New re­search about stingers

Whitsunday Times - - LOCAL NEWS -

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.

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