[ASC-media] Smelly frog researcher nominated for Ig Nobel Prize

Linden Woodward linden.woodward at jcu.edu.au
Mon Aug 16 12:26:51 EST 2004


JCU Media Release
16.8.04
Smelly frog researcher nominated for Ig Nobel Prize

James Cook University entomologist Dr Craig Williams is enjoying the 
slightly dubious honour of being nominated for an Ig Nobel Prize.

The Ig Nobels (affectionately known as ‘The Igs’) are international 
awards that celebrate the unusual, honour the imaginative, and seek to 
promote interest in science, medicine, and technology.

Dr Williams, who works with mosquitoes at James Cook University in 
Cairns, was nominated as one of the authors of A Survey of Frog Odorous 
Secretions, Their Possible Functions and Phylogenetic Significance.

His co-authors were Ben Smith (University of Toronto), Brian Williams 
and world-renowned frog researcher Mike Tyler (both of the University 
of Adelaide).

“The research was inspired by an observation that mosquitoes don’t bite 
frogs as often as we might expect,” Dr Williams explained. “We 
suspected frog body odour might contain mosquito repellents, and 
research did indeed reveal that several species produce 
mosquito-repelling secretions.”

The investigation also revealed that froggy smells, sometimes produced 
in stressful conditions, can help frogs defend themselves against 
predators.

There is a serious side to Dr Williams’ interest in smelly frogs.

  “Knowing which smells repel mosquitoes and which ones attract them can 
be very useful. I’m currently looking for odours that attract Aedes 
aegypti, the mosquitoes that spread dengue fever. If we can find smells 
they like, we can lure them into traps, reduce our reliance on chemical 
sprays in mosquito control.”

Dr Williams’ nomination was announced in Canberra, where ABC 
broadcaster Robyn Williams (no relation) welcomed Harvard University’s 
founder of the Ig Nobel, Marc Abrahams, at the opening of the 
Australian Science Festival.

In a demonstration involving the Minister for Science Mr Peter McGauran 
MP as a ‘sniffer’, Dr Williams attempted to reproduce the frog odour 
research, by subjecting frogs to stressful conditions, including the 
sound of various boy bands, and the sight of the Big Brother household.

No frogs were harmed during the experiment, but some boy bands did have 
their feelings hurt.

This year’s Ig Nobel Prize winners will be announced in September.

Australian scientists have won a swag of Igs in the past. In 2002 Dr 
Karl Kruszelnicki of the University of Sydney, won an Ig for a 
comprehensive survey of human belly button fluff: who gets it, when, 
how much and what colour it is.

The 2002 Ig Nobel Prize for Physics did not go to an Australian, but 
probably should have. The winner was Arnd Leike of the University of 
Munich, who demonstrated that beer froth obeys the mathematical Law of 
Exponential Decay.

The Ig Nobel Prizes recognise research that first makes people laugh, 
and then makes them think. The awards are presented each year in a 
glittering ceremony at Harvard by genuine, and somewhat bemused, Nobel 
Laureates.

The Igs are the offspring of science humour magazine The Annals of 
Improbable Research (AIR).

For more information about the Ig Nobel Prizes: 
www.improb.com/ig/ig-top.html

Media enquiries: linden.woodward at jcu.edu.au
Tel: 07 4042 1007


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