My short bio: I'm affectionately known as “Jelly Dude from Nemo land” and havebeen researching and working with venomous and dangerous animals for over 20 yrs . My real passion (at least at the moment) is “Why do animals have venom?” Based in Cairns, in Northern Australia, an area that has an over abundance of venomous animals,(read heaps of thinsg that can kill you!) I'm sort of uniquely placed to study the ecology and biology of Australia’s venomous species. I teach at all levels at James Cook University, one of the top 5% of research universities in the world with my favourite subject being “Venomous Australian Animals”, a subject designed and taught by myself (with a little help from the odd friend!).

I have been successfully involved in programs designed to decrease the envenomings of humans by jellyfish, namely in Australia, Timor Leste (for the United Nations), Thailand and Hawaii. My research has been directly responsible for changes in the present treatment protocol for Australian jellyfish stings. I also established and am the director of the Tropical Australian Venom Research Unit (TASRU) which is now recognised as one of the premier research groups in the world for the studies of the ecology and biology of box jellyfish and research into medical treatment of box jellyfish envenomings.

My Proof:

ok, sorry folks, I have to go take a breather :-) have a grant proposal due in like 3 days and I so need to work on it, unless some one wants to make a donation to my research :-) Having said that, I'll get back to the other questions later tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks for the questions, its been fun keep smiling jellydude [email protected] or
jamie @jellydudeinnemo

hi all, I know I said i would get back to everyone in like 24 hrs, well obviously that did not happen. I got snowed under with a grant proposal, got absolutely inundated with emails (which i am still attemtping to reply to) and (this is starting to sound like the dog ate my homework!).... so, my apologies and I'm back attempting to answer the qyestions. Still trying to get my head around what reddit actually does is :-) As my son affectionately said, "Dad, you are like a dinosaur! Get with the program :-)"

Comments: 1486 • Responses: 86  • Date: 

Jellydudeinnemoland983 karma

Ok, so, at the request of my son (still not sure if he is setting me up or not), he felt it might be a good idea to do an AMA. Ok lets be honest, up until about 12 hrs ago I had no idea what an AMA was, so this could get ugly really quickly!

oooded683 karma

you could become the new unidan for sure!

pls no downvotes @unidan 1,2,3,4,5

Jellydudeinnemoland566 karma

Cool. A friend told me about this guy/girl/dude/dudette

MrPennywhistle518 karma

Dr. Seymour,

If you could pick any one individual from Alabama USA to visit, who would it be and why? Also, would you or would you not be interested in making a video on copper-headed-rattle-mocosin venom with said individual? What venomous North American animal have you always wanted to encounter?

Jellydudeinnemoland321 karma

One person from alabama, hmmmmmmm let me see. If I answer this incorrectly I could lose a friend :-) re the snake stuff I AM THERE! when are we doing it? Venomous north american beast? Do you guys have and ? Just joking! have to go with coral snakes I think

Drollific381 karma

When someone genuinely enjoys what he or she does for a living you can tell. I don't know why but their enthusiasm is so contagious it's almost impossible to not smile when you see it. It's people like you that inspires me to keep fighting to do something I genuinely enjoy to do. Thank you for that.

My question: What do you like about being a toxicologist and when did you realize that this is something you love to do?

Jellydudeinnemoland386 karma

thanks for the compliment. Although people are going to say the enthusiasm is fake, ie put on, its not. I SERIOUSLY enjoy what I do, and if I manange to only enthuse one person to go and look at science then I have done my job! What do I like about being a toxinologist. Tough question but if I have to answer it, I'd say the fact that you can do pretty much anything on the ecology and/or biology of the animal in an attempt to work out what is happening. Put another way, I'm in love with learning, so being a tox person gives my liscence to just learn :-)

kidclutch92 karma

What degree did you finish school with to get into your line of work?

Jellydudeinnemoland232 karma

I did a double major, zoology and marine biology and then did a PhD in entomology

Wolfseller46 karma

I can see you enthusiasm in your spelling haha.

Jellydudeinnemoland134 karma

sorry :-) one finger typist!

jruhlman09380 karma

Ok, I'll start with an obvious one; What is the most dangerous and/or painful venom you've ever personally experienced?

Jellydudeinnemoland715 karma

thats an easy one! Irukandji jellyfish sting! been there 11 times, dont EVER want to go there again

and before everyone goes, "ive been bitten stung envenomed lost of times" thus I a tough let me say I've been nailed eleven times and thats eleven MISTAKES I have made. Not proud of that!

zoupishness7186 karma

Has the pain gotten any easier to take after repeated Irukandji stings, outside of being more familiar with what to expect?

Jellydudeinnemoland364 karma

nope, if anything its gotten worse (unfortunately)

That_Kangaroo173 karma

How much truth is there to the "urine treatment"? I remember being about 7 years old when my brother was stung by a jellyfish in the Gulf of Mexico. I thought it was super funny when my dad said we had to pour pee on him to help. Was a good day (for me).

Jellydudeinnemoland500 karma

this is so funny! it does not work, in fact it makes it worse. probably helps the pee-er, but will make the vicitm worse

Skeeders109 karma

You went through that 11 times?! I saw that video a few years back and it totally turned me off the idea of going to Hawaii for just not wanting to risk getting stung by that thing.

Jellydudeinnemoland225 karma

the risks are small, rememebr I was actively working with the animals. This should not turn you off going to hawaii, its na amazing place!

thenome343 karma

Based on this quote by Isaac Asimov

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny..."

What is your "That's funny" moment in your career so far?

Jellydudeinnemoland507 karma

ok, the most funny, lots, but one that sticks in my mind was when a mate of mine and I were filming stone fish. He is a emmy winning underwater videography and knows his stuff about fish. At any rate I was handling the fish, making sure I stayed away from the venomosu spines on the dorsal side of the animal. What my mate fAILED to tell me was there are a series of non venomous projections on the side of the naimal that are really sharp. Yep, you guessed it I got nailed by them. As I was yelling in pain, he wnadered over, and said words like "good fish, Good fish". It then flicked, my mate tried to grab it and he got stung! I laughed so hard AND we caught it all,on film! Probably make sme a bad guy, but it was so KARMA!

epiclabtime165 karma

I'd say it's probably the moment in this video where they realise there's a 1/3 second delay between the nematocyst deployment and the venom being released.

Jellydudeinnemoland177 karma

that was a seriusly EUREKA moment!

sfwDUMBASS66 karma

Could you give us a little insight as to why it was a eureka moment and what it could imply.

Jellydudeinnemoland145 karma

sure, eureka moment as I had not even thought there would be a time delay between the discharge and the the venom release. Was SO obvious when we saw it but even now I dont really udnerstand what it means

Gprime5317 karma

Hi, first of all I want to say thanks for doing this AMA. It's a pleasure to watch a venomologist enjoy his work as seen in Destin's videos from Smarter Every Day.

How has it been working with Destin, and will you guys be making more videos soon?

Jellydudeinnemoland325 karma

GREAT question! being completely honest here, Destin was so much fun to work with. The guy si seriously a rocket scientist! I mean a REAL rocket scientist, but he thrives on taking the complicated and breaking it down into some thing simple that everyone can understand! as for more videos, you up for it Destin?

scufferQPD171 karma

Hi, I recently saw a video of you electrocuting anemones on Slow-mo cam to view the cells stinging, is this the most awesome way you've researched something or have you done something even more nerd-boner inducing?

Thanks for doing this AMA, it really struck me in the video how passionate you are about your field and I love that!

Jellydudeinnemoland163 karma

you seriosly want me to own up to the fact I do nerdy stuff? Seriously :-) its a little hard to answer this one, as honestly I dont see it as nerdy, which probably means I'm a real nerd!

Lewis_Killjoy145 karma

What are your thoughts and personal feelings on the platypus?

Jellydudeinnemoland267 karma

Neat beasts. Dont get any real chances to work with them, but would jump at the opportunity to if it arose. Have a few theories about them and why they have venom that flies in the face of other scientists! (subtly saying "ask me what that theory is") :-)

Orobin258 karma

What's the theory?

Jellydudeinnemoland458 karma

yer, ok, I guess i asked for that didnt I? well ok, here goes. Males have venom, which they inject by big spurs on their hind legs. The venom causes pain. Ok, the females have venom sacks but no way of injecting the venom (they have spurs at birth but lose them as they grow up.) Ok the theory is that males have venom as they are territorial and attack other males to keep them out of their territories. Fair enough, that makes sense BUT................. why do they envenom the females as well? My theory goes like this. Female platypus are receptive to males for a very small window of time each year. Platypus mate by a little courtship type dance. If you are a male, you dance with the female for a while, convicne her to mate with you, then envenom her! She then swims back to her burrow, in a lot of pain, being pretty miffed at the world and hides out for a acouple of days. At the end of that time she is no longer recepetive to males and as such the enevenoming male has ensured he is the father . well thats my theory anyway!

FanFuckingFaptastic125 karma

Why does Australia have something like 6 of the worlds most venomous snakes? What's the evolutionary reason for that?

Jellydudeinnemoland221 karma

Great question and the answer varies depending on which scientist you ask................ my belief, well australia is a TOUGH palce to earn a living as a predator. A lot of the native things you wnat to eat as a snake, ie little marsupial beasts etc are not her in huge numbers or ou may not come across them all that often. As such you wnat a seriously toxic venom so that if you do come across one, you can make sure it will definately die if you envenom it Sort of a short answer, but I hoep that sort of explains it

ttothesecond100 karma

What dangerously venomous animals are often overlooked? On the flip side, what animals are not as dangerous as they are hyped up to be?

How does animal poison actually kill you?

Jellydudeinnemoland180 karma

Ok, lots of questions here. I'll start with the poison/venom bit. Think of it differently. Poisonous and venomous plants and animals have toxins. If you have to ingest the toxin (ie eat it or absorb it through your skin) then that animal or plant is poisonous eg poison arrow frog. If the toxin is inject via some type of structure (eg a fang, a barb, a sting a nematocyst ) then its a venomous plant or animal. So these toxins USUALLY but not always operate on ion channels. So whats an ion channle, well in the simplest view, think of it as a doorway into a cell. If you open that door it lets things in, if you close it it keeps thinsg out. So toxins may open a closed ion channel let molecules in that the cell is trying to keep out. One example is a sodium ion channel. Sodium is used to send nerve impulses along your nerves. they are open and closed at different times, so if i have a toxin that permantely opens the ion channle I can stop the impulse. At the other extreme I can permantently close the channel and that stops it as well.

Jellydudeinnemoland171 karma

as for the most overlooked, I'm going with jellyfish, mainly as one of the species I work on, Chironex fleckeri can kill you in under 2 min! Most epople just go, "its just a jelly". hmm JUST a jelly, not really!

IamChicharon75 karma

Hi! I love your enthusiasm for science.

My question: I was stung by a jellyfish a few years back in the Philippines. The locals told me that it was a box jelly, but I thought those killed people. I was wondering if you could help identify the jellyfish that stung me. It was relatively large with tentacles stretching about 4 feet. I remember it being mostly without color and translucent.

Eventually my entire leg was purple and covered in hives. 2 months later my whole body broke into hives from what people told me was the jellyfish toxins being expunged through my skin.

Here are some pictures:

Additionally, i frequently break out in hives after going into ocean water now. Is this related? What happened to me?!

Jellydudeinnemoland102 karma

box jellyfish are found there and people do die there from box jellfish stings (different species than here in australia.) looking at the pictures, yep, that is box jellyfish sting! as for the hives, it MAY be related, but i doubt it

oooded71 karma

What moment in your career made you feel most enthusiastic, beside taking a closer look at jelly fish needles with an high speed camera?

Is there another similar thing in the world of venomous animals, that we don't really know about yet?

What is your favourite venomous animal and why?

Jellydudeinnemoland91 karma

Most enthusiastic, WOW, thats a tough one. No one time I dont think. Its like a daily adventure. I mean I come to work and usually, but not always, find out somehting new EVERY day. That to me is such a buzz! and they pay me to do it! Yer, there are days when I have to do the boring day to day stuff, BUT...... when it all gets to much I just I just walk down to my aquarium facilities and have some fun

Jellydudeinnemoland73 karma

favorite venomous animal, hmmmmm Well its not snakes, thats for sure! Going to have to go with the irukandji jellyfish, carukia barnesi!

Startrekwarsofdoom67 karma

I am doing a school project on the stonefish, how potent is its venom and what are the long term effects?

Jellydudeinnemoland124 karma

stonefish are the MOST venomous fish in the world. I just had a student finish a honours project on their venom. the venom kills cells (we are not entirely sure how, but it seems it rpoduces pores in the membranes of cells). Its designed to cause PAIN and lots of it. As for long term affects, none, unless it gets infected, then it can get really ugly!

Jellydudeinnemoland66 karma

ok, sorry folks, I have to go take a breather :-) have a grant proposal due in like 3 days and I so need to work on it, unless some one wants to make a donation to my research :-) Having said that, I'll get back to the other questions later tonight or tomorrow morning. Thanks for the questions, its been fun keep smiling jellydude

exxocet65 karma

1) What are your thoughts on Mithridatism and have you considered attempting it yourself given your field?

2) Have you come across examples of significant differences in venom compositions in any species that were originally assumed to be conspecific only to be later split thanks to molecular or other systematic revisions? I.E Have you had any examples of significant differences in venom composition between cryptic species? How important is alpha taxonomy to your field and is there a general movement away from such research in Australia and is it hampering our understanding of biodiversity and venom evolution in general?

Jellydudeinnemoland88 karma

Mithridatism- SO AGAINST IT!
2) no, and probably for good reason. Venom profiles, ie the composition of the venom in an animal, varies within animals of the same species quite a bit, ie it will change from juvenille to adult, from changes in prey items etc. I have a student who is finsihing a project at the moment that managed to change the venom profile of his test organism JUST by exposing it to a predator. Can not say too much more as I will steal his thunder! As for alpha taxonomist, they are a dying breed but SO SO SO necessary!

exxocet54 karma

In Africa we have a huge problem with local people tending to their fields being envenomated by saw-scaled vipers and puff adders in areas with a lack of knowledge of syndromic/symptomatic treatment and certainly no anti-venom even if it were required, do you think that any of your experiences with developing programs to reduce jellyfish envenomings might be able to translate to the terrestrial environment in areas with limited infrastructure?

Jellydudeinnemoland74 karma

yes, a major major issue! short answer, yes I think it will, but in the long run its a matter of fixing the health systems in these areas. and thats a HUGE problem. I mean we have a huge number of venomous animals in australia an we have about 5-10 deaths per year, not hundreds, MAINLY due to our great antivenoms and the health system

iBleeedorange44 karma

How is Australia's stance on environmental issues effecting your ability to do your job? and does it look like it will cause harm to the animals you work with?

Jellydudeinnemoland61 karma

ok, thats tough. Depends on which stance you are talking about. Short answer is it really does not cause me too many issues. The vast majority of the general population dont care for venomous animals (i'm trying to change that!) so its still reasonable easy to work with them

Doctor-Propane39 karma

When you grill, do you use propane or do you prefer charcoal?

Jellydudeinnemoland80 karma


Catsler39 karma

I've heard recently some bad/discouraging news about the Aus government and some policies around the Great Barrier Reef not being protected and/or actively harmed.

  • Can you describe the scientific community's reaction and efforts underway to help stop?
  • What's the situation between the Aus federal gov't and the scientific and academic community at the moment? (i.e. in Canada, it's very poor)
  • Is the threat as described in some media?

Jellydudeinnemoland68 karma

yer, personally, I believe its a big screw up. All the science suggests its bad, but the policy makers (read government) have just ignored it. To ne it seems like its driven by money :( And yes, I think the threat is as big as its made out in the media

ClamThe31 karma

Was there literally a venom arms race amoung species in Australia?

Jellydudeinnemoland46 karma

interesting question. Short answer is there is an arms race venom wise between ALL venomous animals and the prey or predators they are catching/defending against

daath31 karma

Crazy! I just saw this smarter every day video!

How hopeful are you that you will solve the box jelly fish mystery?

Do you think that Destin mentioning it will have an impact?

Jellydudeinnemoland55 karma

I think I can work till I'm 100 and I will still be working out how this jellyfish works. Thats good in one respect as it means I've got a job for life! did destin have an impact OH YER! my email box is swamped! He has created a monster, a good monster mind you, but a monster just the same!

melonologist30 karma

What was it like working with Destin from SED? Also, what is the coolest thing that you are currently working on? Thanks for showcasing all the awesome science that gets you excited every day to work.

Jellydudeinnemoland48 karma

working with the GREAT Destin was an absolute joy. My one dissapointment is he is in the other hemisphere! Hopefully if the stars align I can do some more work with him! Coolest thing I'm working on at the moment, tough one, to be honest there are so many, but.................... i think the stuff we are doing looking at how venomous animals cvan change their venom composition in a very short space of time ie weeks, is pretty cool!

everyoneneedsagoat25 karma

When you were young and still studying as an undergrad, when was the moment you knew the branch of science you were most passionate about? There are so many types and studies of science, what influenced you in pursuing toxinology?

Thank you in advance from the other side of the country (Perth, WA!)

Jellydudeinnemoland44 karma

I think it came well before uni. Its was pretty much in my blood. Grew up on a river, had a set of parents who let me do anything and fostered my love for all things animal and all things aquatic. I sort of just fell in love woth learning, so when I got to uni, it was like a pandoras bxo, for example I did a double major in zoology and marine biology but did a heap of computer subjects, physics, biochem, geology basically anything they would let me do I did. At the time I was just doing ti cause I loved learning but BOT has it helped me now!

Blakk42024 karma

If you were to kill someone, what animals venom/poison would you use to do it so that it is LEAST traceable?

Jellydudeinnemoland89 karma

seriously, you wnat me to answer that? the federal police will be all over me, trust me on that one! We did a conference many years ago were we asked that exact question. we had a panel of us ansewing questions. All the australians gave like really indepth questions then when the americans were asked it was like "no comment". Smart move on their part as the rest of us got quizzed by the federal police after that :-)

coombeseh21 karma

What do you feel is the most important part of your work? Would it be to help find antivenoms, or to discover how the venom systems work, or something entirely different? I've loved seeing your work on the Smarter Every Day videos!

Jellydudeinnemoland40 karma

that one is easy to answer, although I suspect many are not going to expect the answer. The most important part of my work, teaching and enthusing others! If what I do means more people do science, then I can leave this planet a happy man!

epiclabtime21 karma

Does anyone ever tell you that you look a bit like Russell Crowe?

Jellydudeinnemoland38 karma

in m,y dreams maybe :-)

cbbuntz20 karma

What are your thoughts on this guy? He injects himself with snake venom...for fun. He acts like a connoisseur of venoms and believes there may be some health benefits and apparently is quite healthy despite his very odd habit.

Jellydudeinnemoland70 karma

ok, really short answer here and I'll get into trouble I'm sure, but he is a dead set idiot!

Rush22420 karma

What is the most exciting thing that you've discovered?

Jellydudeinnemoland49 karma

good grief, tough question. Not sure to be honest, they all sort of get me excited, i mean without sounding to egotistical, I only ask exciting questions :-) the most recnet one is the fact that it seems that vinegar may not be the best treatment for jellyfish stings, that one looks like it will turn the whole first aid for jellyfish stings on its head!

TcSleeper19 karma

From what I can tell, it's generally accepted that Australia is an island full of terriying things that can kill you which I imagine is heaven for a toxinologist such as yourself. Do you generally subcribe to that definition or is there anything you'd like to say to people that hold that belief to maybe change their minds? I'd really love to visit Australia one day, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't more than a little intimidated by the amount of deadly organisms you guys have over there. I'm a big fan of Destins' Smarter Every Day and his current series over in Australia. My second question would be that, by the nature of your job you have to have had some close calls when dealing with venomous/poisonous creatures, got any good stories?

Jellydudeinnemoland40 karma

ye, australia has the most venomous species in all the naimal groups than any other country EXCEPT for the scorpions, dont know why. Having said that, we only have about 10 deaths a year on average from venomous aniamls, so its one of the safest in the world from that point of view, so dont be shy, come on over :-) close calls, had a couple, but I'll probably get into trouble if I recount them here :-)

DesertSparks17 karma

My daughter is in 11th grade and is looking to pursue a career in a science related field. I'm trying to talk her into biology and after showing her your video, she is interested, but not yet convinced! Can you please tell her why your job is awesome and why she should consider attending James Cook or another university that is highly rated for their science programs? Thank you!

Jellydudeinnemoland33 karma

easy! I come to work on a daily basis and I WANT TO COME TO WORK. i just love doing this. How many people go to work JUST to pay the bills. I get to work with animals, I spend heaps of time in the field, I meet some amazing people (from movie stars to presidents) and I get toi do what I like and learn new things on a dialy basis. I think she is asking the wrong question Its not "why do I wnat to do this" the right question is "why would I not want to do this"

lessonslearnt16 karma

Is it right that peeing on jelly stings eases the pain? If so, how many people have weed on you?

Jellydudeinnemoland36 karma

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO urinating on a sting makes it worse. And in answer to your last question NONE!

Bnightwing16 karma

What other programs does James Cook University have besides marine biology?

Has their been anything positive about a substance so harmful as poisons?

Have you ever been to the states? If not where would you want to go?

And finally what advice would you give someone wanting to go into a field with the idea that they'd be the best in the area and understand that there is always something to to learn? I'm struggling with deciding on what degree I want to get personally. Thanks for your time to do this AMA!

Jellydudeinnemoland23 karma

jcu does lots of other stuff, lots of positives from toxins (poisons and venoms ) lots of new and novel drugs etc Been to the USA lots of times, really enjoy it! Follwo your dreams and dont let any one tell you otherwise. I'm a believer that if you really want something you can achive it if you put the effort in :-)

ellywashere15 karma

Two questions!

Would you ever want to study somewhere else, like South America or Africa? Or is Australia pretty much the place to be when studying venomous nasties?

What's your go-to story when people ask you to tell them crazy stuff about your job? What's that thing that happened that's always fun to tell about?

Jellydudeinnemoland59 karma

I SO love australia, but having said that, if some said, hey I have a free ticket to south america Id be on the next flight out. Actually to be honest, if some one said here is a free ticket to anyhwere in the world to study venomous animals for a short period, Id' jump at it! the go to story. hmmmm tough one not sure that is was fun, but lloking back it is pretty funny. We were doing a doco called menacing waters. My mate was filming it and the scene was me getting a small sting on the fingers and then describing the pain. Well we did it once and I thought it was pretty good, but as is always in the movies, its like, "that was ok, but lets do it again and see if we can do better". Well after about eight takes, i spat the dummy, walked off set and said if we had a decent camera man we would have had it on the first take! teh repl "we did, we just wnated to see how many times you woudl sting yoursefl"!

Imayormaynotbeluke15 karma

If there was one price of advice regarding venomous animals, or just animal poisons or toxins in general, that you wish every member of the public knew, what would it be?

Also, what advice do you wish you would have know when starting out in the field of science?

From a 15 year old kid who wants to be a scientist.

Yeah, 'being a scientist' is about as specific as I've got.

Jellydudeinnemoland29 karma

one piece of advice..... if it is venomous or poisonous , not play with it! How many times have I had to go to a hospital to identify a beast that bite or stung some one cause they tried to kill it or pick it up................TOO MANY TIMES! what advice when I first started............... learn to communicate with others!

eatsbabydingos14 karma

I've read that Australia has the most venomous sea snake in the world, and I am wondering-how do you determine what is "most toxic"?

And thanks for chatting it up!

slashem14 karma

I think I can answer that. There are probably a few ways to measure it, but the one I've seen the most often is LD50 -- the dose that is fatal to 50% of the species concerned (i.e. Humans). Obviously this usually isn't known for humams, but can be estimated by animal testing.

Jellydudeinnemoland36 karma

yer, LD 50s have been done, but..................... usualy you use mcie as the test animal and they are often not a good indictor of what happens in a human. we did some work many eyars ago and tested a heap of venoms on HUMAN heart cells and HUMAN skeletal muscle cells to look for toixicity. Short answer, bug box jellyfish came first!

rjfischer1311 karma

The videos you've done with Destin are incredible. Have you considered starting your own separate channel to update people on your work?

Jellydudeinnemoland21 karma

working on it. Watch this space

Falling_earbuds11 karma

At what age did you know that this is what you wanted to be doing? And what caused the interest in the first place?

Jellydudeinnemoland42 karma

hmmm, Id say the venom interest side didn't come till about 20 yrs ago (yer Ok, I'm old, I turned 50 this year!). As to why, well long story but............. Im actually an entomologist (insect guy) by trade. Did my PhD on parasitoids (think Aliens but much smaller!) which are little wasps that lay their eggs in caterpillars. At any rate I got interested in why insects went into diapause (scientific name for hibenation!). Well when you go to funding body and ask for funds to study why crickets in the rainforest are not around during the winter time, its often a hard sell! HOWEVER, the worlds most venomous animal, the big box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri, is highly seasonal, ie it is not around in the winter time (It actually dies off). Now ask the same question but pitch it this way "whay is the most venomous animal in the world not around during winter" and well, its a lot easier to get funds. As I said before, I'm just in love with learning, so to be honest, its the question thats important to me not the animal. (having said that I do love jellyfish!)

FelixNemis11 karma

What kind of music (if any) do you enjoy?

Jellydudeinnemoland34 karma

huge jethro tull fan!

comatoseroses8 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA, I was really hoping you would do one after the jelly fish video was posted. Anyways, which venom/ toxin has the most interesting chemical reaction in your opinion?

Jellydudeinnemoland21 karma

my pleasure. Ok, I'm going to go with the venom from Irukandji jellyfish. Why? well it seems that the venom is non cyctotoxic(ie does not kill cells) yet it causes lots of problems in people. What we think happens, and this is really just all hypothetical at the moment, is it stimulates thje continual release of adrenaline. How well, we dont know how, JUST YET!

lemonreadit8 karma

You must have heard of the Bullet Ant Glove initiations. Would you wear a bullet ant gloves as a challenge?

Jellydudeinnemoland17 karma

seriously? why in a million years would I wnat to do that? short answer NOPE! :-)

cyclonus118 karma

Do you have any examples of Australian evolutionary arms races between venomous predators and resistant prey, or venomous prey and resistant predators? (Like in the states, where we have an increasing potency of rattlesnake venom and an increase in rattlesnake venom resistance in the opossum, a primary predator of the snakes)

Jellydudeinnemoland16 karma

yes, you find that in ALL venomous predator prey interactions (and venomous animal predator interactions). The trick is to be able to show it.

Tanthus7 karma

Your question "Why do animals have venom?" is a wonderful question, and I'm glad there is someone there trying to answer it. What are some of the venomous species that have you and others stumped?

Jellydudeinnemoland17 karma

all of them I think. Let me put it another way. If venoms were good, all animals would have them. If venoms were bad not animal would have them. as such there is a trade off, there are pluses and minuses for having venoms. the trick is to work those pluses and minuses out

ztirk6 karma

At what point did you realise what you're doing right now is the thing that you love doing? Is it like a "I've been fascinated since I was a kid" story or something else?

Jellydudeinnemoland12 karma

i wish there was a great story here, but nope, sort of "started when I was a kid, sorry :-)

Some_Asian_Kid996 karma

Hey! I'm a ninth grader here who is interested in science in general and is now fascinated in venomous creatures after seeing the video. Can you recommend any books/courses I can read/take on the topic?

Jellydudeinnemoland11 karma

first up, go for it! an interest in science is fantastic! as for books, courses, there are a few docos around, but no courses etc I know of, at least not for some one your age. best advice is read widely on all sorts of things, dont be too narrow just yet

Derpyfish1296 karma

Why did you choose this line of work? It seems amazing, and I think you're doing all of us a favor, but what was your inspiration?

Jellydudeinnemoland8 karma

thanks for the vote of confidence :-) no real reason except it allowed me to ork with animals, both on land and in the water, but I feel more importantly its an area that we know so little about and you get to learn new things on a daily basis!

Cynicalraven6 karma

Why is everything in Australia trying to kill you ... painfully?

Jellydudeinnemoland19 karma

its just the way australians roll :-)

SlipJoe5 karma

It's great to see someone so dedicated to their field! It reminds me a but of Steve Irwin, which is a good thing!

My question is- How do you take a pre-existing venom or poison and make an anti-venom for it?

Jellydudeinnemoland14 karma

the standard way is you inject a little bit of the venom into a horse. Each day you up the amount of venom. With time the horse produces antibodies to the venom. After a bit of time, you take blood from the horse, spin the blood cells off and you have the plamsa left. In that plasma are the antibodies to the venom. This is what they then inject into you. Thats the simplest form

flamablep4 karma

Dr. Seymour,

How far does symbiosis go in terms of an ecosystem in which a venomous animal is present? Does a defense mechanism against a venomous or poisonous creature entail only avoiding it or is there a more sophisticated aspect on a molecular level?

Jellydudeinnemoland6 karma

definately more sophisticated. at a molecular level there is what is know as the red queen effect, ie running fast just to stay in the one place. What I mean by this si that venom in venomous animals is always changing as their prey eveolve immunity to the venom. Its an arms race so to speak,

jqdao34 karma

So have you ever been envenomed by anything accidentally? If so, what was it and how bad did it hurt?

Jellydudeinnemoland15 karma

yes, ALL my stings bites etc have been accidental. ie they have ALL been mistakes on my behalf and tis not some thing I am proud of! Worst one is irukandji jellyfish If some one had of given me a gun I would have shot myself, seriously it is THAT bad!

charina914 karma

How do you envision protecting people from jelly stings?

Jellydudeinnemoland4 karma

tough question. Short answer I believe is "know they enemy", ie if we can educate people about what jellyfish do, where they are etc, then we can reduce the stings

Pepe_leprawn4 karma

Are you immune to all snake venoms?

Jellydudeinnemoland9 karma

never ever been bitten by a snake! SO PROUD OF THAT! so am i immune, nope!

Ebrunn063 karma

Have you been to the US? Studied at any of the universities here?

Jellydudeinnemoland6 karma

yep, been to the US several times. Did some work in Texas A and M on pecan nuts (yep nothing to do with venomous animals, was a entomologist in a past life)

IAMAfortunecookieAMA3 karma

I write about science for a living! Are you published, and where can I read more of your research? You're just my kind of scientist, Dr. Cook!

Jellydudeinnemoland5 karma

certianly am published. try and follwo the links :-)

RizzMustbolt2 karma

What's the difference between a toxin and a venom?

Jellydudeinnemoland4 karma

answered this one above somehwere :-)


Whats the easiest way to differentiate between a venomous and nonvenomous animal, such as snakes?

Jellydudeinnemoland5 karma

no real easy way short answer is if it has venom its venomous, if it doesn;lt its not. I know that sounds like a flippant answer but................

cheese_pants_2 karma

What is your favourite venomous creature and what makes it so interesting?

Jellydudeinnemoland7 karma

no one particular one, but jells rank up there. 96% water, amazing venom delivery apparatus, some have 24 eyes, can swlim at the sp[eed of an olypmic swimmer and can kill humans in under two minutes! YEr baby!

BlueBlazer832 karma

I would like to "subtly" ask your theory as to why the platypus has venom? Also if an organism can "change their venom composition in a very short space of time ie weeks" how does anti venom keep up? Even better question is how does anti venom actually work.

Jellydudeinnemoland3 karma

answered some of these above, as to how antivenom keeps up, thats a great question. Short answer is they keep using freshly collected venom which is subtky different.

ShaneEnochs2 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA.

Do you have any particular affinity for any other animal? Like if you weren't studying jellyfish, is there a different animal that you'd like to study?

Jellydudeinnemoland9 karma

oh yer! It would be onychorphorans (velvet worms!) did some work on them many many years ago. These beasts look like little caterpillars, spit silk from their mouths, are avid carnivores and the males mate wth the females by loading hypodermic needles on their head with sperm and injecting it through the body wall of the female!

r1nce2 karma

How annoyed do you get when people use the term poisonous in place of venomous?

Jellydudeinnemoland5 karma

on a scale of 0 not annoyed to 10 I could strangle the life out of you annoyed, about a 9.5 :-)

bajj5972 karma

What's the weakest toxin that you have personally experienced?

Jellydudeinnemoland8 karma

australian scorpion venoms!

NotBridget2 karma

What are your thoughts on people like the late Bill Haast, who willingly/eagerly inject themselves with poisonous snake venom in order to become immune and/or benefit from its "healing" properties?

Jellydudeinnemoland4 karma

injection of VENOMOUS :-) sanke venom, to be honest, is just plain dumb. No data anywhere that would stand up to rigourous examination that would support those view, eg, I have not had a bad cold for like 18 months, two years. I've been nailed by irukandji jellyfish eleven times. thus, irukandji venom cures colds. I think NOT!

glupingane1 karma

Do you have any favorite scandinavian venomous animal?

Jellydudeinnemoland3 karma

does scandinavian have any venomous animals :-) if my memory serves me correctly you guys have a viper, which is pretty cool :-)

GlenCoco7011 karma

what is the most danger you have even been in?

Jellydudeinnemoland2 karma

got nailed really badly by a big box jellyfish one day. Thought my time had come!

Kuuf1 karma

What has been your single best experience ever since joining this field?

Jellydudeinnemoland9 karma

tough one, but hanging wioth Steve Irwin ranks up there!

ObjectiveScientist1 karma

Dr. Seymour, What would you say is the has been the most profound experience of your career?

Jellydudeinnemoland11 karma

Most profound, ok, a couple but they are linked. The day we lost Steve Irwin. I was on board. As like a LOT of people, it tore me up pretty bad. I had pretty much decided I needed to get out of what I was doing after that as I have a family, but my son and daughter said "Dad teaching people about this stuff is what you do, you can not stop that". That to me was profound!

GhostKingFlorida1 karma

How would someone get in to this line of work? It seems awfully interesting and it's something I'd really like to consider as a career, thanks for the AMA!

Jellydudeinnemoland3 karma

easy, follwo your dreams! plus it helps to hook up with some one in the area to start with. Id start with contacting some on ein the are and asking to volunteer or help out. Unfortunately its fast becoming "not what you know but who you know" sort of world

Capper221 karma

In a few weeks I'll be entering my senior year at university and I've recently been setting myself up to enter the world of finance, but seeing your enthusiasm doing something you truly love has me questioning the future I've chosen.

Don't get me wrong, a part of me enjoys the intricacies of the stock market and whatnot, but that doesn't compare to the enjoyment I get out of parts of math, particularly statistics. I opted for the path I'm on now thinking that in the future I could potentially go back to school if the finance wasn't really what I wanted to do, whereas it would be harder to break into the finance world farther down the road.

So I guess my question is, at what point did you know for certain that you wanted to be a toxinologist even though you may be able to live a more comfortable life putting your talents to use in some other things that interest you, but perhaps not quite as much? Or did you always know that you wanted to teach and do this sort of thing?

Thanks for doing this and your portion of that video was fantastic! Never knew jellyfish could be so interesting!

Jellydudeinnemoland3 karma

Ok, lest start with "if I wnated to make money I would not be in science". unfortunately thats true. I've been told on several occasions to leave science and go on the lecturing circuit, makes films etc and I could make a lot more money doing that then being a scientist, but.......................... as i said in the video, I'd do this for free, and I meant it. As for teaching no, it never really entered my head unitl I was dropped head first into a stats lecture when the lecturer was away (she just happened to be my PhD supervisor). having said that, i've always had a passion for learning, thats what gets me out of bed each day. I guess if I was going to a job each day that was the same thing day in day out, it would not matter how much money you gave me, I just would not do it.

electronseer1 karma

What have been your most important personal traits in your scientific career?


Conventional intelligence (i.e. book smarts/memory)?

Practical intelligence (i.e. technical skill)?

Persistence in the face of bad results?

As an early career researcher, this information may help me survive. Cheers!

Jellydudeinnemoland3 karma

short answer, two things, one ethusiasm and two a willingness to learn. treat every opprortunity as one where you can eearn somehting!