Deakin AIRwatch

Deakin AIRwatch is a pollen counting and forecasting facility. It was established in 2012 to assist students and staff of Deakin University and the general public in their allergen avoidance programs. Pollen and fungal spore data generated is also used for our ongoing research and collaborations with the Victorian Government's Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Meteorology.

Deakin AIRwatch is a pollen counting and forecasting facility.

Please note: Grass pollen counting and forecasting season is from 1 October to 31 December every year. Outside these times and in cases where the pollen count is temporarily unavailable, "currently not available" may be displayed.

Melbourne Burwood Campus burwood location pin

Pollen count: End of season

Currently not available

Pollen forecast
(next 24 hours)

Currently not available

Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus waurn ponds location pin

Pollen count: End of season

Currently not available

Pollen forecast
(next 24 hours)

Currently not available

Ranking Grass pollen grains per m3 air
Low 0 - 19
Moderate 20 - 49
High 50 - 99
Extreme 100+

Melbourne Pollen provides other pollen count and forecast sites in Melbourne and around Victoria.

Important: On days of High/Extreme pollen count forecasts, it is highly advisable that all those who are allergic to pollen take necessary steps to minimize pollen exposure and carry appropriate medication for hay fever and potential thunderstorm-associated asthma. For further information on risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma, please visit the Victorian Government's health services hub.

Thunderstorm Asthma Forecast

For the latest up-to-date epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast and information provided by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services and the Bureau of Meteorology, please visit the VicEmergency website.

You are also able to view the latest warnings and information by downloading the VicEmergency mobile app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Staff and researchers

Cenk Suphioglu
A/Prof Cenk Suphioglu
Dwan Price
Dr Dwan Price
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Agnes Michalczyk
Dr Agnes Michalczyk
Research Fellow
Anna Withanage Don
Ms Anna Withanage Dona
PhD student
Samuel King
Mr Samuel King
PhD student
Bryce Blades
Mr Bryce Blades
PhD student
Kira Hughes
Ms Kira Hughes
Honours student

AIRwatch overview

Bioaerosols are major contributors to hay fever and asthma and mainly consist of large reproductive structures: pollen grains and fungal spores. Their atmospheric concentrations (counts) are dependent upon the abundance of seasonal vegetation and the dispersal effects of weather patterns. Pollen is  also implicated as a causal agent in large-scale epidemics of thunderstorm-associated asthma. The recent end of Melbourne's long drought has coincided with numerous thunderstorm events as well as a return to peaks in severe asthma and hay fever outbreaks. Associate Professor Cenk Suphioglu and Dr Philip Taylor are experienced environmental allergists and have regularly collected pollen and spores in a spore trap, microscopically identified them, and used the results for research, and to inform the public of daily allergy risk levels.

In response to the epidemic thunderstorm asthma of 21 November 2016, the Victorian Government through its agencies DHHS and BoM, have established 5 new pollen counting facilities. These are located in Hamilton, Creswick, Bendigo, Dookie and Churchill, and are in addition to the existing Parkville facility housed at the University of Melbourne, significantly improving the Victorian pollen trap network.

Since there is currently no measure of atmospheric pollen and spore concentrations in regional Victoria (e.g. Geelong) and eastern Melbourne (e.g. Burwood), we have established Deakin AIRwatch, incorporating pollen and spore counting stations at both the Waurn Ponds and Burwood campuses of Deakin University.  This is timely due to ever-increasing allergy and asthma epidemics. Deakin AIRwatch network will not only directly benefit the public with pollen and spore counting service to assist in their allergen avoidance programs but also contribute to significant research and clinical studies, which is lacking for the greater Geelong area.

60 Minutes Australia: The killer storm

All Australians are used to weathering frequent and ferocious thunderstorms, but the one that raced through country Victoria and slammed into Melbourne on 21 November 2016 was loaded with unexpected peril. Within a matter of minutes the entire city was left gasping for air in a mass asthma epidemic.

Thousands were struck down, including many who weren't even asthmatic. Emergency services were unable to cope with the number of calls for assistance and hospital emergency departments were overflowing with distressed patients. Tragically, nine people died that terrible day. What caused it was a highly unusual phenomenon called "Thunderstorm Asthma", but this outbreak was the most severe and catastrophic the world has ever seen.

In a special 60 Minutes investigation Tara Brown reveals that what is even more frightening is that it will happen again. The problem though is that no one knows where or when. (Courtesy: Nine Network Australia)

ABC Australia Catalyst: Thunderstorm Asthma

ABC Catalyst's Tanya Ha and Deakin University's Associate Professor Cenk Suphioglu discuss 'Thunderstorm Asthma' after the November 2010 epidemic in Melbourne, Australia. We hear why these epidemics occur, and particularly why Victoria's conditions make it such a hotspot.

Time-lapse videos

Video: Time lapse of a flowering rye grass. Male stamens exert from the inflorescence and their anthers dehisce to reveal highly allergenic pollen grains.

Video: Close up, time lapse of anther dehiscence, during which approx 2,000 pollen grains per sac are exposed to the atmosphere. Pollen remains attached to the anther surface in the absence of a wind disturbance.

Video: Real time rupture of rye grass pollen upon exposure to water. The contents of the pollen are ejected through a ruptured pore on the surface of the pollen grain. Approximately 750 starch granules of micron size are emitted from each pollen grain, along with thousands of nano-particles of cytoplasmic debris, which can trigger a thunderstorm-associated asthma.

Key publications

  1. Suphioglu, C., Singh, M.B., Taylor,  P.E., Bellomo, R., Holmes, P., Puy, R. and Knox, R.B. (1992). Mechanism of  grass pollen-induced asthma. The Lancet 339: 569-572.
  2. Bellomo, R., Gigliotti, P., Treloar,  A., Holmes, P., Suphioglu, C., Singh, M.B. and Knox, R.B. (1992). Two  consecutive thunderstorm associated epidemics of asthma in the city of  Melbourne: The possible role of rye-grass pollen. Medical Journal of Australia 156: 834-837.
  3. Knox, R.B. and Suphioglu, C. (1996). Environmental and molecular biology of pollen  allergens. Trends in Plant Science 1:156-164.
  4. Schäppi, G., Suphioglu, C., Taylor  P.E. and Knox, R.B. (1997). Concentrations of the major birch tree allergen Bet v 1 in pollen and  respirable fine particles in the atmosphere. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 100:656-662.
  5. Knox, R.B., Suphioglu, C., Taylor, P.,  Desai, R., Watson, H.C., Peng, J.L. and Bursill, L.A. (1997). Major grass pollen allergen Lol p 1 binds to  diesel exhaust particles (DECP): implications for asthma and air pollution. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 27:246-251.
  6. Suphioglu, C. (1998). Thunderstorm asthma due to grass  pollen. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 116:253-260.
  7. Schäppi, G., Taylor, P.E., Kenrick,  J., Staff, I.A. and Suphioglu, C. (1998). Effect of meteorological conditions on the severity of hayfever in Melbourne (Australia). Aerobiologia 14:29-37.
  8. Schäppi, G., Taylor, P.E., Staff, I.A.  and Suphioglu, C. (1999). Concentrations  of the major grass group 5 allergens in pollen and airborne particles:  implications for atmospheric allergen monitoring. Clinical  and Experimental Allergy 29:633-641.
  9. Schäppi, G., Taylor, P.E., Staff,  I.A., Rolland, J.M. and Suphioglu, C. (1999). Immunologic significance of  respirable atmospheric starch granules loaded with major birch allergen Bet v  1. Allergy 54:478-483.
  10. Suphioglu, C. (2000). What are the  important allergens in grass pollen that are linked to human allergic disease? Clinical and Experimental Allergy 30:1335-41.
  11. Taylor, P.E., Jacobson, K.W., House, J.M.  and Glovesky, M.M. (2007). Links between pollen, atopy and the asthma epidemic. International Archives of Allergy and  Immunology 144:162-170.
  12. Erbas, B., Akram,  M., Dharmage, S.C., Tham, R., Dennekamp, M., Newbigin, E., Taylor, P.E., Tang,  M.L.K. and Abramson, M.J. (2012). The role of seasonal grass pollen on  childhood asthma emergency department presentations. Clinical and Experimental Allergy 42:799-805.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Questions that are commonly asked:

What is pollen?

Pollen is the fine, powdery substance released by anthers, a part of the flower. Pollen grains contain the male gametes of plants, which makes male sperm the closest analogous type of cell to pollen in the human body.

Why is pollen a problem?

Although benign, pollen from certain plants can trigger allergic diseases in sensitive individuals.

Whole pollen grains landing in the eyes or nasal passages can trigger seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever), characterised by a blocked or runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes. Allergic rhinitis affects around 18% (nearly 1 in 5) of people in Australia and New Zealand (see

It is important to recognize that pollen can trigger asthma as well as hay fever symptoms; around 1 in 4 people with hay fever also have asthma (see Many people with hay fever due to grass pollen allergy can get wheeze or chest tightness in the spring and summer season when they also have hay fever. This is likely to be asthma triggered by grass pollen allergy.

Counting the levels of pollen in the air means that people who have asthma (triggered by pollen) and hay fever, can be informed of days that are forecast to have high pollen levels. This information allows them to take preventative measures such as staying indoors or having their medication close at hand. Because rye grass pollen is the major allergic pollen type in Victoria, the Victorian Thunderstorm Asthma Pollen Surveillance (VicTAPS) network counts and forecasts are for grass pollen.

During grass pollen season people may notice an increase in asthma and hay fever symptoms. Grass pollen season (October through December) also brings the chance of thunderstorm asthma.

What is thunderstorm asthma?

Thunderstorm asthma is thought to be triggered by a unique combination of high amounts of grass pollen in the air and a certain type of thunderstorm. For people who have asthma or hay fever this can trigger severe asthma symptoms (see Better Health Channel:

When a large number of people develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time, related to high grass pollen and a certain type of thunderstorm, it is known as epidemic thunderstorm asthma. 

How is pollen measured?

An air-sampling device called a Burkard spore trap is used to capture airborne pollen on a glass slide, which is stained with a dye and counted using a microscope.

During the grass pollen season, a slide is removed from the trap at the same time each day and counted twice. The first time all types of pollen on the slide is counted and the second time just the grass pollen (which has a distinctive shape) is counted. The daily pollen count is a report of both grass and all kinds of pollen (as grains per cubic metre of air) caught in the trap in the previous 24 hours.

How many pollen counting sites are there in Victoria?

There are currently eight pollen counting sites in the Victorian Thunderstorm Asthma Pollen Surveillance (VicTAPS) network. The University of Melbourne operates an inner Melbourne site at its Parkville campus and on its rural Creswick and Dookie campuses.  The University of Melbourne also operates sites on La Trobe University's Bendigo campus, Federation University's Churchill campus, and at the Western District Health Service in Hamilton. Deakin University operates pollen count sites at its Geelong and Burwood campuses.

Where are the new pollen traps located in Victoria?

Prior to the 2017 grass pollen season there were three pollen traps operating in Victoria - in Parkville, Burwood and Waurn Ponds (Geelong).

The Victorian government has provided additional investment to expand the pollen monitoring network in Victoria by adding five pollen traps at the following locations:

  • Hamilton
  • Creswick (near Ballarat)
  • Bendigo
  • Dookie (near Shepparton)
  • Churchill (near Morwell)

Eight pollen traps across Victoria will be operating and supporting the verification and refinement of the epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasting model, by providing a more detailed understanding of pollen levels and the spread/movement of pollen across the state.

How were the new pollen trap locations chosen?

The new pollen trap locations were chosen based on a range of factors including levels of rye grass, expected wind directions and likely distribution patterns of pollen, historical peaks in asthma presentations to emergency departments, population size, and the availability of appropriate locations to house, operate, maintain and staff daily pollen counts seven days a week from 1 October to 31 December.

Where can I obtain Victorian grass pollen count information?

The daily grass pollen count for Victorian sites is available on this website, and on the Melbourne Pollen Count App.

Why is grass pollen only counted between 1 October and 31 December?

Research shows that grass pollen is by far the most common cause of hay fever in Victoria.

Plants release their pollen when they are flowering, and different types of plants flower at different times of year. Many deciduous trees such as birch, plane and elm flower in late winter and early spring, for example, whereas many grasses flower in the period from October to December.

Grass pollen data collected in Melbourne for more than 20 years shows that the highest levels start occurring, on average, in mid-October and fluctuate daily until the end of December. By the end of November grasses start dying off and the levels of grass pollen in the air begin to reduce. The exact start and finish of grass pollen season varies slightly from season to season, but is typically from 1 October to the end of December

What factors affect the daily pollen count?

A number of factors affect the daily count, including daily fluctuations in temperature, wind conditions, humidity and precipitation, and of course the biology of the grasses themselves.

Most grasses flower in late spring and early summer. During the flowering season, weather conditions such as wind and humidity will also affect how much grass pollen is in the air.

For example, Melbourne's worst grass pollen days are in November, when hot northerly winds bring pollen into the city from pastures in the surrounding countryside. Southerly winds, by contrast, are cooler and more humid and bring mainly pollen-free air into Melbourne from the ocean.

How is a pollen forecast different from an epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecast?

Pollen forecasts simply reflect the expected amount of pollen in the air. They can help people with hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis) who may choose to avoid being outdoors on these days. In Victoria grass pollen seems to be the most problematic.

Epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasts combine grass pollen forecasts with the prediction of a certain type of thunderstorm thought to produce a thunderstorm asthma event.

Where can I get information about thunderstorm asthma?

More information about thunderstorm asthma is available on the Better Health Channel

Media enquiries about the Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma Forecasting Service should be directed to the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services on 1300 761 874.

The Epidemic Thunderstorm Asthma forecasting service will run from 1 October until 31 December, the typical Victorian grass pollen season. To access the epidemic thunderstorm asthma forecasts, download the Vic Emergency App or visit


For further information, please contact:

Associate Professor Cenk Suphioglu
Phone: +61 3 522 72886