MASGC Project Impacts

Science puts invasive jellyfish impacts in international spotlight

Relevance:

The Gulf of Mexico experienced blooms of millions of jellyfish (Phyllorhiza punctate) native to Australian waters, and the potential adverse impacts to native fish populations, food web dynamics and commercially important species was unknown.

Response:

The Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium invested in several research and monitoring projects to understand the causes of the jellyfish blooms, population dynamics of the jellyfish and the local and regional impacts this introduced species had on the local ecology and commercially important fish species.

Results:

This program discovered important and high-profile results including the presence of three distinct species with invasion tracks worldwide. Phyllorhiza is now understood to be the most successful invasive jellyfish in the world. To meet this significant problem, Sea Grant-funded researchers successfully developed a genetic identification test to use on mixed fouling assemblages to determine presence of Phyllorhiza on hulls of ships.

Sea Grant was also responsible for funding the first International Conference on Jellyfish Blooms held in 2000 in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Wildly successful, there have been three additional conferences over the past 13 years in Australia (2007), Argentina (2010) and Japan (2013). Interest in jellyfish science has been increasing since MASGC’s foundational effort. The 2013 conference in Japan presented nearly twice as much science as the first conference. Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant is also directly responsible for other important research syntheses related to jellyfish blooms and for several citizen science efforts around the world.

Recap:

Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant used a multi-pronged approach of monitoring, genetic and ecological analyses and spatial studies, to understand the impacts of an invasive jellyfish species and greatly increased the international focus on jellyfish invasions and their ecological impacts. (2014)