McCallie School Students Explore the Habits and Genetics of Jellyfish

A visitor to the fifth floor science wing in McCallie’s Maclellan Academic Building would likely do a double- take upon passing the classroom of Dr. Karah Nazor. Visible through the large windows are tanks filled with nearly 300 jellyfish. Dr. Nazor and 10 students have undertaken a marine biology project that experts say few if any high schools have even attempted. During the school year, Dr. Nazor’s charges have raised two species of jellies in the classroom – moon jellies and upside down jellies – and have done so well that some of the moons are on display at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, and a supply of the up-side down jellies have been shared with a public aquarium on the Gulf Coast.

Ten students signed up for a year-long commitment and one hour of research credit to work on the project and care for the jellies. They took turns preparing the food, feeding the animals and cleaning the tanks, tasks that typically take 45-50 minutes per day.

Students are also pursing their self-designed research projects using the jellyfish. One experiment involves transferring genes between species to better understand possible workings of the neural networks and of evolutionary strategies. Another project involves testing climate change effects on the photosynthetic ability of certain jellyfish. Both projects have led students to connect with university professors from around the country and world.

Does your school do something similar?

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