When University of York PhD candidate Maija Marsh, originally from Finland, came to study the effectiveness of transmission of rabbit viruses in central New South Wales, she built on more than a century of European-Australian science collaboration on pest rabbits.
Only 24 rabbits were released in Australia on Christmas Day 1859, but they were a national disaster within two decades. In 1887, a desperate New South Wales government advertised an international competition for a biological cure offering a prize of £25,000 – equivalent to about $10 million or €7.5 million today. Louis Pasteur was struggling to raise funds to open the Pasteur Institute at the time and saw the opportunity to gain the necessary investment. He sent his nephew Adrien Lohr to demonstrate the efficacy of fowl cholera for the control of rabbits and collect the prize. Hence the second Pasteur Institute in the world was established on an island in Sydney’s famous Harbour in order to rid Australia of rabbits.
Pasteur’s nephew failed to cure the rabbit problem, but did manage to teach a Melbourne beer brewer the technique for culturing brewer’s yeast still used in Australia’s most popular beer, Victorian bitter.
Plenty of work was left for Maija Marsh to do as she examined the variations in transmission of the rabbit haemorrhagic disease virus on various scales.
“The collaboration of the NSW Department of Primary industries and the University of York gave me the opportunity for this unique study,” says Dr. Marsh whose PhD was accepted in June 2010. “The modelling expertise in the University of York and the practical field opportunities in Australia, as well as the detailed knowledge of the virus were both necessary to undertake the work. It would not have been possible without the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre.”
The 14th Round of Cooperative Research Centre funding is now open and details can be found at https://www.crc.gov.au/Information/default.aspx
Enquiries about developing funding bids can be addressed to the CRC Association on firstname.lastname@example.org