LeFlore teacher finds freshwater jellyfish and zoology students study them


WILBURTON, OK (Nov. 19, 2015) – When Tracy Loyd launched his boat and began another day of fishing, little did he know that he would have an unusual find in Lake Wister that would lead to an adventure for LeFlore High School students.

Loyd, principal and mathematics teacher at LeFlore High School in LeFlore County, was routinely casting his line when he noticed something moving in the water. Upon closer examination, he realized it was a freshwater jellyfish. Having never seen a jellyfish in Lake Wister, he quickly collected a few specimens.

He returned to school and shared his discovery with high school science teacher J. D. Allen. The two immediately planned a fishing expedition for LeFlore’s zoology class.

Zoology students researched freshwater jellyfish before their excursion. “Craspedacusta sowerbii” is the scientific name of the freshwater jellyfish. They are about the size of a quarter when fully grown (20–25 mm). They are umbrella shaped and have a whorl of string–like tentacles around their circular edge. The jellyfish are usually somewhat translucent with a whitish or greenish tinge. They prefer standing water rather than currents.

Freshwater jellyfish have been reported in 45 of 50 states. Nobody really knows how the freshwater jellyfish arrived in the interior United States. Most researchers agree they came from transplanted flora from the Yangtze River Valley of China. Others suggest the jellyfish arrived while attached to plants from South America.

Freshwater jellyfish are not only smaller than their saltwater cousins, but their sting is less potent. Often, the organism can be handled and people never feel a sting. The jellyfish eat small plankton found in the water and sometimes smaller fish. Usually late summer, August and September, are peak months for jellyfish sightings. The jellyfish will be floating or swimming gently just below the surface of the water.

The students’ exploration began after school one day. They used two boats and ran about a mile up Fourche Maline and then about one–half mile up Holsom Creek. The students documented the longitude and latitude of the finds as well as the temperature and pH of the water. Students used their cell phones to determine the longitude and latitude, and TI Navigator handhelds to measure the temperature and pH levels. Several jellyfish were captured into a gallon jar for further study.

“I wasn’t expecting to find jellyfish this close to home, said LeFlore student Dakota Raymond.

“This was a great find and real–life study for our students,” said Allen. “The activity brought textbook knowledge to life.”

Students continue to study the jellyfish in the school’s science lab. Using the Texas Instruments Navigator handhelds provided by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP, the students continually check temperature and pH levels and study the survival rate of the jellyfish.

“Mr. Loyd’s boat navigating kind of scared me,” said Cody Smallwood. “It was an interesting trip.”

“Finally,” said Mr. Loyd, “I have achieved SpongeBob status! I’ve always loved going to work and now I can say I’ve been jellyfishing.”

LeFlore Zoology teacher J. D. Allen, Doris Naylor, Daniel Rodriguez, Cody Smallwood and Dakota Raymond are ready to take their “catch” back to the school’s lab for research.

LeFlore zoology students Dakota Raymond and Cody Smallwood put a captured jellyfish into a gallon jar.

Dakota Raymond takes a pH reading using a TI Nspire handheld provided by GEAR UP.

Daniel Rodriguez uses the TI Nspire to take a temperature reading where several jellyfish were caught.

Doris Naylor catches a jellyfish while Mr. Allen and Daniel Rodriguez scan for more.

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