Associate Professor Edward Newbigin, Dr Edwin Lampugnani and Dr Jeremy Silver

Melbourne Pollen Count provides Victorians with daily pollen updates and a forecast service, assisting those living with hay fever and asthma to better manage their allergies. Operating within the School of BioSciences, the Melbourne Pollen Count team utilise cutting-edge interdisciplinary research, digital technologies and citizen science to improve the health of those living across Victoria.

For many Victorians, spring is a welcome reprieve from the long, cold months of winter. For those of us living in Melbourne, the season brings with it a swell of grass pollen moving through the air—increasing the likelihood of hay fever and seasonal asthma. Melbourne Pollen Count is a free online service providing a daily pollen count and forecast, allowing those affected by grass pollen allergies to manage their condition more effectively.  Led by Associate Professor Ed Newbigin, Dr Edwin Lampugnani and Dr Jeremy Silver, the Melbourne Pollen Count research team have been awarded the 2019 Excellence in Engagement – Research Award, recognising the contribution their research has made towards public health.

After the devastating thunderstorm asthma epidemic event in 2016, the biggest of its kind in the world, the research team partnered with the Victorian Government and the Bureau of Meteorology to increase awareness of grass pollen levels across the state in a bid to prevent similar tragedies. This partnership has allowed the data collection to expand with five new pollen monitoring sites installed in 2017, as recommended by Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy.

Responding to those challenges was a lot of work for us... but when you hear the Health Minister talking about pollen and respiratory health, you know your efforts are being noticed and are having an impact.  Melbourne Pollen Count team

The multidisciplinary research team combines plant science, statistical modelling and forecasting, programming and IT to publish crucial information on their websitemobile application and social media accounts from October to December. Throughout 2018, Melbourne Pollen Count delivered over one million alerts regarding thunderstorm asthma on behalf of the Department of Health and Human Services, which has been a vital service for many Victorians.

Alongside the publication of research and news relating to grass pollen, the mobile application allows the public to take part in the research process, by inviting them to rate and submit their hay fever symptoms. Almost 37,000 people have contributed to the data so far.

The team is preparing for another busy pollen counting season, with the research continuing to expand to meet growing demand. To keep up to date with the team’s work and to prepare for this year’s pollen season, follow their website and app for updates.