Welcome to the inaugural edition of our EuroMarine Researchers in the Spotlight series, where we engage in captivating conversations with prominent researchers within our network.

Jellyfish, encompassing various species of gelatinous zooplankton, play crucial roles in marine ecosystems, providing ecosystem services often overlooked, including carbon cycling, habitat provision, and compounds with biotechnological applications. We interviewed Isabella D´Ambra from SZN and Cornelia Jaspers from DTU Aqua on their experiences leading the JELLY-NEXT Foresight Workshop, which aimed at bridging gaps through collaboration, data sharing, and engagement with research infrastructures (RIs) to enhance monitoring and data collection efforts.

Despite their importance, understanding jellyfish mass appearances (blooms and outbreaks) and their impacts on human activities remain limited due to scattered data, methodological differences, and a lack of standardized protocols.

Initiatives like the JEDI database and JellyWatch have attempted to gather data, but issues persist, including the mismatch between molecular and morphological data and the lack of consisent abundance recordings.

To address these challenges, the proposal suggests forming a working group (WG JELLY-NEXT) composed of experts from various disciplines to assess current knowledge, identify research priorities, and develop strategies.

The WG aims to bridge gaps through collaboration, data sharing, and engagement with research infrastructures (RIs) to enhance monitoring and data collection efforts. Overall, the proposal emphasizes the need for concerted efforts to advance jellyfish research, address urgent issues, and support the next generation of researchers.


Isabella D´Ambra is a marine scientist whose 25 years of research activities have focused on defining the role(s) of jellyfish within marine ecosystems. Her expertise encompasses taxonomy, developmental biology, trophic ecology and biotechnology. Her knowledge of non-gelatinous plankton and vertebrates such as fish allows her to have a variety of research interests beyond jellyfish.

Cornelia Jaspers is a biological oceanographer by training and has extensive experience working at sea and conducting laboratory and in situ experiments with gelatinous zooplankton and jellyfish/comb jellies. Cornelia is the leader of the Villum-funded research centre for gelatinous plankton ecology and evolution at the Technical University of Denmark, DTU Aqua.

EuroMarine: Could you briefly introduce the research topic that your Foresight Workshop focused on and describe its significance in the field of marine science?

Certainly. The Foresight Workshop, facilitated by EUROMARINE, revolves around our working group JELLY-NEXT, which boasts a diverse team of scientists from Europe and global experts. Initiated by Isabella D´Ambra and Andreja Ramsak upon a suggestion by Isabella, Cornelia was invited to join the core team. Our primary goal is to deepen our understanding of jellyfish's current role in ocean ecosystems, identifying knowledge gaps and charting pathways for future research. The overarching questions we address hold significant societal relevance: What is our current understanding of jellyfish? What aspects are we overlooking? How can we enhance our comprehension?

It's important to note that jellyfish, with an evolutionary history spanning over 500 million years, possess unique traits enabling their survival across varied environmental conditions. This prompts a pivotal question: Are these traits crucial for their adaptation to present and future ocean conditions? This debate resonates deeply within the scientific community and the broader public. Our working group synthesizes the latest scientific advancements from a multidisciplinary perspective, currently focusing on a comprehensive review to address these crucial aspects.

EuroMarine: How did the Foresight Workshop contribute to the evolution and advancement of your research topic? Did it help identify new directions, methodologies, or emerging issues that were previously overlooked?

The Foresight Workshop played a pivotal role in advancing our research topic by fostering collaboration and innovation within the jellyfish community. This working group provided a unique opportunity to harness diverse expertises, enabling us to pinpoint major knowledge gaps essential for advancing our understanding. The workshop prompted a crucial shift from perception-based approaches to a science-driven incorporation of jellyfish in ecosystem models and management initiatives. Through collaborative efforts, we aim to transcend traditional boundaries and develop novel methodologies that address emerging issues overlooked in previous research endeavors.

EuroMarine: What were the main outcomes or key findings that emerged from your Foresight Workshop? How did these outcomes shape your research trajectory or provide new insights into the topic?

The Foresight Workshop yielded crucial insights and highlighted that collaboration across different fields is needed to address the most pressing questions ahead. It is important to recognize the vast expanse and complexity of the ocean environment, which covers 70% of Earth's surface and extends to depths of 11 kilometers, surpassing the highest mountains on land. This realization underscores the diverse environmental conditions that marine animals, including jellyfish, encounter.

Jellyfish inhabit a broad range of habitats, from sunlit surface areas to the deepest trenches, engaging in extensive vertical migrations spanning several hundred meters daily. Understanding the mechanisms behind these behaviors and their implications for ocean health has emerged as a focal point of our research.

The workshop underscored the urgent need for a multidisciplinary approach to unravel the complexities of marine ecosystems and prioritize pressing research questions. By fostering collaboration across disciplines, the workshop has paved the way for a more holistic understanding of jellyfish dynamics and their role in ocean ecosystems, guiding our research efforts towards addressing the most critical challenges ahead.

EuroMarine: Did your Foresight Workshop lead to any follow-up actions or collaborations? Have you applied for additional funding to further develop your research? If yes, could you describe the subsequent projects or initiatives that resulted from the workshop?

Following the Foresight Workshop, we aim at addressing the identified challenges in jellyfish research. Our primary objective is to compile these challenges into a comprehensive roadmap, outlining the most pressing research questions that warrant immediate attention. Through this initiative, we aim to advance our understanding of jellyfish and their dynamics within ecosystems, both in the present and future oceans.

In terms of collaborations, the workshop has fostered ongoing partnerships within the scientific community, facilitating knowledge exchange and collaborative efforts to tackle shared research goals. We are optimistic that these initiatives will contribute significantly to advancing our knowledge of jellyfish and their pivotal role in ocean ecosystems.

EuroMarine: Have you published a peer-reviewed article, or any other form of scientific publication based on the research discussed in the Foresight Workshop? If so, could you provide some details about the publication and its impact on the field?

Currently, we are in the process of advancing this initiative. With a working group comprising over 20 core members spanning all continents, this undertaking is extensive and requires coordinated efforts. Collaboration and interaction are essential to navigate the myriad unknowns that lie ahead. EuroMarine has provided an exceptional platform for driving this initiative forward.

While we have not yet published peer-reviewed articles or scientific publications stemming directly from the Foresight Workshop discussions, our ongoing efforts are focused on consolidating our findings into an impactful publication. Given the scale and scope of this project, it represents a significant endeavor that will contribute substantially to the field of marine science once completed. We anticipate that these publications will serve as valuable contributions, providing insights and shaping future research directions in the study of jellyfish and their ecosystem dynamics.

EuroMarine: Looking back, how would you assess the overall impact of the Foresight Workshop on your research and career? Did it open up new opportunities, enhance your visibility, or lead to further collaborations beyond the initial workshop?

Reflecting on the Foresight Workshop, we recognize its significant impact on both our research endeavors and career trajectory. The EuroMarine initiative and workshop have expanded our professional network and broadened our perspective to encompass aspects beyond our individual expertise. This exposure to diverse perspectives and interdisciplinary collaboration has been instrumental in shaping our approach to addressing the substantial challenges facing our planet.

It has facilitated connections with like-minded researchers and practitioners, fostering collaborations that extend beyond the initial workshop discussions. This collaborative spirit, facilitated by EuroMarine, has empowered us to think innovatively and transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries.

We believe that initiatives like EuroMarine serve as exemplary models for fostering collaboration and driving impactful research in the marine realm. By providing a platform for interdisciplinary exchange and collaboration, EuroMarine enables researchers to address complex challenges on a global scale, ultimately contributing to the advancement of marine science and sustainability efforts.

EuroMarine: What advice or suggestions would you give to future Foresight Workshop leads in terms of maximizing the benefits and outcomes of the workshop?

In our experience, EuroMarine has provided excellent infrastructure, networking opportunities, and outreach avenues. Our advice to future workshop leads would be to fully leverage this community service. There are numerous challenges awaiting solutions, and EuroMarine is an invaluable partner in achieving this goal.

We encourage workshop leads to capitalize on the resources and support offered by EuroMarine to foster collaboration and drive impactful research outcomes. By actively engaging with the community and harnessing the diverse expertise within EuroMarine, workshop leads can maximize the benefits of the workshop and advance collective efforts in addressing marine science challenges.

Interview-partners: Cornelia Jaspers and Isabella D´Ambra