Nova Scotia

Stay on the lookout for jellyfish, Cape Bretoners

A Dalhousie University researcher is asking Cape Bretoners to join her in a study of the endangered leatherback turtle by spotting and recording their sightings of jellyfish wherever they appear along the coast.

Dal student trying to track jellyfish around tip of Cape Breton to follow leatherback turtle

Researcher Bethany Nordstrom is tracking jellyfish as part of her study into its main predator, the endangered leatherback turtle. (Ty Basinger and Michael Abrams)

A Dalhousie University researcher is asking Cape Bretoners to join her in a study of the endangered leatherback turtle by spotting and recording their sightings of jellyfish wherever they appear along the coast.

Since jellyfish are the only thing the leatherbacks eat, it's critical to know "when they show up, how long they persist and what their distribution is along the coast," said Bethany Nordstrom, who is working on her master's degree.

Having that particular information about their prey helps pinpoint the leatherbacks' location. It also tells Nordstrom when the turtles are likely to head home to their breeding grounds in the Tropics.

According to Nordstrom, Cape Breton is in an important geographical position for spotting jellyfish.

Cape Breton a jellyfish hotspot

That's because as the jellyfish travel northward along the coast of Nova Scotia, the Scotian Shelf narrows which means by the time they reach the Cape Breton shoreline they are a more congregated population.

From the island's northern tip, they go up into the Gulf of St. Lawrence or up toward Newfoundland.

"There are lot of jellyfish there and there are also a lot of turtles, so we're really trying to pinpoint, and get some more help in the Cape Breton area," said Nordstrom, who noted that leatherbacks love to gorge, gobbling down as much as 300 kilograms of prey in just one day.

Leatherback turtles are the world's largest reptile. They can reach a length of more than two metres and weigh as much as 900 kilograms.

Found a jellyfish? Here's what to do:

Whether you see them floating in the water or washed up on shore, Nordstrom wants to know about it.

Observers are asked to fill out a form and submit it online.

Nordstrom is hoping people can report semi-regularly this way, but for those who can only participate occasionally, such as once a month, she still wants the information.

You can tell her what you saw by emailing her at jellyfish@dal.ca

With files from Information Morning

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