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Posts Tagged ‘jellyfish’

Express your inner scientist

Friday, July 8th, 2011
  • Get home from a day’s labor, crack a beer, sit on the porch and appreciate a butterfly nectaring on a nearby flower and the evening summer sun that makes a dragonfly glow while it hunts with incredible speed and precision, eating on the fly.
  • Is that bush blooming already?
  • You just won a tough case and you’re doing your best Leonardo DiCaprio against the forward fence of the ferry observation deck, a smile on your face, the wind rushing by. You look into the water… SMACK! (no, not sea gull poop to the side of the head or a disgruntled defendant… we’re talkin’ jellies!).

What do these scenarios have in common? Citizen scientists. Elements of science may remain in an ivory tower, but in ever-increasing numbers and in very accessible ways, scientists and managers are harnessing the interests and time of every Tom, Dick and Jane to explore difficult issues like climate change, water quality and habitat loss. We can also add to the understanding of the what, where and when for our favorite groups of critters in ways we were never able to in the past.

All fair game for easy reporting by citizen scientists. Clockwise from top left: lion's mane jelly, hermit thrush, small magpie moth (non-native) and common whitetail dragonfly. Photos: Jeff Adams

There are lots of opportunities out there, but I’ll highlight a few of my favorites. Under the unofficial category of “report what you see, where you see it, when you want to”…

Don’t have experience in identifying critters? No worries. Some programs simply require you to know/report on a single species or, in the case of Sound Citizen, to collect and return a sample. For butterflies, birds, dragonflies and jellies, there are excellent physical and online guides and identification resources available. On top of that, people like me love to get the email with a subject line “what’s this?”.

I recently posted a YouTube video that should help with common jellyfish ID’s. With all the ferry riders, dock and beach visitors, boaters, divers, harvesters, anglers and shoreline homeowners in the Puget Sound and Salish Sea… we should be able to help scientists at jellywatch.org better understand jellies and blooms in our region. It’s an area of increasing interest as our climate and ocean activities evolve.

The opportunistic reporting of the list above can give a scientist valuable information in part by sheer volume of data. Volunteers willing and able to put in more time can get involved in a project that typically includes some form of training and standardized protocols and reporting. Some excellent examples in our region include…

Bainbridge Beach Naturalists (part of the Kitsap Beach Naturalist program) conduct a profile assessment of the beach slope, substrate, plants and animals. Amazing what you see when you look close! Photo: Jeff Adams

Other programs like  Nature Mapping are geared toward schools, but also give individuals an opportunity to report findings. You can even explore lots of potential projects on your own at sites like scienceforcitizens.net and citizensciencecentral.org or like citsci.org for projects geared specifically toward invasive species.

Washington Sea Grant will go live with a Washington-specific citizen science clearinghouse some time in the next year. Or you can just contact local organizations to explore opportunities. In Kitsap you might start with me at Washington Sea Grant (contact info below), or with organizations such WSU Beach Watchers or the Stillwaters Environmental Education Center.

The best of the citizen science networks provide something in return for our efforts. No, not a key chain or a shopping tote (although some provide those as well). We get maps and checklists and image collections and newsletters and data analysis and publications… All of which reflect our contributions to scientific exploration and the greater body of scientific knowledge. None of which would have happened without our participation.

COASST is an excellent example of providing feedback to volunteers. In return for their dead bird surveys, COASST volunteers receive a newsletter explaining some of the trends in the data and featuring natural history information about sea and shoreline birds. … Plus, volunteers get cool bird postcards (pictures tend to be of the live birds and a bit more attractive then the dead ones). A free COASST training will be hosted by Washington Sea Grant and WSU Kitsap Extension in Bremerton on July 28th (RSVP to info@coasst.org). Other dates and opportunities are available on the COASST calendar.

Thanks for your interest in contributing to the body of scientific knowledge that we need to make informed decisions and to effectively care for the Puget Sound, Salish Sea and beyond. … Oh, gotta go… I need to chase down a dragonfly!

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets and videos, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


Smack!

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Squid at the surface of Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

The Port Orchard to Bremerton foot ferry is a great way to avoid driving or biking around Sinclair Inlet when you just want to get to downtown Bremerton from south Kitsap. As a bonus, you get a few moments on each side for sea creature viewing. You’re almost guaranteed to see plumose anemones, giant pink stars, mussels and barnacles on pilings and floating structures. You’re likely to see a kelp crab and a seaweed or two.

On one occasion, I thought I was watching a sick/disoriented smelt or herring in its death throws. That turned out to be a half truth. It was actually a squid working on a recent catch. It’s unusual to see them at the surface in the daylight.

To ring in October, I peered over the ferry pier on the Bremerton side to see my first big marine jelly smack! As I watched, the flood tide propelled hundreds of moon jellies over, under and around the man-made structures of the Bremerton ferry docks and marina.


Kris Brander saw this fabulous smack of moon jellies (Aurelia aurita) boatside at the Brownsville marina on August 11, 2010. Photo by: Kris Bradner

The animals are beautiful. They are nearly clear except for the four leaf clover shaped reproductive organs at their center. The characteristic jellyfish pulse is also gracefully mesmerizing.

An observant and curious boater took a great picture of a dense smack of moon jellies at the Brownsville marina on August 11th of this year. The image worked its way around UW Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences department, and received several responses. One referred to the recent (July, 2010) conference… Third International Jellyfish Blooms Symposium.

Our region’s own Jenny Purcell of Western Washington University organized the first session listed on the conference page and provided a session summary that really hits on the complexities of jelly blooms.

Globally, blooms impact economies and the environments that support them. Lots of factors can go into creating blooms, including climate change, altered salinity and excess nutrients/food. Murkier water and low oxygen can also favor jellies over their fish competitors. Even manmade structures in the water can create extra habitat for to support the jellyfish life cycle. Fishing can also remove some of their predators and competitors.

The life cycle of a jelly is a strange (though not uncommon) combination of sexual and asexual reproduction and of planktonic (floating in the water) and benthic (attached to a surface in the water) forms. The jellies we see floating around are the adult male or female medusa. The boys put their sperm into the water (like many marine critters). The girls use the sperm to fertilize eggs that they brood until the larvae are released into the water. The larvae soon find a shaded place (that’s why man-made structures come in handy) to settle and grow into a polyp – like a tiny anemone. That polyp divides into a budding colony and each bud breaks off to grow into a new medusa. You might check out the Jelly Zone for more about jellies.

Part of a smack of lion's mane jellies (Cyanea capillata - red means don't touch!). There were about 20 lion's manes on the beach at Friday Harbor on September 24th, 2010 with more washing in. Photo: Jeff Adams

But why is an aggregation of jellyfish called a “smack”. I don’t know, any ideas? Sarah Asper-Smith of Alaska found odd group names so intriguing that she illustrated an ABC book with unusual names for each letter called Smack of Jellyfish. It comes out in November. Good stuff.

With my wife and oldest son’s help, we came up with a few aggregation names we feel should catch on…

bull kelp bed –> a flogging
sand dollar bed –> a treasure
urchin bed –> a thorn
crab aggregation –> a drool
dogwinkle snail gathering –> a pound

Is anyone with me? Please comment with your own inspired new name for an aggregation of something. Have a jolly jelly day! JEff

Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea-life blog, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.


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