New website records jellyfish sightings

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Last month saw the launch of a new website devoted to those strange mass strandings that you find when walking along the beach.

The website was set up by a researcher at MBARI (the Monterey Bay Aquarium research Institute) and aims to bring scientists and ocean lovers together by allowing visitors to post their sightings and photos and compare their sightings with those of beachcombers around the globe.

Steven Haddock the website’s creator said: "People have been talking about jelly blooms increasing around the world, but we don't really have a lot of data on this. So it's hard to know how localized these events are. That's why we created this website. The idea is that everyday people can get involved in a real ocean research project. Their eyes are important instruments in this study."

The data will be used in a collaborative study of worldwide jellyfish blooms funded by the US National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) designed to identify world-wide trends in jellyfish blooms by combining the results of many individual studies.

As well as documenting jellyfish blooms, the Jellywatch site also allows visitors to report other unusual ocean events such as red tides or mass strandings of other marine creatures.

The site is also interested in historical observations of jelly strandings and even 'no-jelly' observations. To get people involved there are even accompanying Twitter and Facebook pages.

After less than three months of operation, the Jellywatch site already features hundreds of sightings from British Columbia to South Africa. As Haddock jokes, "I think we have sightings from every continent except Antarctica... I'll have to work on that one."

For more information go to www.jellywatch.org