Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

One of the most anticipated topics of discussion at the 2013 Global Open Water Swimming Conference and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame induction ceremonies to be held in Cork, Ireland this coming October is jellyfish.

Jellyfish stings, like shark encounters and hypothermia, are rites of passage for many open water swimmers. The scars they leave are topics of endless discussions among swimmers. How to prevent them, how to treat them, how do they feel.

Some swimmers are apparently impervious to the pain of the venom, others are highly tolerant, a few fear stings like a phobia, and mostly everyone is somewhere in between.

Angel Yanagihara is on the cutting edge of jellyfish research and an advisor to Diana Nyad who is getting ready to face blooms of box jellyfish in the Strait of Florida. Her inquisitive mind and her interest in doings offshore sampling throughout the world, including with open water swimmers and military personnel in the middle of night-time jellyfish swells is pushing the envelope of knowledge among her scientific peers and the open water swimming community.

And there are many other researchers with a similar mindset.

Mark Gibbons of the University of Western Cape and Anthony Richardson of the University of Queensland wrote a paper in the Journal of Plankton Research called Beyond the jellyfish joyride and global oscillations: advancing jellyfish research. Gibbons and Richardson propose an international standardization of methods, a discipline-specific journal for jellyfish research and an international science program on the global ecology and oceanography of jellyfish.

The pair called for a need for scientists to focus attention on understanding the implications of jellyfish blooms and managing them. They propose to direct research toward better managing jellyfish impacts and improving surveillance using observing systems and making jellyfish research more rigorous via creation of international standardization of methods, a discipline-specific journal for jellyfish research, and an international science program on the global ecology and oceanography of jellyfish.

We need to identify this as a critical unmet need with regards to scientific research, and we need to have the funds available for folks to do this research,” recommends Dr. Yanagihara. “To have the pendulum swing, what one needs is definitely the data.” And Dr. Yanagihara is out there, at night in the deep oceans, collecting and analyzing that data…with tentacles attached.

Photo shows swimmers at the Flowers Sea Swim in the Cayman Islands.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association