Jellyfish Quiz to Improve Understanding of Important Species Identification

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There are eight species of jellyfish and jellyfish-like creatures in UK waters (Photo: Peter Bardsley/MCSUK)

Each year since 2003, as jellyfish season brings a host of different species to the UK's shores, the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) has been calling on the support of beach-going citizen scientists to take part in the Jellyfish Survey, a project aimed at increasing our understanding of jellyfish populations in UK waters.

Understanding trends in the distribution and size of jellyfish populations is important because they affect the leatherback turtles which migrate to UK waters during the summer months to feed on a variety of species. Large jellyfish blooms can also have an economic impact on marine industries and may be indicators of the impacts of climate change on our oceans.

While thousands of people each year share their data through the survey, species identification is not always easy. This year, the charity has teamed up with the University of Plymouth to test the public's identification skills by launching an online Jellyfish ID Quizto help improve the survey by analysing how easy it is for people to identify the eight species of jellyfish or jellyfish-like creatures that are found in UK waters. In order to build on the survey data and develop an ongoing understanding of jellyfish trends in UK seas, MCS has produced a jellyfish photo ID guide to accompany the quiz

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Leatherback turtles visit UK waters each year to feed on jellyfish blooms (Photo: Shutterstock)

Together with the University of Exeter, MCS published the first paper from the survey data in 2014, confirming key information about UK jellyfish and including the first distribution maps of the surveyed species. The paper confirmed that adult barrel jellyfish have a largely western distribution in UK seas and can survive UK winters, and also identified south-west England and Wales as a jellyfish hotspot, where other studies have shown a relatively high probability of leatherback turtle sightings for the UK.

'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,' said Dr Peter Richardson, Head of Ocean Recovery at the Marine Conservation Society. '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!'

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Lion's mane jellyfish are large and pack a powerful sting (Photo: Peter Bardsley/MCSUK)

'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,' said Catriona Duncan, MSc Student at the University of Plymouth. 'Jellyfish are an animal so many of us are familiar with, but surprisingly little is known about their distribution around 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.'

You can download the Jellyfish ID Guide here, and test your knowledge with the Jellyfish ID Quiz here. To find out more about the Marine Conservation Society and get involved in the National Jellyfish Survey, visit www.mcsuk.org/sightings

 

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