There’s perhaps no creature on earth more blissfully unaware of the turmoil humanity is descending into than the jellyfish. I mean, it doesn’t even have a brain, just a simple nervous system that allows it to leisurely pulse around the oceans. Yet a few among the jellies risked getting caught up in the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic: As the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California closed to the public, someone had to keep taking care of the jellyfish.
That someone is jellyfish aquarist MacKenzie Bubel. She’s been working tirelessly behind the scenes—as socially-distanced from her colleagues as possible, of course—to breed and raise a range of species, from the well-known moon jelly to the comb jellies, which actually are a separate group from true jellyfish. Each species has its own dietary requirements and reproductive eccentricities, but all have one thing in common: They’re extremely delicate and extremely difficult to raise in captivity.
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Just how difficult only becomes clear if you can get into the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s jelly lab, a humming complex of tanks and pumps that’s normally off-limits to the public. (You can now visit the aquarium digitally, by the way, via a soothing livestream). For some much-needed escapism, we recently asked Bubel to take us behind the scenes and show us how she nurtures one of the simplest, yet super-finickiest, kinds of creatures on earth.