“Jelly Queen” is not a title that’s tossed around lightly at the Vancouver Aquarium – you have to earn it. So it was only after successfully rearing different types of jellies that Mackenzie Neale, a senior Aquarium biologist, was given the designation by a colleague.
Mackenzie says she lucked into the job she has today seven years ago. She just happened to be taking care of a section of exhibits that included moon jellies when the Aquarium’s jelly rearing program started taking shape. Today, she’s now in charge of 12 jelly species, including tropical ones, and thousands of individual animals.
Jelly-keeping is detailed work, which Mackenzie says is “totally” different from fish-keeping. For starters, the jellies are housed in specialized habitats (called kreisels) designed to constantly keep them flowing in a current. The habitats are also constructed to stop the jellies from getting accidentally sucked into the outflow pipe.
As far as the actual rearing of them goes, Mackenzie says the conditions have to be just right for the jellies to produce offspring – and when they finally do, she can’t help but feel like a proud mama.
Jelly rearing allows the Aquarium to display a variety of species from around the world without having to collect them from the wild. Jellies are only abundant off the coast of British Columbia seasonally so it can be hard to predict when they’ll be available. Rearing in-house also allows the Aquarium to share these animals with other aquariums and with researchers who study them.
Mackenzie is proud of the work that has “put us on the map.” Despite the challenges of raising such delicate animals, she says she feels good that the program has evolved to the point where other aquariums are asking to share in our jelly abundance. She’s of course happy to oblige – after all, any queen would be happy to show off her subjects.
The video below shows some of Mackenzie’s new jellies. These seasonal ones are roughly the diameter of a dime and are often overlooked, so we know very little about them – but Mackenzie is already hard at work to learn as much as she can about these ethereal animals.