Jasmine Headlam (pictured left) is a PhD student at NUI Galway. Her research focuses on harmful jellyfish species, which are known to negatively impact coastal industries. Her PhD research is funded under the EU’s H2020 CERES Project and examines how climate change will influence Europe’s most important fish and shellfish resources. As a Fulbright Marine-Institute awardee, she was mentored in state of the art techniques to investigate the structural and functional characteristics of cnidae and the composition of venom by Fulbright Specialist, Dr Angel Yanagihara, Director of the Pacific Cnidaria Research Laboratory, University of Hawaii at Manoa.
What does your research / work do for citizens?
“I am researching various aspects of the venom of particularly harmful species of jellyfish. In the first year of my PhD I revaluated the first-aid treatment for two of Ireland’s most dangerous jellyfish, the Portuguese Man O’ War and the Lion’s Mane jellyfish. This work was completed under the guidance of Fulbright Specialist, Dr Angel Yanagihara, from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Since then, I have worked to develop a mitigation measure for the effects of harmful jellyfish on Atlantic salmon held in sea cages. The Irish salmon aquaculture industry is a highly valued commodity and every year 12-79% of salmon are killed by jellyfish when they swarm into sea cages. I hope to develop a means of limiting or depleting the jellyfish-induced salmon morbidities and mortalities which have cost the aquaculture industry a substantial amount of money.”
What problem are you trying to solve?
“I am trying to solve the problem of harmful jellyfish in the North East Atlantic; the impact of jellyfish on humans and the impact of jellyfish on aquaculture.”
Where did you go on your Fulbright Award and why?
“I went to Oahu, Hawaii, to study with the world-renowned box jellyfish venom expert, and Fulbright Specialist, Dr Angel Yanagihara in state of the art facilities at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.”
What were the chief learnings from you Fulbright Award? What are you able to do better now?
“The best thing that I learnt from working with Dr Yanagihara in the University of Hawaii were lab techniques that I had not developed to a high standard during my Bachelor’s Degree in Marine Science or indeed during the first few years of my PhD in Zoology which are two subject areas primarily requiring field work rather than lab work. Dr Yanagihara provided an assisted reading course of the necessary literature as well as guided lab techniques for extracting and purifying jellyfish venom.”
What have been the highlights of your Fulbright experience so far?
“The highlights were of course being in Hawaii and experiencing everything that the island of Oahu has to offer. I also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the other international students both in the university and in the off-campus accommodation that I stayed in during my visit. I have gained an immeasurable amount of knowledge from my Fulbright experience in Hawaii and I’m certain it’s an experience I will never forget!”