New research about stingers
IMAGINE having the ability to predict where and when the notorious irukandji might be found.
This is the outcome that one Whitsunday woman and a CSIRO research scientist are hoping to achieve with a new irukandji forecast model.
Deb Lewis, a locally based marine tourism business development consultant and Dr LisaAnn Gershwin from CSIRO, are currently canvassing government and industry stakeholders to seek support for the project and ensure that regions such as the Whitsundays do not miss out.
Both women were founding members of the Whitsunday Marine Stinger Management Committee (WMSMC) which was set up in 2005 and revolutionised the way industry and the public approached the problem of marine stingers, both locally, nationally and overseas.
Dr Gershwin said the committee took a proactive rather than re-active approach to living with irukandji, which focussed on the use of protective clothing and spreading of accurate, balanced safety messages.
Such was the success of the WMSMC’s initiatives that the number of reported stings in the Whitsunday region decreased dramatically from 30-50 hospitalisations a year prior to 2005, to single digit numbers in the years that followed.
Now, Dr Gershwin wants to take this to the next level and she has been working with oceanographers to develop a forecasting model that uses trends such as winds, currents and upwellings to predict when and where the irukandji might occur.
Dr Gershwin and Ms Lewis say they are “ve- ry excited” about the project results but for the model to be tested locally, government and industry support would be required.
“We’ve been seen as world leaders in safety management and unless we get funding partners this region will miss out,” Ms Lewis said, adding that time was “of the essence”.
Dr Gershwin is currently in the Whitsundays and will address a community information session at the Whitsunday Diving and Training Academy on Shute Harbour Road, Jubilee Pocket, next Wednesday, December 18, from 6.30-7.30pm.
For more information contact Deb Lewis on 0400 224 858.
PARTNERSHIP PROJECT: CSIRO research scientist and director of Australian Marine Stinger Advisory Service Dr Lisa-Ann Gershwin and Whitsunday marine tourism business development consultant Deb Lewis.