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Nelson Mandela University is managing Port Elizabeth’s first pollen and spore sampler, which will allow the city’s hay fever sufferers to access up-to-date pollen counts online.

Botany’s research associate Dr Lynne Quick, and lab technician Ms Erin Hilmer are involved in this new nation-wide project aimed at tracking, monitoring and broadcasting pollen and spore counts via

It is led by the University of Cape Town Lung Institute and has strong connections to researchers from several other universities around the country as well as the medical industry.

Dr Quick and Ms Hilmer represent Port Elizabeth and are responsible for managing and maintaining the spore trap on campus.

“For the first time ever, we are now able to monitor and provide weekly data on pollen counts for the city,” Said Dr Quick.

“Erin will be trained by Aerobiologist Dr Dilys Berman (co-leader of the initiative) and plans to go forward with this for a master’s project next year.”

Numerous websites and apps forecast pollen and fungal spores for the country, but these counts sometimes prove inaccurate and are often extrapolated from overseas data that has no bearing on SA.

Certain provinces have been monitored sporadically in the past, but it came to a halt in the ‘90s and there has since not been any monitoring in the Eastern Cape.

This year, however, the record high pollen counts recorded in Europe and the United States, have fuelled a renewed interest in monitoring airborne allergens as they can pose a significant risk to human health.

Climate change is having a dramatic impact on pollen production and the severity of pollen seasons. Factors such as rising temperatures and CO₂ levels are driving up pollen levels globally, which is bad for millions of hay fever sufferers.

As seasons worsen, it has become crucial for local scientists to keep a closer eye on pollen and other allergens in the air and to work towards systematic and wide-spread monitoring which will allow for more accurate predictions in the future.

Experts predict that pollen counts will quadruple in the next 20 to 30 years, and people who don’t normally suffer from hay fever may likely begin to. Asthma attacks may also increase.

Thus far, pollen counts have been low in Port Elizabeth, compared to other parts of the country, due to relatively frequent rainfall but with the threat of other allergic plants, such as ragweed (typically found in Europe) migrating southward, it could increase significantly within the next few weeks.

Unfortunately, the UCT Lung Institute’s funding comes to an end in 11 months, and it has launched a crowdfunding campaign on with the aim of helping to make the programme more sustainable.

Botany’s Dr Lynne Quick, left, and lab technician Erin Hilmer at the spore trap on campus

Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160