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13-year-old girl finds new info changing Florida's ecosystem

13-Year-Old Girl Finds New Info Changing Florida's Ecosystem


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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onionson July 08 2014 at 6:23 AM

It's always nice to hear about the good kids. Way to go.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
devviefour July 08 2014 at 8:18 AM

i saw something on the news that showed lionfish are edible. this could open up a market with a new menu item for the state of Florida, if they haven't started it by now. the people eating it said it was very tasty, minus the spines of course.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
3 replies
IBruzEZ July 08 2014 at 7:10 AM

This is great. So many stories are about kids doing totally stupid things, faces buried in phones and video games that this gives us hope for our future. Also great that her work was cited in the article instead of grown-ups stealing her work and taking the credit.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
Charlie July 08 2014 at 11:45 AM

She placed third in a school science fair. The other exhibits must have been extremely impressive or there were some totally stupid judges. This young lady change science in this study. Wow.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
douttfire Charlie July 08 2014 at 1:36 PM

Well, some judges are partial to the vinegar/baking soda volcano! Nothing warms an old-timer's heart like a nicely constructed diorama! ;)

Flag Reply 0 rate up
meryleeweisman July 08 2014 at 8:24 AM

Precious child. So very proud of you, delighted to call you neighbor! Great encouragement for Floridians to FINALLY pay attention to our kids that do great things that have nothing to do with a FOOTBALL!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Richard July 08 2014 at 11:35 AM

Kudos to that young Lady. I was a judge many years ago that awarded two young ladies a scholarship for their studies concerning the loss of sea grass in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida. To bad the State of Florida didn't heed their study. The Lagoon is now in dire straights.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
Kate July 08 2014 at 11:01 AM

Good for her. Florida has enough problems with non natives species, and I'm surprised that they weren't already studying this very dangerous fish. She did excellent work.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
skitzlpk July 08 2014 at 10:51 AM

If they're so damned invasive & destructive to the environment, why are there limitations/regulations on divers eradicating them?

Answer: CONTROL! It's always about government control even if it makes no sense whatsoever. If in a fresh water environ, these lion fish should be fished out as quickly as possible with the only regulations attached making sure no toxins are used in doing so. We've got the same problem with coyotes in our area but if you hunt them contrary to DNR regs,, you get a major BS ticket just for the hell of it..

Flag Reply +4 rate up
4 replies
LoadHarvester July 08 2014 at 11:09 AM

Why is nearly every comment here about the CHILD and not about the LIONFISH? Unbelieivable.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
grudgrime LoadHarvester July 08 2014 at 2:00 PM

What is unbelievable? I don't see your comment about the lion fish. The fact is the title of the story indicates the story is about the child...maybe that is why they clicked on it in the first place.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
lindamermaid LoadHarvester July 08 2014 at 2:45 PM

Not sure what YOU'RE reading. I see a lot of 'atta-girl' comments here.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
bigcatdaddy July 08 2014 at 10:14 AM

Great job. Florida is also being over run with snakes. That will be more of a problem.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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