Project Title: A Forensic Approach to Elucidating the Life History of the Deadly Jellyfish Chironex fleckeri using eDNA.
The class Cubozoa contains members who are described as the most venomous organisms on the planet and who cause stings that can result in severe reactions and hospitalisation of the recipient. They are a direct threat to both humans and to the tourism industry as on numerous occasions beaches in popular tourist areas have been closed due to their presence. Despite this, our understanding of these organisms is severely lacking specifically our understanding of their distributions, abundances and basic ecology.
My PhD research is focused on utilising eDNA as a forensic approach to elucidating the benthic polyp life history of the deadly box jellyfish, Chironex fleckeri. I will be utilising eDNA to locate key source locations of benthic polyps over a board latitudinal range (13°). Through doing so I will be able to identify jellyfish production ‘hotspots’ and fill significant knowledge gaps surrounding the spatial ecology of both cubozoan polyps and medusa. I will also be undertaking both laboratory and field experimentation to determine the physical tolerances of both polyps and medusa and I will be investigating the factors that facilitate polyp settlement.
Scott has previously undertaken work on cubozoans during his Honours (First Class) at JCU in 2018. He studied the use of statolith elemental chemistry to elucidate the movement histories of cubozoans. Through doing so he revealed a relationship between statolith elemental strontium (Sr) and temperature, which was independent of salinity. This relationship was applied to test a hypothesis surrounding the movements of a Hawaiian Irukandji species, Alatina alata, which revealed it to be true. Two manuscripts have been submitted.