Florida's aquatic ecosystem will be undergoing some major changes, and it's all thanks to research done by a 13-year-old.
While fishing with her marine biologist father, The Palm Beach Post reports 13-year-old Lauren Arrington got the idea for her 6th-grade science fair project after seeing a lionfish in a freshwater river. Since lionfish eat all the smaller fish, Lauren "wanted to see how dangerous the lionfish could be to us."
Lionfish are considered an "invasive" predator- a fish that isn't native to the area. BBC says they have poisonous spines on their fins and experts say they present a danger to 90% of the reef and other species because of their growing population and enormous appetite.
CNN says, "Lionfish are destroying ecosystems and they're doing it very quickly. This isn't a battle that we can win, we only hope to maintain their population."
So, when Lauren saw a lionfish in the freshwaters of Florida's Loxahatchee River, she decided to conduct an experiment to see how vulnerable freshwater fish were to this stripy swimmer.
For two weeks in 2012, the then 12-year-old slowly diluted the salt water in the tanks of five captured lionfish. She was surprised to find the fish survived at 1/6 the salinity of the Atlantic. She had to stop the experiment before going further because her project would be disqualified from the science fair if animals were harmed in the process.
Lauren later placed third in the science fair. Researchers recognized the validity of her work and decided to continue it. The Sun Sentinel reports they even cited her in their final publication saying her experiment is something scientists should have done a long time ago.
"I love that she has braces and she's being credited with a scientific breakthrough."
An ecology professor at North Carolina State University told the Sun Sentinel, "Her project was the impetus for us to follow up on the finding and do a more in-depth study. We were the first paper that published the salinity of the lionfish, and it was all because of what she had done with her science project."
Scientists discovered that lionfish could survive at one seventh the salinity of the Atlantic ocean. Now, the state of Florida is taking steps to combat the spread of one of the world's most venomous fish.
WPTV reports, "Beginning August first, there's a ban on importing lionfish for the aquarium trade in Florida. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is also going to make it easier for scuba divers to catch lionfish in the wild.
And to think, this all came from one girl deciding NOT to make a paper mache volcano for the science fair.
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