Vernon discovers Bay’s lesser known sea creatures

Vernon discovers Bay’s lesser known sea creatures

When we talk sea inhabitants of Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast, Codepods are not top of mind. 

These tiny creatures, each about one millimetre in size, are the focus of study for the leading global expert on the creatures, Dr Vernon Harris, who lives in Bolton Clarke’s Baycrest retirement community in Hervey Bay.

Vernon, 93, has discovered more than 40 species of the tiny marine creatures since they were discovered in the Mediterranean in 1860, and is currently writing a book on codepods for the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

“Codepods live on seaweed, and the first of three of the species were discovered in the Mediterranean around 1860.  I have since discovered more than 40 in Australia, Japan and New Zealand,” he said.

Vernon graduated after World War II with a degree in Zoology from University College in London.

His Professor G.P. ‘Gip’ Wells, son of science fiction author H.G. Wells, encouraged him to take on an Assistant Lecturer role at University College in Nigeria. With just three weeks to prepare and arrive, he set about setting up an entire Zoology department at Ibadan, 128km north east of Nigeria’s capital, Lagos.

After nine years in Nigeria, Vernon and his wife Lucy accepted a position in Canberra at the Australian National University (ANU). 

They knew nothing of Australia but agreed to give it three years.  That was in the mid 1970’s and soon neither could imagine being anywhere else.

Building knowledge of codepods is a focus for Vernon and most of his time is spent researching, sketching or studying them with the intention of publishing his book with the Smithsonian before “my body is incinerated and my atoms are released to the universe once more.”

A bursary for nursing students in honour of Vernon’s late wife Lucy was created in 2015 at the Fraser Coast campus of the Sunshine Coast University.

 Lucy started her nursing and midwife career in London in 1938, before training nurses at University College in Ibadan, establishing a children’s ward and medical clinics and assisting with research in to sickle cell anaemia and child malnutrition. 

When not researching and writing, Vernon loves woodwork and can often be found on his front porch at Bolton Clarke Hervey Bay working on his latest creation.  He is an avid reader of non-fiction, doesn’t own a television or radio and will continue, as long as he is able, to devote his life to scientific discovery and excellence.

Listen to Bolton Clarke’s podcast of Vernon here:

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