Griffith researchers are revealing how Sea Jellies Illuminated, a combined lab and exhibit put on in partnership with Sea World, is advancing in sea jellies research and public understanding of science.

Professor Kylie Pitt in the Sea Jellies Illuminated research lab at Sea World.

At this week’s Australian Marine Society Association Conference on the Gold Coast, researchers from the Australian Rivers Institute and Griffith Institute For Tourism presented preliminary results outlining how the Sea Jellies Illuminated experience at Sea World’s combined lab and exhibit influenced people’s attitudes to and awareness of jellies and scientific research.

“We want to see if our collaboration with Sea World raises the public awareness of scientific research on jellies and the extent to which Sea World contributes to marine science,” said Professor Kylie Pitt, from the Australian Rivers Institute and Griffith Institute for Tourism.

In 2018, Griffith University partnered with Sea World to develop ‘Sea Jellies Illuminated’, a combined sea jellies exhibit and state-of-the-art jellyfish research laboratory located within the Sea World theme park.

The 1.5 million people who visit Sea World each year have the opportunity to peer through the glass walls of the laboratory and see the diverse array of research the Griffith Sea Jellies Laboratory conducts.

“We initially surveyed 340 of those visitors and found that after spending some time at the Griffith Sea Jellies laboratory and exhibit people’s perception of jellies and their role in ocean ecosystems was much more positive,” Professor Pitt said.

“The Sea Jellies exhibit also increased people’s awareness of the research being done at Sea World and improved people’s perception and attitudes towards science in general.”

“This is a great outcome and shows that our collaboration with Sea World is achieving its objectives.”

The research was presented as part of the ‘Animals in zoos and aquaria: Research, conservation and public engagement outcomes’ session at this week’s ASMA conference, which outlined how collaboration between universities and public aquaria/zoos is playing a role in wildlife research, public understanding of this research and citizen science.

“The partnership between Griffith University and Sea World is a fantastic example of the synergies that can exist between universities and zoos and aquaria,” Professor Pitt said.

“It’s a partnership that delivers mutual benefits. Griffith University benefits from access to world-class facilities, prominent exposure and the opportunity to engage the public in science. Whilst for Sea World, partnering with Griffith University provides credibility for the research it supports, access to a broader audience to share messages of conservation, and access to scientific expertise.”

“Ultimately, this positive relationship benefits the research, the institution and above all, engages the public in marine science and we hope to build on this relationship into the future.”