I’ve been more disorganized than I thought I’d be on my residency in Houston! That’s by way of saying, I don’t have any extensive reports, but more generally, I’ve been working two prongs: one, learning more about port operations and sidling up close to big ships and black boxes; two, jellyfish – learning about them, conceptualizing a world dominated by these “global citizens” and figuring out inventive ways to eat them.
I had the honor of spending a day with Juli Berwald, a science writer spending a lot of time thinking about jellyfish.
But this post is primarily a link to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s live jellyfish cam, featuring sea nettles (Chrysaora fuscescens).
jell hell. Credit: Dauphin Island Sea Lab In the Gulf of Mexico’s densest jelly swarms, there are more jellyfish than there is water. More than 100 jellies may jam each cubic meter of water.
To kick the jellies off, I found on the NSF site a great primer on jellyfish:
Gulf of Mexico
THE BIGGEST DEAD ZONE IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE
The white sands and sparkling emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico’s beaches belie a dirty little (open) secret: a huge Dead Zone that is devoid of almost all life except jellyfish is expanding in the Gulf of Mexico. During the summer of 2008, the Gulf’s Dead Zone covered about 8,000 square miles, about the size of Massachusetts. It is expected to soon reach about 10,000 square miles.
CREATION OF THE DEAD ZONE
The Gulf’s Dead Zone is produced every summer by tons of fertilizer, sewage and animal wastes that are continuously dumped into coastal waters by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. These pollutants do their dirty work by fertilizing huge algae blooms that decay through a process that robs Gulf waters of oxygen. Most sea creatures flee or suffocate to death in the Dead Zone’s oxygen-starved waters, leaving highly adaptable jellyfish to proliferate unrestrained by predators and competitors and to gorge on the Gulf’s bounty of plankton.
GROWING JELLYFISH POPULATIONS
The most abundant species of jellyfish in the Gulf are the sea nettle and moon jellyfish, which typically swarm over hundreds and perhaps even thousands of square miles each summer. Studies show that these species became significantly more abundant and expanded their ranges during the 1980s and 1990s. Moreover, since 2000, the Gulf has hosted invasions of several non-native jellyfish species, including the Australian jellyfish.
Signs that the Australian jellyfish is satisfied with its adopted Gulf home include its tendency to swell from its usual fist-size to the size of dinner plates in the Gulf. In addition, the Gulf’s population of Australian jellyfish is steadily growing and expanding its range; this species recently reached North Carolina.
New year, new thread, I’m on sabbatical from ITP, and starting almost 3 months of deep research out of town – in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Minneapolis for a new umbrella project called Making the Best of It. Here’s a nano description:
Making the Best of It is the umbrella concept for a series of regionally site-specific pop up food shacks and community dinners that feature a climate-change enabled (and often unwanted) edible indicator species, in order to engage publics in tastings and conversation about the risks of climate chaos, our business-as-usual food system, and the short term food innovations at our disposal.
In the Gulf, I’m focused on jellyfish as an edible signal species.
In Minneapolis, a team of awesome artists (Valentine Cadieux, Aaron Marx, Sarah Peterson) and I are working with Northern Lights to produce 13 months of programming around eating dandelions.
I’ll be logging research and development on jellyfish and the Gulf. Oh, and hopefully the Port of Houston. I’ve been working on the firewall of maritime shipping and “Harmonized System” code that keeps us from the oceans. there’s a show up at bitforms of this work Feb 14-Apr 3. It’s called MORE&MORE.