Dr. Angel Yanagihara of the John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawai`i Mānoa, and William Gillan, educator at Boynton Beach High School, have produced an interesting and educational video, The Science of the Sting, featuring Yanagihara’s research program on the box jelly and a discussion of her experience as a research scientist.
Developed with funding from the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund, this outreach project promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in public schools and is targeted for middle school students (grades 6-9). The video inspires young students to pursue their interests in STEM fields, and it has already been incorporated into the curricula of Boynton Beach and Palm Beach County schools in Florida.
This video program, 22 minutes in length, is one of many documentaries produced and broadcast throughout the world which spotlight Dr. Yanagihara’s engaging work. It can be found on-line at SCIENCE OF THE STING.
Dr. Yanagihara is an R-01-funded investigator (R-01 grants from the National Institutes of Health are considered the “gold standard” of research grants), whose work includes intriguing studies which are helping elucidate the field ecology of box jellyfish and to develop effective treatments for box jellyfish stings. (Her “sting stopper” helped swimmer Diana Nyad battle stings as Nyad made history swimming from Cuba to the United States in 2013. Yanagihara accompanied Nyad on the swim as her night time “box jelly diver” conducting repetitive perimeter sweeps and free dives both nights of her swim to assess box jelly threat.
Dr. Yanagihara’s patented discovery of a family of fluorescent proteins in blue bottle jellyfish may provide a diagnostic tool in medicine; further research into potential commercial applications is being funded partly through a venture capital fund managed by the University of Hawai’i Foundation.
Yanagihara is also looking to unlock the mystery of how box jellyfish reproduce.
Photograph: Dr. Yanagihara is shown in the ocean courtesy of Keoki Stender, University of Hawai`i Dive Safety Office.