Jellyfish In The Classroom?
The students in Mrs. Giacomelli’s 6thgrade science class have been working on some pretty neat topics lately. For three weeks the students worked on an experiment analyzing jellyfish polyps and their life cycle, right here at WAAS. Two UNCW Biology and Marine Biology students Ms. Megan Davitt-Loysen and Ms. Chrissy Conrad, under the mentorship of Dr. Rob Condon, have been collaborating with Mrs. Giacomelli to teach the students about the process of science, while focusing on the effects of climate change and water temperature on the growth and development of jellyfish polyps. The students were tasked with monitoring the “baby jellyfish” in the classroom, as well as feeding the jellyfish and performing water changes. In nature, jellyfish polyps require cold temperatures over winter in order to strobilate (strobilation is a form of asexual reproduction) and produce the ephyrae form of the life cycle once temperatures begin to rise. While the polyps are growing they can also bud off from themselves to form a new polyp. Once the ephyrae are produced they grow into the commonly known medusa jellyfish.
What happens if the jellyfish polyps no longer have the opportunity to overwinter though? What if temperatures increase and the polyps are only exposed to cold temperatures for a short period of time? These are the questions that the students tackled in their experiment as they observed how exposing the polyps to three different lengths of time in cold temperatures affected the growth of the jellyfish (one being a control group kept at room temperature). Based on the data collected and the graphs that the students constructed, they concluded that only the polyps that were kept in cold temperatures for the longest time produced ephyrae. The graphs also showed that the polyps kept at room temperature that were never exposed to the cold consistently had fewer polyps present over the course of the experiment because they performed less budding.

So what do you think? What do you think this implies for the future of jellyfish populations? Does this mean that there will be fewer jellyfish in the world if the ocean temperature continues to increase? WAAS now has it’s very own set of expert jellyfish scientists who can help you answer these questions based on successful experiment. Dr. Rob Condon is presenting the results the students’ research at the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation conference this November because of the significant impact it has on the world of marine science!

              Submitted by UNCW Student Megan Davitt-Loysen