Our scientists have developed a unique online interface that links to powerful dispersion and weather prediction models to help to better prepare for and respond to wind borne threats.

The challenge

Invisible threats

Wind dispersion models are important tools for predicting where and how quickly air pollutants, such as volcanic ash, pollen load, or an accidental chemical release, may spread.

Incorporation of this information into early warning systems has been shown to reduce the  impacts caused by these hazards.

There are also other threats that can travel via the air and which can impact on our health, agricultural industries and environment. These includes insects, pathogens, diseases and disease vectors.

Long distance dispersal of insects via wind currents are a recognised pathway for the spread of exotic diseases such as the aerial dispersal of bluetongue virus into the United Kingdom and Sweden which sparked the 2008-2011 bluetongue epidemic.1

However, addressing the challenges associated with surveying wind-borne threats has meant that solutions to monitoring this pathway have often remained largely overlooked or require considerable expertise and time to run.

Our response

Computer modelling

Working with the Bureau of Meteorology and Intersect, we have developed an online tool that can predict when and where pests and pathogens might be blown into, and from, Australia.

Three maps of northern Australia showing insect distribution and two midges biting someone's skin.

Three maps of northern Australia with yellow shading to show where the insects might land in January, February and March respectively.

Blowing in the Wind - Our scientists are mapping where disease carrying Culicoides midges from Tanimbar and Aru Islands will most likely arrive in Australia during our Top End's wet season.

Mapping insect dispersal via the wind.  ©Wilson, Darpel and Mellor

Pest or pathogen dispersion is different to dust or pollutant dispersions, as living organisms respond differently within the atmosphere. They might die if it is too hot or cold, if the wind is too turbulent, or if they are susceptible to ultra-violet light. All these organism-specific parameters need to be taken into account on top of standard dispersion modelling approaches to establish if there is a biosecurity risk or not.

Our solution to this problem has been to link to high performance computers that have access to global air circulation information from the Bureau of Meteorology's numerical weather prediction model, the dispersion model HYSPLIT and knowledge of the biology of the organism. 

This software is flexible and can be adapted to a number of areas including biogeography, ecology, pollen allergens, dust and smoke.

The results

TAPPAS - Tool for Assessing Pest or Pathogen Airborne Spread

Our user-friendly online interface – TAPPAS - links to powerful dispersion and weather prediction models and produces a series of maps of the risk of dispersal over a period of time.

This new software assists in pinpointing the ideal times and locations to undertake surveillance for potential wind borne threats.

We believe TAPPAS will become an indispensible tool for government, industry and researchers interested in predicting and responding to airborne threats of all kinds.

Further information and contact details are available on the TAPPAS website or you can subscribe to our TAPPAS Updates to keep up to date with developments.

We welcome collaboration and co-investment to expand the benefits of TAPPAS

To stay informed and up to date with TAPPAS developments, please subscribe to our updates.

Contact us

Your contact details

First name must be filled in

We'll need to know what you want to contact us about so we can give you an answer.