Our People

Project Leader

About

Mel is an Occupational Psychologist at Macquarie University.

Prior to this, Mel was a member of the University of Western Sydney Disaster Response and Resilience Research Group. She joined UWS as a Senior Research Fellow in February 2007, following a 20 year career in Human Factors in the UK. Since joining UWS she has worked in the areas of psychosocial impacts of disasters and emergencies and related preparedness and response behaviour. Her work in these areas has spanned a range of threats that would generally be regarded as  significant to national security, and usually fall into the category of low probability high consequence events. These include pandemic influenza, floods, terrorism (including CBRNE terrorism), radiological and nuclear incidents or accidents, and emergency animal diseases (EAD), such as equine influenza, ovine Johne's disease, and Hendra virus. Her work includes public and emergency responder preparedness, actual or anticipated response, and psychosocial recovery and resilience in the context of these events.

Mel's current interests centre on emergency and disaster preparedness and protective responses, for example uptake of vaccination, compliance with public health and animal health recommendations, and animal health and biosecurity practices. During the last twelve months Mel has studied the impacts of risk communication and risk messaging on anticipated response to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear and Explosive (CBRNE) terrorism, the use of social media for emergency information synthesis and as a source of psychological first aid during the floods and cyclone Yasi in 2011, and the animal health management practices of Australian sheep producers and the role of livestock agents in influencing sheep producer behaviours.In collaboration with researchers at the University of Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science she has also been involved in research on veterinarians' risk perceptions and infection control practices to zoonoses, and  horse owner biosecurity practices and perceptions of the response to the 2007 outbreak of equine influenza in Australia. 

In 2012 Mel is working on an ARC funded Discovery project with the University of Queensland investigating resilience in Brisbane communities following the 2011 floods, and she is leading a three year research project funded through the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) from the National Hendra Virus Research Program. This project (HHALTER) will follow a large national cohort of horse owners to investigate their knowledge, attitudes, and biosecurity practices in relation to Hendra virus and to investigate their attitudes to the national response, including uptake of vaccination, in the context of this dynamic threat.

During her career in the UK Mel specialised in the optimization of human performance. She has been involved in the assessment of human performance and human error in safety-critical systems, e.g. aviation, military operations, and she has experience in using a wide range of research methodologies. Many projects investigated human performance and limitations in stressful environments, or in the presence of stressors; such as sleep deprivation, shift-work, sustained operations, noise, hypoxia, team conflicts, uncertainty, and psychological over- and under- arousal.

Project leadership

During a disaster responsibility for animals lies with the owner. However, owners are often ill-prepared for themselves and their animals, which can lead to people risking their lives by failing to evacuate or evacuating too late, which endangers both human and animal lives. This recognition that animals need to be considered and integrated into emergency management and disaster preparedness, response, and recovery poses additional challenges for traditional responding. Extra preparation, knowledge and skills are required to ensure the safety of animals, their owners, and responders.

In this context, animal emergency management has emerged as a relatively new area, with a more complex and often less experienced set of stakeholders requiring integration and coordination.

This study, now in its utilisation phase, sought to address the lack of Australian research by identifying challenges for end-users and studying the disaster experiences of animal owners and responders. Subsequent publications have led to an extended knowledge base, and identification of best practice approaches.

This new project will develop an understanding of the motivations, beliefs, decision making processes and information needs of at-risk groups for flood fatalities. It will cover both age and gender, including an understanding of what a Plan B would look like, how to motivate proactive decision making ahead of the journey, what the current challenges and barriers are to this and what further support and information is needed.

Research team

Type Project Research team
Commissioned Research 2017 NSW post-incident task force Christine Eriksen, Mel Taylor
Year Type Citation
2016 Report Taylor, M. Managing Animals in Disasters - improving preparedness, response and resilience through organisational collaboration: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Journal Article Smith, B. P., Taylor, M. & Thompson, K. Risk perception, preparedness and response of livestock producers to bushfires: a South Australian case study. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Journal Article Smith, B., Thompson, K. & Taylor, M. What’s the Big Deal? Responder Experiences of Large Animal Rescue in Australia. PLOS Currents Disasters (2015). doi:10.1371/currents.dis.71d34082943fa239dbfbf9597232c8a5
2015 Journal Article Taylor, M. et al. The challenges of managing animals and their owners in disasters: perspectives of Australian response organisations and stakeholders. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Taylor, M. et al. Experiences of responders in supporting animals and their owners in disasters Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Taylor, M., Lynch, E., Burns, P. & Eustace, G. The preparedness and evacuation behaviour of pet owners in emergencies and natural disasters. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Report Taylor, M. Managing Animals in Disasters: Improving Preparedness, Response and Resilience Annual Report 2014. (2015).
2015 Report Taylor, M. Managing animals in disasters: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Taylor, M., Eustace, G. & McCarthy, M. Animal Emergency Management in Australia. (2015).
2015 Conference Paper Taylor, M., McCarthy, M. & Eustace, G. The integration of informal volunteers into animal emergency management: experiences from the 2015 South Australian bushfires - non peer reviewed extended abstract. Adelaide Conference 2015 (2015).

Posters credited

Managing animals in disasters (MAiD): Improving preparedness, response, and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration


The Managing Animals in Disasters project (MAiD) is seeking to identify and build best practice approaches to animal welfare emergency management to enable engagement with animal owners and other stakeholders in disasters/emergencies.  

Managing Animals in Disasters (MAiD): Improving Preparedness, Response, and Resilience through Individual and Organisational Collaboration


The Managing Animals in Disasters project (MAiD) is seeking to identify and build best practice approaches to animal emergency management to enable engagement with animal owners and other stakeholders in disasters and emergencies.

The Interactions Between Emergency Responders and Animal Owners in Bushfire: Improving Community Preparedness and Response Outcomes


The purpose of this study is to develop best practice methods for preparedness and response practices in a bushfire hazard, with the aim of enhancing community well-being and safety. Effective collaboration between animal owners, emergency responders and the whole of community could be one way to narrow the gap between hazard awareness and hazard survival. 

Key Topics:
Megan McCarthy Conference Poster 2016


This project is leveraging current initiatives, programs and research on prevention and preparedness by providing complementary research on the impact of animals on response and recovery, both for the community and responders.

Key Topics:
Managing Animals in Disasters (MAiD): Improving preparedness, response, and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration


This project aims to identify and build best practice approaches to animal emergency management to enable engagement with animal owners, and other stakeholders in disasters and emergencies.

Bushfire preparedness: how to become 'fire-fit' without really noticing


Narrowing the awareness-action gap: cultivating a culture of routine all-hazards preparedness through public policy initiatives - a case study from South Australia, the "driest state in the driest continent"


Project objectives:

  1. Develop a detailed understanding of the motivations, beliefs, decision making processes and information needs of at-risk groups (split by age and gender).
  2. Develop and adapt targeted risk communication materials in partnership with those from at-risk groups and endusers
  3. Develop an innovative methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of various communication materials and initiatives using a realistic disaster scenario.
Key Topics:

Resources credited

Type Released Title Download Key Topics
Presentation-Slideshow 27 Mar 2014 Managing animals in disasters Save (1.74 MB) animals, communities, resilience
Guide-Fact Sheet 24 Jul 2014 MAiD newsletter 1 - July 2014 Save (387.93 KB) animals
Presentation-Slideshow 08 Sep 2014 Managing animals in disasters (MAiD) Save (2.02 MB) animals, emergency management
Presentation-Audio-Video 27 Oct 2014 Managing animals in disasters (MAiD): Experiences of emergency services personnel animals, emergency management
Presentation-Slideshow 10 Apr 2015 Managing Animals in Disasters 2015 NSW RAF Presentation Save (2.09 MB) animals, emergency management, response
Presentation-Slideshow 11 Sep 2015 The integration of informal volunteers into animal emergency management Save (2.23 MB) animals, risk management
HazardNoteEdition 21 Oct 2015 Turning warnings into action Save (236.32 KB) animals, communication, tsunami
Presentation-Audio-Video 25 Nov 2015 Managing Animals in Disasters - project overview video Save (0 bytes) animals, communication, risk management
Presentation-Slideshow 17 May 2016 Managing Animals in Disasters: improving preparedness, response and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration Save (2.9 MB) animals, response, risk management
Presentation-Slideshow 18 Apr 2017 Managing Animals in Disaster Save (2.04 MB) animals, communication, risk management
Presentation-Slideshow 18 Apr 2017 Flood Risk Communication Save (354.87 KB) communication, flood, warnings
HazardNoteEdition 30 Jun 2017 Community taking lead in emergency planning for their animals Save (645.15 KB) animals, communication, communities
Presentation-Slideshow 07 Jul 2017 Communicating and warning: getting the message across more effectively Save (4.79 MB)

All the resources from our 2016 conference

Research program in detail

Where, why and how are Australians dying in floods?

2015-2016 year in review

Bushfire planning with kids ebook