Tiburonia jellyfish, aka “big red.”

Jellyfish abundances, or a lack thereof, can tell a lot about what’s happening in the oceans on a larger scale. Researchers are calling on ‘citizen scientists’ to post jellyfish observations on a special website.

“Citizen science in general is valuable because it is multiplied with such large numbers. To tap into that pool of citizen scientists has huge advantages for the data set.”

Dr. Steven Haddock is a researcher from UC Santa Cruz who studies marine bioluminescence, zooplankton and deep sea jellyfish.

He hopes to gain more data on near shore varieties to model   a wider ocean range. He also wants to test   hypotheses that claim a warmer climate has boosted jellyfish blooms.

There is a misconception that jellyfish thrive in warmer waters, he says, but any seagoing Alaskan knows that’s not the case.

“A common conception of people is that jellyfish like warmer water for some reason, but in Alaska, the species like the lion’s mane, are really restricted to colder water.”

Haddock says it’s great if website postings include a photo, but even descriptions are helpful, such as one from a Ketchikan diver.

 “And he gave a perfect description. He didn’t have a photo, but he gave a description of this jelly that sounds like a deep-sea species that we discovered here in Monterey, and a colleague of mine just described it recently. It’s called Tiburonia. We call it ‘the big red’ because it’s like the size of a beach ball. So this guy diving said ‘I feel like I’m reporting a big-foot sighting.’” And so I think it actually could be a sighting of this relatively newly discovered deep-sea species that he saw just while scuba diving off Ketchikan.”

Observations of no jellyfish sightings also are helpful.

Dr. Haddock says ‘clean seas’ reports make documented sightings more valid, as seeing none are as valuable as seeing many. He wants to know if a lack of postings to his website stem from an actual lack of jellies in an ocean area, or from a lack of human observations.

Post your sightings or other helpful information at http://jellywatch.org