Jennifer E. Purcell, who began her affiliation with Western's Shannon Point Marine Center (SPMC) in 2001, was awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship and recently returned from research at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) in the Canary Islands, Spain.
Her objective during the 3.5-month project was to learn the Electron Transport System (ETS) method to estimate large-scale food-web impacts of jellyfish. Purcell's research focus is on the feeding and population dynamics of gelatinous zooplankton.
“This method could revolutionize our ability to accurately estimate the feeding effects of gelatinous species, which are notoriously difficult to study. Application of the ETS method to jellyfish in nature would remove the problems of laboratory confinement and enable us to estimate the energetic requirements for even the largest species that present the greatest logistic challenges," Purcell said. "Furthermore, it should be usable for net-collected jellyfish, which would enable estimates to be made from vast regions of the oceans where data do not exist.”
The jellyfish specimens were provided by Loro Parque on Tenerife Island. She worked with two species, moon jellyfish, which are globally abundant and whose populations have been increased unintentionally by human construction; and the mauve stinger, another blooming species that has killed thousands of salmon in aquaculture pens and also painfully stings swimmers.
Purcell and the team members from ULPGC will present papers on this research at the Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon next February.