A new biology class was created this year involving researching freshwater jellyfish occurring in Michigan.
The fall 2022 semester is the first time this class has ever been held after being created by Dr. Cara Shillington, who wanted to study freshwater jellies.
“This research is important because awareness of jellies is so limited-most people do not even know they exist, so it is crucial to spread information about them to help preserve the jellies as well as the ecosystem at Pickerel Lake,” Abigail Hoskins, biology student at EMU who is in the class, said.
This semester, the class took trips to Pickerel Lake in Cannon Township, Michigan to collect jellies and record information. Pickerel Lake, also known as Fred Meijer nature preserve, is one of the places in Michigan where you can see the jellyfish in their natural habitat.
“Seeing the underwater environment and swimming with the jellies at Pickerel Lake has been my favorite part of the class,” Lance McCarty, senior environmental science student at EMU, said in a written statement. “It’s uncommon to have the chance to fully submerse yourself in an aquatic setting to collect specimens for research.”
Pickerel Lake is seen by the students as scenic, beautiful, and welcoming, covering nearly 80 acres of land. It also features a 900-foot boardwalk crossing a portion of the lake.
“As a native of Ypsilanti, Michigan, I always enjoy learning about the various organisms that live here, which is why freshwater jellyfish research is vital because it allows us to uncover more information about one of the most astonishing and unknown species that call Michigan it’s home,” Kyle Martin, another student in the class, said in a written statement.
A large part of the class is focused on education of outreach so people are aware of jellies' existence in Michigan. The jellies (C.sowerbii) are a species introduced from Asia as early as the 1900s. These jellies are unable to sting due to their small tentacles and are completely harmless to humans.
"Jellies feel very soft and squishy, and are very difficult to handle without damaging them,” Hoskins said.
The jellyfish were brought back to campus to be studied until they completed their life cycle, surviving just two weeks in captivity. The things studied on campus were the locations of jellies in the tank, how frequently they would pulse, their response to light, and their feeding habits.
This semester, 17 students took the research class. The class will be open in future fall semesters when jellies are active. Any person who has taken BIO 120/121 is welcome to join the class.
The class created a website and Instagram @eastern.mi.jellies. Students in the class are also currently working on an app that would be publicly available to pinpoint jellies in Michigan.