Dr Mel Taylor

Dr Mel Taylor

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 addressed 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.

Research team:
This project focused on the two behaviours most frequently associated with flood fatalities: driving into floodwater in a motor vehicle, and recreating in floodwater. As the project comprised a number of studies it generated a substantial number of findings and insights, which have been condensed into a series of practitioner-focused Research into Practice briefs and a series of short videos to showcase key research findings and augment the briefs. Based on the research findings, the project team have led the co-development of National Community Service Announcements for flood with AIDR, the ABC and AFAC. Survey tools and findings about how people behave, perceive risks, and make decisions around floodwater were developed through this project and the research findings can be used to inform more targeted communications and safety-related training. The survey tools themselves can be used as an engagement tool both with communities and SES personnel. Surveys with SES personnel about entering floodwater included evaluation of organisational safety climate as well as risk taking behaviour, and the data provides a baseline against which a number of SES jurisdictions could evaluate work health and safety improvements and the effectiveness of a range of safety interventions.
Research team:

Research team

Type Project Research team
Commissioned Research 2018 Reedy Swamp fire post-incident task force khaynes, mtofa, cwilkinson, mtaylor
Commissioned Research 2017 NSW post-incident task force mtaylor
31 Aug 2020
Key findings: More than 90% of people who drive through floodwater experience no adverse...
27 Aug 2019
Utilising BNHCRC research as part of the Hawkesbury-Nepean Valley Flood Risk Management Strategy
27 Aug 2019
Just under half of all flood-related fatalities in Australia (45%) are attributed to people...
Flood risk communication to reduce vehiclerelated flood fatalities
18 Sep 2018
If imagery in public risk communication always presents a fast flowing, clearly dangerous body of...
30 Jun 2017
Project objectives:Develop a detailed understanding of the motivations, beliefs, decision making...
Managing Animals in Disasters (MAiD): Improving preparedness, response, and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration
29 Jun 2017
This project aims to identify and build best practice approaches to animal emergency management to...
Bushfire preparedness: how to become 'fire-fit' without really noticing
29 Jun 2017
Narrowing the awareness-action gap: cultivating a culture of routine all-hazards preparedness...
Managing Animals in Disasters (MAiD): Improving Preparedness, Response, and Resilience through Individual and Organisational Collaboration
18 Aug 2015
The Managing Animals in Disasters project (MAiD) is seeking to identify and build best practice...
The Interactions Between Emergency Responders and Animal Owners in Bushfire: Improving Community Preparedness and Response Outcomes
18 Aug 2015
The purpose of this study is to develop best practice methods for preparedness and response...

Resources credited

Type Released Titlesort ascending Download Key Topics
Presentation-Audio-Video 16 Nov 2020 When is water on the roads dangerous? – Perspectives of emergency service professionals File Save (0 bytes) communication, flood, warnings
Guide-Fact Sheet 24 Jul 2019 Vehicle related flood deaths - practice brief two July 2019 PDF icon Save (1.11 MB) communication, flood, warnings
HazardNoteEdition 06 Mar 2020 Understanding bushfire risk, warnings and responses - lessons from the 2018 Reedy Swamp fire PDF icon Save (561.7 KB) communication, communities, warnings
HazardNoteEdition 21 Oct 2015 Turning warnings into action PDF icon Save (236.32 KB) communication, tsunami, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 11 Sep 2015 The integration of informal volunteers into animal emergency management PDF icon Save (2.23 MB) animals, risk management
Presentation-Slideshow 27 Aug 2019 Promoting community resilience through connection to animals PDF icon Save (4.79 MB) communities
Presentation-Slideshow 17 May 2016 Managing Animals in Disasters: improving preparedness, response and resilience through individual and organisational collaboration PDF icon Save (2.9 MB) animals, response, risk management
Presentation-Slideshow 10 Apr 2015 Managing Animals in Disasters 2015 NSW RAF Presentation PDF icon Save (2.09 MB) animals, emergency management, response
Presentation-Audio-Video 25 Nov 2015 Managing Animals in Disasters - project overview video File Save (0 bytes) animals, communication, risk management
Presentation-Audio-Video 27 Oct 2014 Managing animals in disasters (MAiD): Experiences of emergency services personnel animals, emergency management
Presentation-Slideshow 08 Sep 2014 Managing animals in disasters (MAiD) PDF icon Save (2.02 MB) animals, emergency management
Presentation-Slideshow 27 Mar 2014 Managing animals in disasters PDF icon Save (1.74 MB) animals, communities, resilience
Presentation-Slideshow 24 Sep 2019 Managing Animals in Disaster (MAiD) PDF icon Save (10.73 MB) resilience, response
Presentation-Slideshow 18 Apr 2017 Managing Animals in Disaster PDF icon Save (2.04 MB) animals, communication, risk management
Guide-Fact Sheet 24 Jul 2014 MAiD newsletter 1 - July 2014 PDF icon Save (387.93 KB) animals
Presentation-Audio-Video 13 Aug 2021 Hon A/Prof Mel Taylor interview: managing animals in disasters File Save (0 bytes) animals, decision making, preparedness
Presentation-Audio-Video 13 Aug 2021 Hon A/Prof Mel Taylor interview: flood risk communication File Save (0 bytes) communication, flood, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 18 Apr 2017 Flood Risk Communication PDF icon Save (354.87 KB) communication, flood, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 24 Sep 2019 Flood Risk Communication PDF icon Save (2.5 MB) flood, risk management
Presentation-Audio-Video 16 Nov 2020 Evaluating flood risk communication messaging – Analysing flood risk communication campaigns File Save (0 bytes) communication, flood, warnings
Presentation-Audio-Video 16 Nov 2020 Driving and recreating in floodwater – What does Australia think? File Save (0 bytes) communication, flood, warnings
Guide-Fact Sheet 05 Oct 2020 Download the Research into practice brief series communication, flood, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 19 Sep 2018 Defining floodwater -expert and public perspectives PDF icon Save (2.1 MB) communication, flood, warnings
HazardNoteEdition 30 Jun 2017 Community taking lead in emergency planning for their animals PDF icon Save (645.15 KB) animals, communication, communities
HazardNoteEdition 12 Feb 2018 Community preparedness, warnings and responses: NSW fires 2017 PDF icon Save (422.42 KB) communication, fire severity, warnings
Presentation-Audio-Video 15 Jul 2019 Community preparedness, warnings and response to 2017 NSW fires File Save (0 bytes) communication, communities, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 07 Jul 2017 Communicating and warning: getting the message across more effectively PDF icon Save (4.79 MB) communication, flood, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 16 Apr 2018 Building resilience through flood risk communication PDF icon Save (2.13 MB) communication, flood, warnings
Presentation-Slideshow 27 Aug 2019 Behaviour around floodwater: Dilemmas for floodwater safety and risk communication PDF icon Save (4.06 MB) flood, risk management

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