Pelli completed her undergraduate studies at Southern Cross University. Her honours research assessed the comparative toxicity of raw and neutralised supernatant liquors from bauxite refinery residue on freshwater and estuarine organisms, using standardised OECD ecotoxicological test methods. Pelli received a 1st class Honours grade and is the successful recipient of an APA PhD scholarship.
Pelli's PhD research area is in tropical marine ecotoxicology, and her thesis is in direct response to the need for additional tropical marine species to be identified and routine toxicological test methods developed which has been urged by scientists for several decades. This work focuses on the tropical symbiotic sea anemone Aiptasia pulchella which has been identified as a good model organism and is commonly used in laboratory studies of cnidarian biology, physiology, symbioses etc., but which has not previously been used in ecotoxicology. Newly developed sublethal endpoints include inhibited and abnormal early life stage development, reproductive success, and changes in photosynthetic efficiency (using PAM fluorometry). This work will assess of the overall suitability of A. pulchella as a standard test species for ecotoxicology relevant to tropical marine ecosystems, and particularly corals, which are highly sensitive, increasingly exposed to contaminants, and not currently represented in routine ecotoxicology. If standardised and implemented, this work will contribute a new phylum (cnidaria) into the suite of routine toxicity tests used in water quality guideline derivation for tropical marine ecosystems.
Pelli L. Howe, Amanda J. Reichelt-Brushett, Malcolm W. Clark (accepted July 2012) Aiptasia pulchella: A cnidarian representative in tropical marine ecotoxicology. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.
Pelli L. Howe, Malcolm W. Clark, Amanda J Reichelt-Brushett, Max Johnston (2011) The toxicology of raw and neutralised bauxite refinery residue liquors to the freshwater cladoceran Ceriodaphnia dubia and the marine amphipod Paracalliope australis.- Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. 30(12): 2817-2824.
Max Johnston, Malcolm W. Clark, Pelli L McMahon, Nick Ward (2010) Alkalinity conversion of bauxite refinery residues by neutralization. Journal of Hazardous Material. 182(1-3):710-715.
4th-6th July 2012: Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry - Australasia (SETAC-AU). University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia. 'Development of sublethal ecotoxicological endpoints for the sea anemone Aiptasia pulchella'. Pelli L. Howe, Amanda J. Reichelt-Brushett, Malcolm W. Clark.