Oregon Sea Grant fellow studies effects of jellyfish off Oregon coast

lanayafitzgerald2The numbers of jellyfish in the Pacific Ocean have been increasing dramatically over the past few years, and scientists are concerned. Why? Because jellyfish eat certain fish larvae—which not only reduces the numbers of those fish but puts jellyfish in direct competition with other predators. Further, jellyfish can thrive in low-oxygen (hypoxic) waters, giving them an added advantage for survival.

Oregon State University (OSU) student Lanaya Fitzgerald, a fellow in Oregon Sea Grant’s Undergraduate Marine Research Fellowship Program, has been conducting research to determine the effects of one particular species of jellyfish—the sea nettle—on fish larvae off the Oregon coast. Her research indicates that sea nettles do, indeed, have a voracious appetite for several commercially important fish species, including Pacific cod, Pacific tomcod, and walleye pollock.

Fitzgerald’s work with jellyfish began in 2008, when she participated in a National Science Foundation-sponsored program called “Research Experience for Undergraduates” at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), with mentors Ric Brodeur and Tom Hurst of NOAA. Co-mentor Bill Hanshumaker of HMSC helped supervise her Sea Grant fellowship. In early May of this year, Fitzgerald presented a poster highlighting some of the results of her research at OSU’s “Celebrating Undergraduate Excellence” symposium (see photo). On Saturday, June 27, her work will come full circle with a presentation (including some live jellyfish and fish larvae) at HMSC’s annual Seafest, in Newport, Oregon.

For more information, contact Ms. Fitzgerald at fitzgela@onid.orst.edu.

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