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SURFs up for jellyfish and research interns

NSF Award:

Infrastructure to Advance Life Sciences in the Ocean State  (University of Rhode Island)

Collaborative Research: Turbulence and Suspension Feeding - a New Approach using the Lobate Ctenophore Mnemiopsis Leidyi  (Roger Williams University)

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Rhode Island's EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) provides compelling opportunities for summer undergraduate research fellows (SURF) to participate in 10-week mentored research projects. Student Kelsey Lucas worked with mentor Sean Colin at Roger Williams University to understand how natural turbulence in the water caused by winds and tides affects the kind of food and amount eaten by the sea walnut (Mnemiopsis leidyi), a species of comb jellyfish.

In the lab, Colin and Lucas created artificial turbulence that mimics what comb jellyfish might experience in their natural habitat. To determine how the turbulence impacts the feeding rate and types of food consumed, the researchers placed comb jellyfish in a tank with different types of food under a variety of turbulent conditions.

At each stage of the experiment, Colin and Lucas measured the amount and type of food eaten by the comb jellyfish. Field studies took place from a dock in Woods Hole throughout the summer. Wind speeds varied and directly affected the water turbulence. The researchers examined the guts of M. leidyi using microscopes to determine the types and amounts of food processed. They also used special instruments to quantify the level of water turbulence, which allowed them to relate the level of turbulence to feeding.

A better understanding of how different environmental conditions affect the ecological impact of comb jellyfish will allow researchers to predict with greater precision the types of ecosystems vulnerable to M. leidyi. For students the SURF program offers a chance to participate in groundbreaking, meaningful research such as the comb jellyfish work, giving them an unparalleled experience on the frontlines of science while answering the pressing questions of today's society and those of future generations.


 

Image

  • a comb jellyfish
A comb jellyfish.
Lars Johan Hansson, Roger Williams University

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