Current Projects

In late 2019 the Foundation provided research grants to the following projects:

Bay watch: Using drones to detect deadly box jellyfish Chironex fleckeri

Lead researcher: Olivia Rowley

The Australian box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) is a large active jellyfish common to the calm inshore waters of Northern Australia. Considered the most venomous animal in the world, the box jellyfishes’ deadly reputation is due to its potent venom, which while highly adapted for capturing large active prey such as prawns and fish, is responsible for a number of serious stings annually.

Currently Surf Life Saving Queensland relies on beach goers swimming within nets, wearing full body stinger suits and regular beach drags to ensure swimmer safety. However, suits are often disregarded, drags are time intensive and, it is not feasible to net every beach. So how do we protect our beachgoers?

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) are becoming commonplace as marine monitoring tools and have proven effective for the detection of a large number of marine animals. In this project we will be testing the viability of ‘off the shelf’, consumer grade, drones to detect box jellyfish and protect our swimmers.

You can follow Olivia on Twitter to see her progress: @oliviarowley4

Too hot, too cold or just right? The influence of environmental temperature on the venom of box jellyfish

Lead researcher: Emily O’Hara

From the lethal big box jellyfish Chironex fleckeri to the tiny irukandji Carukia barnesi, jellyfish species around Northern Queensland pose a major health hazard to humans. These animals possess microscopic stinging organelles filled with venom, which is injected into their prey and often inadvertently humans. Venom is made up of multiple toxins and variation in this venom composition has been documented in a number of animals between genders, life stages, diet and geographic location, but environmental temperature has been scarcely considered, and never within jellyfish.

With global warming occurring at an unprecedented rate, it is important to understand if the venom of these dangerous animals may change as temperatures increase. Any changes in venom could alter the severity of these animals stings. This project will grow young jellyfish (polyps) through to adulthood at different temperatures, then use molecular techniques to analyse the venom at each temperature.