Jellyfish behaving badly?

They dazzle us, terrify us, nourish us, and fascinate us. They can seem utterly otherworldly, and yet they're among the more ancient species to inhabit earth. And because of rising ocean temperatures, they are moving.

It’s time we talked about jellyfishes. Scary news, this: it’s not comforting to imagine deadly irukandji box jellyfish appearing along the New South Wales coast – let alone in Sydney Harbour – but recent sightings at Fraser Island indicate that they are indeed southward bound. Similar developments are prompting people the world over to think more seriously about jellyfish, and about human relations to them. Their movements are signs of the ways the ocean is changing through tropicalization, a matrix of complex processes that have consequences for all varieties of life and habitat, human and otherwise.

Jellyfish Behaving Badly? will not only acquaint you with the latest research into jellyfishes’ changing behaviour. It will also help you understand and imagine what that research means for the future of the sea. And it will bring you closer to these diverse, complicated, and fantastically beautiful creatures, whose lives, we’d better recognise, are inextricably linked with our own.

This event was held on Tuesday 14 August at University of Sydney, as part of the 2018 Sydney Science Festival.


  • Dr Jude Philp, senior curator of the Macleay Museum, interested in stimulating research into the collections and increasing the purposefulness of museum holdings through exhibition, research and events. Jude’s current research is in the world of ‘British New Guinea’ and the 19th century practice of natural history for museums.
  • Michael Kingsford, Distinguished Professor of Marine Biology in the College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University. He has been President of the Australian Coral Reef Society, Director of One Tree Island Research Station, member of the Great Barrier Reef Research Foundation and the Museum of Tropical Queensland advisory committees. He has published extensively on the ecology of reef fishes, jellyfishes, biological oceanography and climate change.  
  • Will Figueira, Associate Professor in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney, conducting research in the area of fish population ecology and my research has focused on the behavior and demographics of individual fish populations as well as the large scale connectivity between these populations. These studies have been conducted in a variety of locations including the Florida Keys (USA), Lee Stocking Island (Bahamas), and One Tree Island (Australia). School of Life and Environmental Sciences
  • Dr Killian Quigley, postdoctoral research fellow at the Sydney Environment Institute. He completed his PhD in English at Vanderbilt University in 2016. He convenes the Reading Environments group at the University of Sydney, and is at work on a poetic and aesthetic history of the ocean entitled Seascape and the Submarine.
  • Maria Byrne (chair), Professor in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the Unviersity of Sydney and Director of the University of Sydney’s One Tree Island Research Station in the Great Barrier Reef. Professor Byrne is an expert in the biology and ecology of marine invertebrates with a current focus on the impacts of climate change, and served as President of Australian Marine Sciences Association.

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