As this little guy peers through a jellyfish on Long Beach Island, New Jersey, hundreds of citizen scientists are recording their jelly observations on the Mediterranean island of Malta.
Malta’s Spot the Jellyfish program is run by the International Ocean Institute and the University of Malta, inpartnership with the Malta Tourism Authority, among others.
Why would the tourism authority be interested in this?
By reporting jellyfish that swim close to shore and identifying them using the project’s online guide, participants not only increase the public’s awareness about the types of jellyfish around Malta but also help others, as the site says, “avoid those stinging jellies!”
Besides that, the data is useful for local marine scientists, who are concerned that recent “blooms” of jellyfish in the Mediterranean are due to pollution and overfishing of the jellies’ natural predators. (Be sure to check out the interactive map that shows the latest sightings around the island.)
I asked Alan Deidun, the biologist responsible for the project, why he decided to work with citizen scientists rather than rely on electronic monitors or graduate students, as is typically the case in such research.
“It is a question of necessity really, since we as marine biologists cannot be everywhere all the time. Bathers, divers, and the users of the coastal seas in general are the best on-site recorders of biological information,” Deidun said. “Secondly, getting public support, by empowering them through ownership, gives greater credibility to the initiative.”
If you are not planning to be in Malta anytime soon but would like to participate in a similar project, consider this Jellywatch project. Be sure to share your adventures on your Sci4Cits member blog!