Jellyfish Strokes Come To Life With Laser Vision

New Scientist TV posted a new video explaining how an underwater laser imaging device makes it possible to study jellyfish in their natural environment.

SCUVA was developed by Dr. Kakani Katija Young and Dr. John Dabiri to study the effect of jellyfish and other organisms on ocean mixing. The technique was published in the October issue of JoVE and can be found here.

Jellyfish Strokes Come to Life with Laser Vision

Click the Jelly to watch the New Scientist Video! (© Kakani Katija)

A night dive isn’t usually ideal for spotting marine life, unless you’re using a new underwater laser imaging device. The SCUVA system shown in this video, developed by bioengineers Kakani Katija of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts and John Dabiri from the California Institute of Technology, works best in darkness. In this clip, it’s being used to visualise the wake produced by jellyfish.

The device was developed by adapting technology used in the lab for open waters. After finding a good subject, a diver observes exhaled bubbles to determine the overall current.  Suspended particles are then illuminated by a laser, so that a high-definition camera can capture how they move. Later, a computer programme uses the video to track the particle motion and deduce the flow around the animal.

The system is allowing researchers to better investigate marine animal behaviour, as well as their natural environment. Collaborator Sean Colin of Roger Williams University is currently using the device to study how invasive comb jellyfish use a delicate feeding current to sneak up on prey. The unique camera could also be used to help determine the effect of migrating sea organisms on ocean mixing.

To see the full article, click here.


I Heart Copepods. And Symbiartic.

Last Friday, Kalliopi Monoyios  featured research in JoVE on her Scientific American blog, Symbiartic.

Though her blog generally focuses on the intersection between science and art, our SCUVA experimental video was so visually compelling, it fit right in with the rest of her posts.

I Heart Copepods. You should, too.

© Kakani Katija

Dr. Kakani Katija and her colleagues published a paper this week in JOVE that shows off a cool new device they’ve developed to record fluid motion caused by the movements of animals in their native habitats using a laser and a hand held video recording device they’ve dubbed SCUVA (self-contained underwater velocimetry apparatus). The device illuminates particles in the water and records their motion as an animal moves through the field of view. The video footage can then be plugged into software that tracks each particle’s movement, creating a neat diagram of vectors around the traveling organism. The device is particularly significant because it allows data to be collected in situ rather than in a lab where native conditions and behavior are difficult if not impossible to recreate. The resulting stills are visually intriguing, but the video clips contained in the author interview are even better.

To read the rest of this post, please click here.


This weekend hundreds of undergraduates from all over the world will be gathering at MIT for the International Genetically Engineered Machine competition (iGEM).

Students work in teams at their own schools over the summer, using a kit from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts, to design and build their own biological systems and operate them in living cells.

In 2010, projects ranged from a rainbow of pigmented bacteria, to banana and wintergreen smelling bacteria, an arsenic biosensor, Bactoblood, and buoyant bacteria.

JoVE will be there to see what new innovations come out this year!

November: This Month in JoVE

This month in JoVE, researchers at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland demonstrate a series of behavioral experiments in primates. The article shows four grasping and reaching tasks, providing a powerful approach to assess motor control. The team is hoping to use the techniques to test potential therapies for spinal cord injury.

To see more neat articles we have coming up in JoVE this month, watch the video or click here!

JoVE Turns Five!

JoVE turned five this month. That’s right, it’s the fifth anniversary of the publication date of the first JoVE video protocol.

A lot has changed since those early days. Back then, we still weren’t sure if we were going to be a journal or an online video database and we didn’t officially become a company until February of the following year. Nevertheless, I’m sticking to October 12th 2006 as the official start-date of the JoVE project.

It’s quite apt then, that we’ve just moved to bigger offices. Like so many parents of a five year old, the old place was just getting too small for us and the metaphorical kids needed their own rooms. We moved out of our apartment in Somerville into a nice duplex in Cambridge.

There’s definitely a buzz around here about all of this, with a new office, a new blog and renewed sense of purpose, we’re planning to make the next five years even more exciting than the last.

The Jellyfish’s Contribution to Science

When I originally saw the rough-cut of today’s jellyfish article, I couldn’t help but think about the humble jellyfish and its massive contribution to science.

In 1962 an up-and-coming organic chemist at Princeton University, Osamu Shimomura, was the first person to purify the aptly named green fluorescent protein (GFP). The protein came from small crystal jellyfish, which he and his wife collected in buckets during summers at Friday Harbor Labs in Washington.

The power of fluorescent proteins, like GFP, is that they can be expressed in living cells by insertion of the gene using a variety of techniques. It’s also possible to make fusion proteins using molecular biology approaches in which a combination of the fluorescent protein and the protein of interest are encoded in the same sequence. The ‘tagging’ of proteins in this way has a number of uses, for instance as a marker of expression, or a way to observe the fate of the proteins in real time.

In 1994, Martin Chalfie was the first to get the fluorophore to express in both E. Coli and his favorite model organism, the nematode worm. Later that same year, Roger Tsien created the first GFP derivative: Enhanced GFP (EGFP). Since then, GFP and its many derivatives, from BFP to mTomato have made an indelible mark on microscopy, developmental and cell biology, and neuroscience to name but a few areas.

In 2008, Drs Shimura, Chalfie and Tsien shared the Nobel prize in chemistry for their work.

JoVE recorded interviews with both Chalfie and Tsien back in 2009.

GFP is used to answer all manner of questions from visualizing cell-to-cell transfer of HIV, to measuring protein diffusion rates using advanced microscopy techniques like FRAP.

Click on the nematode to see the HIV protocol.

So the next time that you come across the humble jellyfish or curse one for stinging you, just take a moment to remember how much we have learned and continue to discover by taking advantage of the tools that they have given us.

Further GFP viewing on JoVE:

Swimming Jellyfish and Global Climate

Swimming jellyfish and other marine animals help mix warm and cold water in the oceans and, by increasing the rate at which heat can travel through the ocean, may influence global climate.

The controversial idea was first proposed by researchers out of the California Institute of Technology in 2009, but new information may help the scientists support their claim.

JoVE Featured Scientist: Kakani Katija Talks Jellyfish and Ocean Climate from Katherine Scott on Vimeo.

Dr. Kakani Katija Young, who worked on the original paper, and her team at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute published an article in JoVE yesterday, explaining how to use a Self-Contained Underwater Velocimetry Apparatus (SCUVA).

The apparatus is used underwater at night to light up animals, like jellyfish, swimming in the ocean. It also illuminates the particles around the animals, showing how the animals move the water around them when they swim.

The particles show how the animals push the water and the combined effect of all the animals swimming in concert may have an impact on ocean climate on the same order of magnitude as wind.

Though the apparatus was used in the original research, Dr. Young is publishing the more experimental technique now in the hopes that other scientists will use it to gather more evidence supporting her theory.

“We felt that it is such a powerful tool that isn’t being used in the community,” she said. “And I feel that people learn so much better from visual material than they do from just reading text.”