Natasha Speight

Dr Natasha Speight

Senior Lecturer

School of Animal and Veterinary Science

Faculty of Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Dr Natasha Speight is a senior lecturer at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences and is a registered veterinarian. Her current research focuses on the biology, health and diseases of South Australian populations of koalas, particularly oxalate nephrosis.

My research focuses on the health and diseases of koalas, particularly oxalate nephrosis, Chlamydia and retrovirus. I lead the Koala Health Research Group at the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences.

Oxalate nephrosis, a disease in which calcium oxalate crystals are deposited in the kidneys leading to renal dysfunction (Speight et al, 2013;2014), affects many koalas in the Mount Lofty Ranges population of South Australia. Oxalate nephrosis may have an underlying genetic cause, as well as involve other factors including dietary oxalate (Speight et al, 2013), climate (Speight et al, 2018) and gut bacteria (Speight et al, 2019). Understanding the cause and risk factors of this disease will assist with diagnosis and management of affected koalas.

Chlamydial disease in koalas is devastating populations of koalas on the east coast of Australia. Our research has shown that Chlamydial infection is common in koalas in the Mount Lofty Ranges of South Australia, but causes little disease in these koalas (Speight et al, 2016; Fabijan et al, 2019a). Kangaroo Island koalas have been shown to be Chlamydia pecorum- free, making them a large isolated population of negative koalas (Fabijan et al, 2019a). Understanding more about the infection patterns of Chlamydia in southern koalas will assist with managing this infectious threat to koalas.

Koala retrovirus infects 100% koalas in the eastern states, where it has been shown to be endogenous. In South Australia, koalas have a lower prevalence of retrovirus infection (Fabijan et al, 2019b), and research is continuing to understand its impact in southern koalas, which is based on complex factors such as variant and infection load (Sarker et al, 2019). Koala retrovirus has been associated with the development of lymphoid cancers and may increase the likelihood of Chlamydial infection, so it is important to understand the transmission and disease risk of this infection, particularly in SA koalas (Stephenson et al, 2021).

This research on the diseases of koalas will help with their conservation and management into the future.

NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service- WIRES (2022): Gastrointestinal microbiome changes

with the onset and progression of the disease oxalate nephrosis in koalas

Morris Animal Foundation, USA (2020): Clinical assessment of koalas during and following bushfire

Morris Animal Foundation, USA (2016): Prevalence studies of Chlamydia and retrovirus in SA koalas

Nature Foundation SA (2016): Oxalate nephrosis in koalas

Holsworth Wildlife Research Endowment (2009): Oxalate nephrosis in koalas

Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology II

Veterinary Anatomy and Physiology III

Anatomy for Veterinary Technologists

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2024 Principal Supervisor Factors affecting stress hormone concentrations of South Australian Koalas Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Connor Patrick Mulligan
    2022 Principal Supervisor Dietary, genetic, microbiome and environmental factors contributing to oxalate nephrosis prevalence in South Australian koalas Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Miss Evie Dunstan
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2016 - 2021 Co-Supervisor Pathology, coinfections and oncogenesis in South Australian koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) and their association with koala retrovirus (KoRV) Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Tamsyn Louise Stephenson
    2015 - 2020 Co-Supervisor Prevalence and Pathological Findings Associated with Chlamydia pecorum and Koala Retrovirus Infections in South Australian Koala Populations Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Jessica Helen Kovac
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    2008 - ongoing Member Wildlife Disease Association Australia
    2008 - ongoing Member Australian Mammal Society Australia
  • Position: Senior Lecturer
  • Phone: 83130655
  • Email:
  • Fax: 83137956
  • Campus: Roseworthy
  • Building: Corridor Block, floor G
  • Org Unit: School of Animal and Veterinary Science

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