Heidi Duncanson | Communications Coordinator
High school students are conducting scientific research along the Seacoast, showing their keen interest in what is happening to our planet. Each semester, participants in Seacoast Science Center’s Marine Fellowship program are challenged to conduct original research. Many are choosing topics that relate to climate change and pollution, showing their generation’s concerns for the environment and their belief that research data can yield information to fuel solutions.
Annabella LaFond of Sandown chose to study coastal erosion. “When deciding what to research, there happened to be a recent storm that knocked down multiple rocks on the North Hampton sea wall,” she explained. “I questioned how much change happens in different coastal areas depending on the protection within them.” She chose three different spots within Odiorne State Park to see if and how they changed over time: a protected location, a moderately exposed area, and a highly exposed spot along the coastline. Annabella conducted her experiment using a salinity meter, nitrate test strips, nitrite test strips, a pH meter and aquarium refractometer. She tested each site on subsequent days and while she did not see significant changes between locations during that time period, she felt that longer studies could be warranted. She concluded, “Understanding the makeup of our coastal ecosystem gives us a better understanding of how to react and solve the pressing issue of coastal erosion.”
Taking a closer look at how oysters can impact water quality was the topic Emma O’Brien of Brentwood chose. “In my research, I was able to observe the oysters filter out spirulina powder from a 2.5 gallon tank,” she said. “The spirulina powder sat at the surface of the water and as the oysters filtered the tank, gaps could be seen where spirulina powder was once present. This experience helped me realize that I am interested in researching marine mammals, rehabilitation, and restoration. I’m currently studying marine biology at the University of New Hampshire. The Seacoast Science Center helped me narrow down my choices for the future.”
Offshore pollution was a concern of Hannah Bauer of Barrington. She researched the effect of plastic pollution on blue whales, the largest whale species in the sea. “The blue whale is a baleen whale, meaning it uses its bristle-like teeth to filter its food,” she wrote in her report. “When a blue whale opens its enormous mouth to consume krill, it also unintentionally consumes microplastics. Microplastics are non-digestible and contain chemicals that can be leached into a whale’s body. Leaching can cause tissue damage and developmental problems in offspring.” Hannah is now motivated to pursue marine biology as a career and is looking at colleges with programs to support her interests.
The spring semester of the Marine Science Fellowship program begins on Saturday, February 4. For information about how to apply to participate, please visit www.seacoastsciencecenter.org.