Spot the jellyfish – here or in Malta

get-attachment-5As this little guy peers through a jellyfish on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, hundreds of citizen scientists are recording their jelly observations on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Malta’s Spot the Jellyfish program is run by the International Ocean Institute and the University of Malta, inpartnership with the Malta Tourism Authority, among others.

Why would the tourism authority be interested in this?

By reporting jellyfish that swim close to shore and identifying them using the project’s online guide, participants not only increase the public’s awareness about the types of jellyfish around Malta but also help others, as the site says, “avoid those stinging jellies!”

Malta's most common jelly is the mauve stinger.
Malta's most common jelly is the mauve stinger.

Besides that, the data is useful for local marine scientists, who are concerned that recent “blooms” of jellyfish in the Mediterranean are due to pollution and overfishing of the jellies’ natural predators. (Be sure to check out the interactive map that shows the latest sightings around the island.)

I asked Alan Deidun, the biologist responsible for the project, why he decided to work with citizen scientists rather than rely on electronic monitors or graduate students, as is typically the case in such research.

“It is a question of necessity really, since we as marine biologists cannot be everywhere all the time. Bathers, divers, and the users of the coastal seas in general are the best on-site recorders of biological information,” Deidun said. “Secondly, getting public support, by empowering them through ownership, gives greater credibility to the initiative.”

If you are not planning to be in Malta anytime soon but would like to participate in a similar project, consider this Jellywatch project. Be sure to share your adventures on your Sci4Cits member blog!

Categories: Animals, Citizen Science, Nature & Outdoors, Ocean & Water

About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.