After finishing my bachelor’s in food science at the University of Florida, I decided to pursue my graduate degree at UGA because I was fascinated with the idea of working with edible jellyfish. It was something too intriguing to pass up, which is how I ended up as a master’s student at the University of Georgia’s Department of Food Science and Technology (FST) working in Kevin Mis Solval’s SMART Food Processing Lab.
According to the Institute of Food Technologists, food science is when food scientists and technologists apply scientific disciplines including chemistry, engineering, microbiology and nutrition to the study of food to improve the safety, nutrition, wholesomeness and availability of food. Basically, we are scientists that like to play with food. For my project, my task is to take a raw commodity, cannonball jellyfish, or jellyballs, and turn it into a safe, edible and delicious product that appeals to domestic consumers.
Mis Solval encouraged me to apply for this traineeship because I am fascinated with this topic, and I believe this research can benefit the domestic jellyfish industry. I want to apply my skills and create a positive impact on my surrounding community. I spent several months reading, writing and reviewing my idea for the project before tackling the application. Spoiler, I received the funding, which is reassuring because it means other people believe in my vision for jellyfish consumption in the United States!
My research attempts to understand the properties and develop food applications for jellyfish gelatin powders. The process of turning salted and dried jellyballs, which is the only commercial product of Georgia’s jellyfish industry, into jellyfish gelatin powder is already being done in the state.
I am developing methods to improve the strength of the gels that are produced from the newly developed gelatin powders through novel approaches. One approach I am testing is cross-linking the jellyfish gelatin powders with extracted polyphenols, or micronutrients, from Georgia grown fruits.
The goal of this project is to demonstrate that naturally cross-linking the jellyfish gelatin with polyphenols can improve the underlying structure of the gel as it forms. We also want to use that gelatin to produce probiotic powders which increase the shelf-life stability of probiotics.
I believe that this research has many avenues to explore, and I am excited to be a part of it. Finding ways to increase domestic consumption of jellyballs will help the domestic jellyfish industry diversify its portfolio of products and create business opportunities in rural coastal communities in Georgia.
Unfortunately, the pandemic has impacted some of the experiences that I would have had as part of the traineeship like meeting with the other students who received this traineeship in person, sharing our research and our passions for our areas of study. I also haven’t been able to witness first-hand the process of harvesting the jellyballs from the ocean before they’re salted and dried. Luckily, I’ve been able to study samples in the lab and collect valuable data on these amazing sea creatures.
I sincerely want to thank the Georgia Sea Grant for the opportunity to learn more about jellyfish processing through the traineeship. If you are interested in this research, want to support, or simply have questions, feel free to reach out to me at Peter.Chiarelli@uga.edu