student Award for best student oral presentation at the Australian Society for Fish Biology’s annual conference

2004 McGraw-Hill Book Prize for Excellence in Environmental Biology at the The University of Adelaide 

2003 The Ena Orrock Lewcock Award for distinction in Botany at the The University of Adelaide


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