Col Limpus first found out he was being awarded an Order of Australia (AO) in the general division of the Queen’s Birthday 2020 Honours List two weeks ago and it was a very hard secret to keep.
“It was difficult because I wanted to say thank you to my family members and the numerous departmental directors, staff, post graduate students and volunteers who made my work possible,” he said.
However, now that the announcement has been made for distinguished service to environmental science, he can relax and enjoy the moment.
“I am smiling and very appreciative of the honour,” he said.
Dr Limpus’s history with Mon Repos goes back to a very young age.
“It really began back when I was five years old and my father took me to Mon Repos and taught me how to find nesting turtles and how to find their eggs,” he said.
“As a teenager, like many other people in Bundaberg, I would go with my friends on New Year’s Eve to watch the turtles and enjoy our friendships. I have been on Mon Repos beach for every new year’s eve bar one since 1956.”
As a high school teacher, Col had no idea that his love of turtles would completely change his direction in life.
“As a result of my familiarity with the turtles when I was a high school teacher, a visiting biologist persuaded me to take on a small four-year study of the turtles at Mon Repos,” he said.
“That progressed to my changing careers and joining the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service and being given the responsibility for leading research and conservation of turtles in Queensland.”
That work has taken him around the world, with many highlights.
“One highlight was being among the global leading researchers to discover that the sex of sea turtles is not determined by sex chromosomes, but by the temperature of the nest – this has laid the foundation for modern research and management to understand the threat to our turtles from climate change making our beaches so hot that for many turtle populations there are insufficient male hatchlings being produced to ensure successful breeding in the future.
“Another highlight was being appointed by the UNEP Convention for Conservation of Migratory Species as Scientific Councillor for Marine Turtles (1994-2020) and having the opportunity to provide technical advice towards improving international cooperation in conservation of marine migratory species.”
Dr Limpus believes there is still much to do.
“Currently we are endeavouring to find ways to reduce the impact of climate change that is excessively warming our beaches and threatening the survival of the nesting turtle population.
“We are investigating the use of artificial rain (sprinklers), shading from trees and artificial shading to produce beach sand temperatures to provide good incubation success and a good mix of male and female hatchlings.”
In a career spanning so many achievements, Col said there are many to thank.
“Special thanks to my family, to the senior management of QPWS in providing a productive work environment, my technical officer support, the numerous university researchers who have challenged and enhanced my science and especially the vast number of volunteers who have delivered so much on-beach support in monitoring the turtles and protecting their nests.
“I could not have achieved what I have without their support.”
And going back to those days when he was a five year old fascinated by turtles, his goal is to continue that legacy.
“Part of my long term goal is that I want my grandchildren and their children to be able to enjoy the marvellous features of Bundaberg and the Woongarra Coast just as I did.”
Also in today’s Queen’s Birthday Honours, an OAM was awarded to Robyn Jean Murray for service to the community, in particular to Australian Red Cross Lifeblood.