Scientists help power plants predict jellyfish invasions

"We are very excited by the potential of this project," said researcher Rich Pancost.

By Brooks Hays

BRISTOL, England, Oct. 11 (UPI) -- A sudden onslaught of jellyfish can pose serious problems for coastal power plants, clogging their cooling water intake valves and forcing plants to operate at reduced capacity or temporarily shut down.

To prevent precautionary shutdowns, a team of biologists at the University of Bristol are helping power plants better predict the arrival of jellyfish swarms.


Scientists are testing their predictive technology at EDF Energy's Torness power station in Scotland. In 2011, an influx of moon jellyfish forced the station to shut down for two weeks.

"The aim of the project is to develop a robust tool for the rapid evaluation of the likelihood and scale of jellyfish ingress at Torness based on simulated patterns of historic bloom dispersal within the North Sea from the last 20 years," Sally Wood, a professor in Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, explained in a news release. "To achieve this we will be translating previous research using a state-of-the-art marine dispersal modelling system to simulate the transport of jellyfish blooms by ocean currents, incorporating specific biological behaviors of jellyfish."

The model will use oceanographic conditions to predict the likelihood of jellyfish moving into the vicinity of Tonrness. Researchers incorporated historic and satellite-based observations from previous jellyfish blooms into the model's algorithms. Scientists also integrated ocean current models used in similar predictive simulations.


"We are very excited by the potential of this project," added Rich Pancost, a professor of biochemistry. "The approach the team are using was developed in order to study the dispersal of coral larvae and help us understand the future of our coral reefs. Now it is being adapting to solve a very different challenge."

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