MARINA HURLEY’S DEDICATION toscience was sorely tested during the three years she spent in Queensland’s Atherton Tableland studying stinging trees. The entomologist and ecologist’s first encounter with the Gympie-Gympie stinging tree produced a sneezing fit and left her eyes and nose running for hours. Even protective particle masks and welding gloves could not spare her several subsequent stings – one requiring hospitalisation – but that was nothing compared with the severe allergy she developed.
“Being stung is the worst kind of pain you can imagine – like being burnt with hot acid and electrocuted at the same time,” said Marina, who at the time was a postgraduate student at James Cook University investigating the herbivores that eat stinging trees.
“The allergic reaction developed over time, causing extreme itching and huge hives that eventually required steroid treatment. At that point my doctor advised that I should have no further contact with the plant and I didn’t object.”
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