Of the many problems facing coral reefs in our oceans today, one of those is lionfish. An invasive species, they are increasing in numbers and causing a great deal of destruction to reefs. Understanding them and finding solutions to reduce their threat is a big concern for many marine scientists. (see Lionfish infestation in Atlantic Ocean a growing epidemic)
And that's a concern not only for those with advanced science degrees. Sixth grader Lauren Arrington of Florida has been intrigued by the lionfish, and decided to conduct her own experiments. Originally curious about the toxicity of the stings of dead lionfish, the lack of willing human test subjects motivated her to shift her curiosity. Her resulting experiment sought to understand the limits of reduced salinity that the lionfish could stand. Running multiple aquariums containing the fish, she steadily decreased salinity while keeping them alive (a condition of the science fair at The King's Academy for which she was originally conducting the experiment). Her discovery was that lionfish can tolerate relatively fresh water. This makes them a threat to freshwater ecosystems as well, but also, if they move into freshwater estuaries, they would be easier to capture and kill there because of easier access to those waters.
She went on from The King's Academy science fair to compete at the Palm Beach County regional science fair, winning third place in zoology for her project.
Arrington's work and conclusions were so notable that marine ecologists have run their own similiar experiments, confirming her results. She has been cited in resulting peer-reviewed papers. With parents who are scientists, and a lifelong affinity for being on and around bodies of water, Arrington hopes for a future in marine science and engineering. She is off to a very strong start!
Read the original story from the Sun Sentinel: Palm Beach Country girl credited for breakthrough in lionfish research
And also from The King's Academy: Sixth Grade Science Prodigy, Lauren Arrington, Receives National Recognition