Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin

I am a bio-nerd, like you can’t even imagine. I am a geek with a capital G. I spend all my time travelling around discovering new species.

I was born in Palm Springs, California. I didn’t finish high school, but later returned as a mature-aged student to study marine biology through the American equivalent of TAFE. I enrolled in a PhD at Berkeley and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Australia. I was finally awarded a PhD from James Cook University in Queensland in 2005. And I am currently pursuing another PhD at the University of Tasmania — I just love learning!

Power of a diagnosis

I am a successful scientist and writer, but there's another side to me that many people do not see. In 2010, I was diagnosed with autism (Asperger’s syndrome) and I battle depression. As a result, I spent 18 months recovering in Tasmania's homeless shelter system in Launceston and Hobart, including while I volunteered at CSIRO. And I was on Centrelink for a while, which was good to have as a safety net, but I was really happy when I finally got back on my feet. I also ran for Parliament in 2021. Now I run my own small business related to things that glow in the dark in nature. This is what Asperger's is like, and I share this about myself so others give thought to what inclusion means in our society.

In bloom

My 2013 book Stung! describes how the marine environment is becoming dominated by jellyfish worldwide. My 2016 book Jellyfish was translated into five languages. And now, in 2023, I’ve published another book, Shapeshifters. I have written articles for The Conversation and been interviewed numerous times for information related to jellyfish. I also wrote the Jellyfish stamp series with Australia Post. I was also a research scientist with CSIRO for 7 ½ years, have discovered more than 200 new jellyfish species (and one dolphin!), developed a system to predict blooms of the Irukandji jellyfish in north Queensland, and have published 70 scientific research papers. I am proud of these accomplishments, but the best part of all is that I truly love being a scientist, so my sense of happiness doesn’t depend on the money or the kudos.