Vanessa Melino

Research Scientists

Research Scientist



Research Interests

Globally, 70% of freshwater is used for agriculture. Considering that in many regions the rates of groundwater depletion exceed rates of replenishment, we must look to alternative sources of water for future cropping. Intensive agriculture has also led to the erosion of some nutrients and organic matter and contributed to the pollution of ecosystems. The combined lack of freshwater and salinized and nutrient-deplete soils has encouraged me to focus on plant adaptation to these stresses.

My research has three main tiers:

  1. Identifying genes and mechanisms of salinity tolerance in the halophyte Salicornia sp.
  2. Identifying root phenes and radial transport pathways for nutrient acquisition in cereal crops
  3. Improving nitrogen recycling and remobilization under stress

Selected Publications

  • Melino VJ, Plett DC, Bendre P, Thomsen HC, Zeisler-Diehl VV, Schreiber L and Kronzucker, H.J. (2021) Nitrogen depletion enhances endodermal suberization without restricting transporter-mediated root NO3- influx. Journal of Plant Physiology, 1;257:153334
  • Plett, D.C., Ranathunge, K., Melino, V.J., Kuya N., Uga, Y. and Kronzucker, H.J. (2020) The intersection of nitrogen nutrition and water use in plants: Understanding new paths toward improved crop productivity under changing climate conditions. Journal of Experimental Botany, DOI: 10.1093/jxb/eraa049.
  • Swift, R., Denton, D.M. and Melino, V.J. (2019) Plant probiotics for nutrient acquisition by agriculturally important grasses: a comprehensive review of the science and the application. Annual Plant Reviews Online.
  • Casartelli, A., Melino, V.J, Baumann, U., Roessner, U., Pitman, M., Riboni, R., Jayasinghe, N.S., Suchecki, R., Okamoto, M. and Heuer, S. (2019) Opposite fates of the purine metabolite allantoin under water and nitrogen restrictions in bread wheat, Plant Molecular Biology,
  • Melino, V.J., Casartelli, A., George, J., Rupasinghe, T., Roessner, U., Okamoto, M. and Heuer, S. (2018) RNA catabolites contribute to the nitrogen pool and support growth recovery of wheat, Frontiers in Plant Science, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2018.01539.
  • Melino VJ, Fiene G, Enju A, Cai J, Buchner P, Heuer S (2015) Genetic diversity for root plasticity and nitrogen uptake in wheat seedlings, Functional Plant Biology, 42 (10).
  • Cai, J, Zeng, Z, Connor, JN, Huang, CY, Melino, V, Kumar, P, Miklavcic, SJ (2015) RootGraph: a graphic optimization tool for automated image analysis of plant roots. Journal of Experimental Botany, 66(21):6551-6562.
  • Melino VJ, Drew EA, Ballard RA, Reeve WG, Thomson G, White RG, O'Hara GW. 2012. Identifying abnormalities in symbiotic development between Trifolium spp. and Rhizobium leguminosarum bv. trifolii leading to sub-optimal and ineffective nodule phenotypes. Annals of Botany, 110: 1559-72. 


  • 2009 Degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Science, Plant Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, The University of Adelaide, Australia
  • 2004 Bachelor of Biotechnology (Honours), Flinders University, Australia

Professional Profile

  • 2020- present Research Scientist, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Center for Desert Agriculture KAUST, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia
  • 2018-2020 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Agriculture and Food, The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • 2013 - 2018 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics, The University of Adelaide, Australia
  • 2009 - 2012 Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Rhizobium Studies, Murdoch University, Western Australia, Australia

Scientific and Professional Membership

  • Co-Editor of Special Issue in Frontiers in Plant Science (Current)
  • Consulting Editor for Plant and Soil (Current)
  • Honorary Secretary of the Australian Society of Plant Scientists (2019)


  • UoM Research Investment Funds, 2019
  • UoM Research Investment Funds, 2019
  • UoA VC’s Academic Women’s Researcher Excellence Award, 2017 
  • UoA, School of AFW/TPA pilot study, 2017
  • UoA Early career researcher travel award
  • AW Howard Memorial Trust scholarship, PIRSA, 2010
  • MU, Biological Sciences School Research Fund, 2010
  • University Medal, Flinders University, 2004

KAUST Affiliations

Prof. Mark Tester's Group

CDA - Center for Desert Agriculture

BESE - Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering Division

Research Interests Keywords

Plant Physiology Plant nutrition Salinity tolerance Root architecture Ion transport nitrogen use efficiency