You Can Help Solve One of the Mysteries of the Ocean

PHOTO: Becky lambing / Shutterstock.com

Sea something, say something.

In an age when it can feel like the answer to any question you might have is right at your fingertips, there’s something thrilling about knowing there are still puzzles waiting to be solved. Luckily (or terrifyingly, depending on how you look at it), there’s so much that remains unknown about the unfathomable depths of the ocean and the creatures that call it home. And the chance to tackle one of those mysteries is washing up on the shores of North America’s Pacific Coastline.

“There are some mysteries so big that they will take the whole world to solve them.” —Rebecca R. Helm, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville

 

Recently, the Point Reyes National Seashore (that’s just north of San Francisco) was awash with the charmingly named by-the-wind sailors (velella) and a species of pelagic gooseneck barnacles.

But this isn’t just an intriguing natural phenomenon that you watch from the sidelines. This is a chance to help solve an ocean mystery. And don’t worry if biology wasn’t your strongest subject in school. The only thing you need is a set of eyes.

As Rebecca R. Helm, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Asheville, retweeted, the Point Reyes National Seashore wants visitors to Pacific seashores to keep an eye out for any velellas they might see—because the information could lead to understanding this interesting type of jellyfish.

“There are some mysteries so big that they will take the whole world to solve them,” Helm wrote on Twitter.

So if you’re planning on visiting some West Coast beaches all you need to do is keep an eye out for the velellas. They might not show up in a large cluster like they did in the pictures from Point Reyes but keep an eye out for their signature blue coloring and their tell-tale sails. Then, if you’re lucky enough to see them, head to JellyWatch or iNaturalist (or send a Tweet Helms’ way) and share what you saw and where you saw it along with a picture of your specimen (if you can!).

Note: The velella’s sting isn’t dangerous to humans, but their toxin may irritate your skin so it’s best to refrain from handling these guys. (And if you do, definitely don’t touch your face or eyes afterward!)

Of course, your role as a citizen scientist doesn’t have to be limited to one species or one part of the world. Feel free to share any interesting finds on sites like JellyWatch or iNaturalist, because you never know what information or data will lead to a scientific breakthrough.