Unexpected Science: Sixth Grade Edition


Lionfish live in the ocean
Little Lauren gets a notion:
Might they live in rivers, too?
Would they thrive in brackish water?
Lauren, ichthyologist’s daughter,
Knows just what to do

Slowly starts desalination
Learns some brand-new information
Of which we’re now aware
New understanding’s always great
So, never underestimate
The sixth-grade science fair!

Via NPR, new information from a young scientist–a sixth grade science project demonstrates that invasive lionfish would be able to survive in brackish river water, widening the range of potentially threatened ecosystems.

“Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean,” Lauren, now 13, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. “So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ ”

In the beginning, she wanted to conduct her test by placing the lionfish in cages at different points in the river, but she had to simplify the project.

“It was just a small, sixth-grade project, and I really didn’t have all the tools necessary,” she says. Her dad, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, suggested that she put the fish in tanks instead.

Now, there are a lot of problems with science fairs, and frankly, Lauren’s very good research points out some of them–for instance, the odds of any random kid from her class having access to six different aquarium tanks (and the equipment needed to maintain them) are remote. This sort of science fair shows the role privilege can play.

But it also shows that a great question, and an elegant test of the answer, can sometimes come from unexpected places. Reminds me a bit of Emily Rosa. And we should not be surprised in the least when kids’ science fair ideas are influenced by what they have grown up listening to around the dinner table.

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Perhaps Lauren could collaborate with a certain biologist in Morris, MN, to determine the predation patterns of lionfish upon zebrafish.

  2. moarscienceplz says

    … the odds of any random kid from her class having access to six different aquarium tanks (and the equipment needed to maintain them) are remote. This sort of science fair shows the role privilege can play.

    Couldn’t a kid have asked a tropical fish store to lend some tanks in exchange for a little free advertising? My drama club always got whatever furniture we needed lent to us by a local furniture store.

  3. Callinectes says

    Are these the stripey, spiky, venomous lionfish, or something else? Common names tend to vary from place to place.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    I believe so, Callinectes–they are the invasive species folks are worried about in the Gulf, which was the impetus for the girl’s initial question.

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