A quick look at Creswick and Melbourne

Creswick pollen

Here's a quick look at what was in Creswick's air for the first couple of weeks of November.  Dates are across the top and the numbers show the daily count for eight different pollen types and one type of fungal spore (Alternaria).

Each square is coloured to indicate how much of that pollen type was seen, with greener squares indicating more pollen.

The right-hand side of the table is clearly a lot greener than the left-hand side, which probably reflects a couple of things.

First is the cool start to November when temperatures were hovering in the teens for the first week.  But maybe also some of the local vegetation really started hitting it's straps as far as flowering is concerned later in the month.

By November 15, there were impressive levels of a few different types of pollen, most notably Myrtaceae (gum trees and bottlebrushes) but also cypress, Casuarina (sheoaks) and grass.

From November 12 - 15 grass pollen levels in Creswick were in the extreme range (greater than 100 grains) and the chance of thunderstorms on November 15 resulted in an increased risk of thunderstorm asthma for the surrounding area.

Speaking of grass pollen, here's a graph of cumulative grass pollen levels for Melbourne from October 1 to today.

2017 grass YTD

The current season is the grey line in the graph, the brown line is our average grass pollen season and the two blue lines are 1993 (dark blue), our worst season, and 2015 (light blue), which was the mildest season we've seen.

The 2017 season was tracking close to the 26 year average for Melbourne up until mid-November but it's more-or-less plateaued since then.  This is almost certainly due to the warm finish we saw for November, which ranked as Victoria's second-warmest November on record.

At the moment it's looking like the 2017 grass pollen season is over although we'll continue to keep a watch on it through to December 31.

Flying in to Hamilton

Hamilton B

The last stop of our road trip is Hamilton in western Victoria; a town that once proudly claimed to be the "Wool Capital of the World". And as sheep and grass go together like country towns and good bakeries, I’m expecting Hamilton may well be a grass pollen capital too.

Speaking of bakeries, we went through Beaufort on our way to Hamilton where we had some excellent fare and soon arrived at Hamilton hospital raring to go.

Hamilton is the only one of our sites not located on a university campus.

Here we met our fantastic team, Robbie, Leigh, Craig, Jordan and Julian (today’s photo), who are doing a brilliant job valiantly counting the hundreds of Cupressaceae pollen grains that get caught in the trap each day. We also spotted some oak, birch and plane tree pollen, coming no doubt from the many fine, mature trees found in and around Hamilton.

After a hard week of pollen and bakery action we took a well-earned Grampians break on our way home. Beautiful country.

All round it has been a great trip and thank you to all our pollen counters around Victoria for their help, enthusiasm and commitment to this important project.

Pure gold - Bendigo and Creswick

Creswick C cropped

On the next day of our grand tour of Victoria’s new pollen traps we had a double whammy and visited Bendigo and Creswick, both former gold towns.

Appropriately enough our traps are located in places with a strong botanical connection. In Bendigo our pollen trap is on the Flora Hill campus of La Trobe University and in Creswick the trap is on the University of Melbourne campus, which has been an important location for forest science education since 1910.

We visited Bendigo first and noted a great many flowering gums and parrots in our survey of possible local pollen sources.

In Creswick we had a stroll through part of the 610 hectare demonstration forest that was planted when the campus was established over a hundred years ago. The Creswick air is full of casuarina and cypress pollen and has the most native pollen of any of the sites we have seen so far.

I have even spotted some Dodonaea or hop bush pollen, which for a pollen counter is very exciting.

Today’s photo shows our Creswick pollen counters, Helen, Yasika, Yogendra and Nadeeshani. After a quick catch up and a visit to yet another fabulous country bakery, we were on our way to the final destination of our tour - Hamilton here we come!

Dookie

Dookie QC

With Churchill now behind us we begin day 2 of our great Victorian pollen road trip and head to our next destination – Dookie in the Goulburn Valley.

Established more than 130 years ago, Dookie is Victoria's oldest agricultural college; its association with the University of Melbourne began as long ago as 1910. Located in the fertile farmlands of the Goulburn Valley, the Dookie campus is about 50 km east of Shepparton.

Today’s photo shows the Dookie pollen counters, Jamal, Hari and Kabir, who are not only studying agriculture at Dookie but live on campus as well.

Around the beautiful Dookie campus we can see that the canola has stopped flowering although the stands of wheat and pasture grasses are still looking quite green. Dotting the landscape are mature sheoaks (casuarina) and cypress, and eucalypts too of course!

This regional variation in vegetation has a marked effect on the level and types of pollen as well, with Dookie's slides being very different to Churchill’s. We’ll discuss these differences in detail in a later blog.

After catching up with the pollen counters and avoiding a possible crisis by topping up at the Dookie pump, we hit the road again with eyes peeled for the next wonderful country bakery.

Next stop: Bendigo!

Churchill

As you know, Melbourne Pollen now has 5 new Victorian sites. This week we will be visiting all our new pollen sites to check on equipment and see how our most valuable resource, our pollen counters, are getting on.

Our first stop was the Federation University campus at Churchill in Gippsland. It’s a beautiful spot nestled in the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges east of Melbourne. 

Churchill Pollen Counters

Today’s photo shows the Churchill pollen counter team, Hannah, Jacqui and Taylin, who are local students studying in the School of Applied and Biomedical Sciences at Federation University.  On the right is Penny from the University of Tasmania, who is here helping us with training the counters at all the sites.  

After looking at some of this season’s slides we noticed that the main pollen types in Churchill’s air come from the trees cypress and birch, and pellitory, a weed. We’ll tell you more about this later. 

Afterwards, we even managed a little botanical expedition to check out the local pollen sources before heading off to our next site, Dookie.

But that’s a story for another day.

This information is copyright (disclaimer & copyright).
Apart from any use as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, no part maybe reproduced by any process without prior written permission from
the University of Melbourne, Australia. Requests and inquiries concerning reproduction and rights should be addressed to Associate Professor Ed Newbigin
School of BioSciences, University of Melbourne. Phone: +61 3 8344 4871.