UBC researcher planning jellyfish world tour

Jessica Schaub is a first year PhD student at UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. (Photo: Vancouver Aquarium)

A UBC researcher will soon embark on the trip of a lifetime, circling the globe over the course of several months to further her understanding of a creature that has captivated her for years: jellyfish.

Jessica Schaub is a first year PhD student at UBC's Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Her trip is being funded by a Hugh Morris Fellowship, administered by the Kimberley Foundation.

The funding allows Canadian graduate students researching a priority area related to earth sciences to pursue self-guided travel and experiential learning.

Schaub's trip will take her first to Japan, where she will learn from local scientists and fishermen about the problems large jellyfish blooms pose for fisheries. Then, she will travel to France, where she will work with researchers studying jellyfish polyps – the tiny, ocean-floor-dwelling creatures that determine the success of jellyfish blooms.

Polyp research will continue in Argentina, before Schaub rounds out her trip in Australia studying blooms of dangerous Irukandji jellyfish and working with a team developing a rapid test that uses environmental DNA to quickly determine whether the sometimes-deadly jellies are present.

"It's quite an array of experiences," she told CTV News in a recent interview.

"I'm really excited to get the breadth of knowledge and information from all the people that I'll be visiting."

Schaub grew up in rural Alberta and moved to Vancouver to attend UBC as an undergraduate. She's been studying marine biology ever since.

Asked what attracted her to the topic, she likened it to having a favourite colour.

"You don't really know why your favourite colour is yellow," she said. "It just is. I've just always really been drawn to ocean science and especially marine biology."

Schaub also mentioned watching a documentary about Japanese fishermen dealing with giant jellyfish when she was in Grade 12. The experience heightened her fascination with ocean science, and Japan eventually became one of the destinations for her upcoming trip.

She said those interested in following her trip can do so by following @jellieswithjess on TikTok and Instagram.