Florida's aquatic ecosystem will be undergoing some major changes, and it's all thanks to research done by a 13-year-old.
13-year-old girl finds new info changing Florida's ecosystem
This picture taken on May 30, 2012 shows a zebra turkeyfish at the Beijing Aquarium. The aquarium, which is the largest in China and shaped like a huge conch shell, was named by state media as a 'Beijing civilized Tourist Scenic Spot' and houses more than 1,000 marine species and freshwater fish. AFP PHOTO / Mark RALSTON (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/GettyImages)
A red lionfish (Pterois volitans) swims in the aquarium of the Schonbrunn zoo in the gardens of the Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna on October 16, 2012. The red lionfish is a venomous coral reef fish. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KLEIN (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER KLEIN/AFP/Getty Images)
ROATAN ISLAND, HONDURAS - UNDATED: EXCLUSIVE. A Local fishermen spears a lionfish to attract the sharks who will recognise it as prey, off the coast of Roatan Island, near Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. Packing a poisoned punch isn't enough to save this lionfish from this posse of trained hunting sharks. Incredibly, divers fed-up with an invasion by toxic-spined lionfish have recruited a band of unusual helpers to battle the prickly pests: their grey reef shark neighbours. The tough sharks had no problem gobbling up the spiky lionfish - in fact they could not seem to get enough and soon went into a dramatic feeding frenzy. Italian-American photographer, Antonio Busiello, 38, who lives in Los Angeles stumbled across locals teaching the sharks to hunt lionfish while out photographing other reef fish near the Island of Roatan, 30 miles off the coast of Honduras. He decided to spend three months capturing these amazing human-shark training sessions. (Photo by Antonio Busiello / Barcroft Medi / Getty Images)
A Lionfish swims in a display tank in the aquarium on the United Arab Emirate of Sharjah on August 6, 2008. The new state-of-the-art indoor aquarium in Sharjah houses over 250 species of marine life and recreates a rich underwater habitat filled with fish, eels, rock pools and coral reefs. The Lionfish is a voracious venomous sea predator that uses its stripped spines to corner its prey and swift reflexes to snatch them up and swallow them whole. AFP PHOTO/KARIM SAHIB (Photo credit should read KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 18: A diver spears a lionfish, an invasive species from the Pacific. Bahia de las Aguilas Area, Pedernales, Dominican Republic. (Photo by Mauricio Handler/National Geographic/Getty Images)
A Lionfish is shown in this underwater photograph taken while scuba diving off the coast of the Caribbean island of Bonaire Friday, May 24, 2014. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
In this Thursday, June 27, 2013 image taken from video, two lionfish are shown in an aquarium at the Nova Southeastern University Oceanographic Center in Dania Beach, Fla. Divers in Florida and the Caribbean are encouraged to capture and eat any lionfish they encounter to protect reefs and native marine life already burdened by pollution, over-fishing and the effects of climate change. Recreational divers max out around 130 feet and researchers and wildlife officials rarely have the means to go looking for lionfish deeper than that, but theyâve realized that the lionfish they canât see may be their biggest concern. (AP Photo/Suzette Laboy)
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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.