The Rise of the Jellyfish | Portsmouth High School

The Rise of the Jellyfish

Miss Preston BA (Hons), MA, PGCE

Miss Preston graduated in Art History achieving first class honours and went on to achieve an MA in Religion and Culture with a distinction from Winchester University. She is an experienced teacher and taught Religious Studies and PSHE to senior pupils.

Miss Preston is currently the Year 3 class teacher at Portsmouth High Prep School. She has a strong interest in the visual arts and in her spare time likes to paint and visit the theatre.

I recently went to an exhibition at The Royal Academy entitled ‘Eco-Visionaries’. It brought together artists, architects and designers whose work exposes the current environmental crisis of our planet.

The exhibit that really had a big impact on me was by the artists, “Rimini Protokoll”, called, “win > < win”, and concerns the seemingly innocuous jellyfish.

Whilst sitting in a little auditorium and wearing headphones I was confronted with a swirling tank of beautiful pulsating jellyfish and was told all about their biology.

As I listened to a marine biologist narrate interesting facts about the ghost like creatures floating around, it gradually became clear what the actual link between jellyfish and climate change is. Alarmingly, the narrator explains how human beings are in an unforeseen and incomprehensible situation where we are competing against the jellyfish for survival. Although a very basic creature, and because of it, the jellyfish is on the rise due to our selfishness and disregard for the planet. Pollution and climate change are allowing them to take over and choke the oceans.

Jellyfish reproduce well in warmer waters and they do well in polluted areas because they need less oxygen than other sea life. In fact, everything that damages our ecosystem seems to benefit jellyfish: overfishing brings down the number of predatory fish that could reduce their number; plastic bags in the oceans kill other predators like turtles; warm water extends their breeding season.

One unnerving conclusion was that jellyfish may be better placed to survive climate change than humans. While we mine, harvest and burn the planet’s resources, polluting everything around us, at least we’re creating a nice place for our new gelatinous competitors to live an ever more comfortable existence.

The exhibition left an imprint on me. I needed to find out more and I was staggered to find lots of evidence to back up the rise of the jellyfish tale. For example, last year, an influx of jellyfish paralysed the nuclear power plant in Oskarshamn, Sweden, when they clogged up the cooling water supply and another jellyfish invasion threatened to wipe out the fish population of the South Australian seaport Whyalla.

Climate change and environmental damage is a real interest and concern for our girls at Portsmouth High Prep School and I plan to present the tale of the jellyfish as a whole school assembly very soon. My aim will be to use the example of the jellyfish as an opportunity to stimulate interest in involving ourselves in action to combat climate change and reduce environmental damage.

After half term, I am looking forward to starting an Eco Club and although the rise of the jellyfish is a rather daunting tale, the enthusiasm to challenge climate disaster demonstrated by our girls means we can take on these tentacled invertebrates!  I plan to run a fully inclusive Eco Club (for Reception Class to Year 6) with wide ranging activities. We might well start by looking at the reintroduction of the humble oyster into Portsmouth Harbour. Why it disappeared and how it is being brought back.

Miss Debra Preston BA (Hons), MA, PGCE
Prep School Teacher