Chief scientist Col Limpus.
Chief scientist Col Limpus. Mike Knott BUN100918TURTLE3

Bundaberg marine scientist honoured with OAM

CHIEF scientist Col Limpus has dedicated decades of his life to preserving our marine environment, and now that dedication has been rewarded with an Order of Australia medal.

"It was a surprise and I'm smiling and I'm happy and it's nice to be recognised like that," he said.

Dr Limpus (pictured inset), who is the chief scientist for Wildlife and Threatened Species Operations for  Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services, has spent more than 50 years researching species, including crocodiles, dugongs, turtles and seabirds.

His research into Mon Repos and its turtles started back in the 1960s and since then, Dr Limpus has faced challenge after challenge in his mission for conservation.

In the early days, it was surveying coastlines to gather information on where turtles nested.

In the 1980s, Dr Limpus said loggerhead turtle numbers had started to decline and through research it was discovered that the issue was within turtle feeding grounds where loggerheads were being drowned in prawn trawls.
Dr Limpus worked successfully with the fishing industry to save turtles' lives.

Young visitors marvel at a loggerhead turtle laying her eggs at Mon Repos during the turtle nesting season. Picture: Queensland Parks and Wildlife.
Young visitors marvel at a loggerhead turtle laying her eggs at Mon Repos during the turtle nesting season. Picture: Queensland Parks and Wildlife.

Then another challenge arose when it was discovered the region's loggerheads were venturing to South America where fishing was again threatening the marine reptiles.

Data revealed the adventurous creatures were spending up to 16 years abroad before moving back to breed.
Through working with international agencies, Dr Limpus oversaw a single species action plan to protect Bundaberg's turtles in overseas waters.

"We started off worrying about turtles on the beach and ended up working at a global level," he said.

That effort has helped ensure turtles will keep thriving on our beaches.

Now the next challenge facing Dr Limpus and his team is how to cool the sand turtles lay their eggs into.

The sex of turtles is ­determined by sand temperatures, and with beaches heating up, the number of female turtles is outnumbering males.

MON REPOS: Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Chief Scientist Dr Col Limpus released a satellite-tagged flatback turtle named Wave Rider.
MON REPOS: Department of Environment and Heritage Protection Chief Scientist Dr Col Limpus released a satellite-tagged flatback turtle named Wave Rider. Mike Knott BUN121216TURTLE5

Climate change is affecting the region's beaches, with temperatures in the past 50 years getting increasingly warmer.
That increase has been heightened for the past four years.

"We're not producing enough males," Dr Limpus said.

"We're having to look at a new suite of options and what our options are to keep a beach cooler."

A number of options are being considered, including spraying artificial "rain", managing the forests behind the beach so they throw more shade or setting up shade structures and moving eggs to those cooler locations.

"This has been one of the challenges," Dr Limpus said.

 

"You think you solve the problem and new problems arise and we have to keep meeting these challenges for the generations to come."

Dr Limpus said anyone who wanted to get involved in turtle conservation could get on board with local volunteer groups who also work to protect sand dunes and keep beaches clean.

Doctor Harry with a nesting turtle at Mon Repos.
Doctor Harry with a nesting turtle at Mon Repos.

It's all part of an effort that will ensure the marine environment is there for many more years.

"I've been saying for years that one of the things that spurs me on is I want my grandkids and their kids to enjoy this life we have living in Bundaberg," he said.

Dr Limpus received the OAM as part of the 2020 Queen's Birthday honours.

An OAM recognises Australian citizens and other persons for achievement or meritorious service.

Dr Limpus will receive his medal at a ceremony later this year because of COVID-19 restrictions. 



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