My name is Nan Jiang, and I am a master’s student at the UGA Department of Food Science and Technology and am currently studying as a 2019-2020 Georgia Sea Grant Research Trainee.

Back home in China, the seafood industry is huge. Because of this, I have been very interested in developing and investigating the properties of innovative food products produced from a sustainable supply of seafood. I am fascinated by how products like gelatin can be produced from seafood by-products.

As part of my Georgia Sea Grant research traineeship, I am working in Kevin Mis Solval’s lab at UGA developing applications for cannonball jellyfish, commonly known as jellyballs. I have been learning about seafood processing and conducting research on developing functional food ingredients using cannonball jellyfish.

Jellyfish gelatin powders produced at Dr. Mis Solval’s lab in a sealed plastic test tube.

Jellyfish gelatin powders produced at Dr. Mis Solval’s lab. Photo by Emerson Garcia.

I learned that cannonball jellyfish is one of the largest seafood commodities by weight in Georgia. Jellyballs are caught in federal waters of the South Atlantic Bight, including waters adjacent to the coast of Georgia. Edible jellyfish is very popular in China, but in the U.S. it is still an underutilized resource. Many health benefits are associated with the consumption of jellyfish in Chinese culture; however, no scientific evidence exists to support these claims. In the future, I hope my research can support this idea.

I have discovered through my project that jellyfish is a rich source of functional fibrous proteins, like collagen. Collagen is the raw material of gelatin and a widely-used food ingredient. Gelatin is also considered a prebiotic, which is a compound that promotes and protects the growth of beneficial microorganisms such as probiotic lactic acid bacteria (LAB). Working with LAB is of interest to me because of the many health benefits associated with their consumption and their antimicrobial properties.

I am very grateful to have been selected as a Sea Grant Research Trainee as the opportunity is allowing me to work on developing high quality LAB-jellyfish gelatin powders from cannonball jellyfish. The results of my research will increase the overall competitiveness and sustainability of the Georgia jellyfish industry by providing a high-quality alternative food use for cannonball jellyfish, maximizing its profit potential. I am very excited about the possible outcomes of the project.