New jellyfish citizen science project launches

The Great British Jellywatch Weekend aims to collect records of UK jellyfish during the August bank holiday.

Barrel jellyfish. © Dan Abbott

Members of the public are being asked to look out for jellyfish when at the beach during the bank holiday weekend, and to report their findings via the website or via social media, using the hashtag #GBJellywatch.

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The citizen science project came about after biologist and TV presenter Lizzie Daly swam with a giant barrel jellyfish, estimated to be 1.6m in length, earlier in the year.

Lizzie Daly swimming next to the 1.6m barrel jellyfish. © Dan Abbott
Lizzie Daly swimming next to the 1.6m barrel jellyfish. © Dan Abbott

“On the back of this wonderful encounter, I had a lot of questions about our jellyfish here in the UK,” Daly says. “What species do we get here? How many barrel jellyfish do we get on our coasts? What dictates jellyfish blooms, wash ups and movements?”

After speaking with jellyfish expert Dr Nick Fleming from Swansea University, Daly realised that very little was actually known about jellyfish in the UK, and they planned this new initiative with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS), which also conductsa year-round Jellyfish Survey.

There are six species of jellyfish that can be found in UK waters, as well as two other animals that can be mistaken for jellyfish, such as the Portuguese man-of-war. The MCS explains the differences between the species in their ID guide.

“Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for over 500 million years,” says Dr Peter Richardson, head of ocean recovery at MCS. “They are great opportunists, reproducing in huge numbers when conditions are right, so they can tell us a lot about the state of our seas.”

The findings from the weekend will contribute to MCS data and allow the charity to monitor trends and understand how jellyfish are doing in the UK.

“The Great British Jellywatch Weekend will enable us to create a ‘snapshot’ of jellyfish numbers across the UK,” adds Daly. “The more people involved, the more we can learn, so please encourage your family, friends and neighbours to take part and get involved in the big jellyfish count!”

Though not all species can sting, some can be very dangerous and MCS recommends to avoid touching all jellyfish.


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Main image: Barrel jellyfish. © Dan Abbott