University and Marine Conservation Society join forces to assess public knowledge of jellyfish

Image courtesy of Peter Bardsley/Marine Conservation Society

Jellyfish season is well and truly upon us and you’re likely to see more of them around UK shores.

With that in mind, the University of Plymouth is teaming up with the Marine Conservation Society to test the public’s jellyfish identification skills and encourage them to report sightings as part of the charity’s national Jellyfish Survey.

They have developed a special Jellyfish ID Quiz, designed to understand how easy it is for people to identify the eight jellyfish and jellyfish-like species that visit the UK.

As well as trying to educate the public, it is also hoped to use the results to update and improve the survey so it can run for many more years to come.

The project is being led at the University by Catriona Duncan, a student on the pioneering MSc Marine Conservation programme. She said:

"Citizen science is a really valuable way to gather information and engage people with the marine environment, so we want to make sure the national Jellyfish Survey is as engaging and easy to use as possible.
"Jellyfish are an animal so many of us are familiar with, but surprisingly little is known about their distribution in UK waters and what causes them to bloom and increase in numbers. This project is a fantastic opportunity to help find ways to improve the survey and encourage more people to get involved for years to come."

The Jellyfish Survey started in 2003 with the intention of understanding more about their distribution in UK waters and how this affects leatherback turtles, which migrate to the UK to feed on plentiful jellyfish bloom through the summer.

However, with limited data on where these blooms happened, the Marine Conservation Society sought to gather data to identify potential feeding hotspots for leatherback turtles.

To date, thousands of people have shared sightings from around the UK, helping to build an extensive dataset of six jellyfish and two jellyfish-like hydrozoan species.

It has also enabled the charity to build a more accurate picture of the wider impacts of large jellyfish blooms, and identified the coastlines of south-west England and Wales as a jellyfish hotspot.

Since 2014, the Jellyfish Survey has recorded notable jellyfish events such as massive and extensive annual blooms of barrel jellyfish and several summers of mass strandings of Portuguese Man o’ War. The University is now working with the Marine Conservation Society to analyse this most recent data.

<p>Jellyfish (Credit:&nbsp;Peter Bardsley)</p>
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Jellyfish (Credit: Peter Bardsley)

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Jellyfish (Credit: Peter Bardsley)

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Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery at the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“We’ve been running our National Jellyfish Survey citizen science programme for more than 17 years and, thanks to the participation of thousands of jellyfish spotters sending us their records, we are now starting to understand more about our UK jellyfish species. As we start to enjoy the UK’s beautiful beaches again this year, we want as many beachgoers as possible to get involved and send us their jellyfish records. Remember, you can look, but please don't touch the jellyfish…some have a painful sting."

The Marine Conservation Society hopes to run the Jellyfish Survey over a long time period to see what happens to the distribution and frequency of mass jellyfish blooms, and attempt to explore any links with factors such as climate change.

To take the Jellyfish ID Quiz and test your knowledge, and find out more information and get involved in the National Jellyfish Survey, visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website – https://www.mcsuk.org/sightings/.

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All jellyfish images used courtesy of Peter Bardsley/Marine Conservation Society.