Melia Nafus, Ph.D.


Dr. Melia Nafus serves San Diego Zoo Global as a Researcher in Recovery Ecology. Currently, she works on research questions related to the conservation and recovery of the Mojave desert tortoise. Melia is interested in how anthropogenic stressors, including climate change, subsidized and invasive predators, nonnative forage, and infrastructure development affect local wildlife populations. Her work is directed toward developing management techniques for habitats, landscapes, and ecosystems that promote recovery of declining species through science-based exploration. Specifically, her research involves quantifying factors that affect habitat quality and improving understanding of wildlife-habitat relationships.

Melia’s research is focused on both the longer-term implications of reintroduction efforts and how site-specific habitat factors improve or decrease success of these measures. In an effort to gain a comprehensive understanding of the impact of habitat quality on wild tortoises, she is monitoring tortoises ranging from hatchlings to adults over a large regional area. Her aim is to improve understanding of how to conduct successful translocations and increase knowledge of desert tortoise habitat requirements in order to improve the likelihood of survival.

Melia earned her doctorate in Ecology from the University of California, Davis, studying how human-mediated changes to the landscape alter wildlife-habitat relationships. Currently, she serves as a member of the Desert Tortoise Recovery Implementation Team for the northeastern population. As a lover of all things reptile, there is no better job than one that one that allows her to spend her day helping save them from extinction.