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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

6th Grade Ecologist

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Wednesday, July 23, 2014/Categories: marine life, sustainability, environment

Every profession needs "new blood" in energize the field and look at standard dogmas with new eyes. Ecology---the basic science behind evolution, bio-geography, and ecosystem function---is no different. Who would have expected a grade school science project to provide insight into the adaptive potential, and ecosystem threat, presented by an invasive species?

Standard knowledge says that organisms adapted to salt water won't survive in fresh water and visa versa. However, with advise from her researcher father Lauren Arrington designed a simple experiment using fish tanks to test that hypothesis. The 6-grade student showed how the marine Lionfish could potentially migrate up rivers and threaten freshwater ecosystems.

  
Lionfish Ecological Science Experiment   (credit: Lauren Arrington, Wikipedia)

Lionfish are predatory invaders native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are a major pest in the Caribbean and coastal Atlantic Ocean since being released from home aquariums after becoming too difficult to manage. The fish multiplied rapidly---a standard adaptive procedure of invasive species---and threaten coral reefs and other marine life wherever they are found. Lionfish "rodeos" are organized to see how many can be caught. Big fish fries are organized by talented chefs to compete for the tastiest recipes.

NPR reported on the science project saying:
"Lionfish live in seawater with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand. But no one knew they could live in salinity levels below that. Using one of six lionfish as control fish, the rest were use for her experiments. Every night for eight days, Ms Arrington lowered the salinity 5 parts per thousand in the experimental tanks. On the eighth day of the experiment, she found the experimental fish were living at 6 parts per thousand."

Invasive species are a huge problem on land and water. The lionfish is one of the poster-children for what they can do. Understanding invasive species biology and controlling their advances is very important. Bring on more ecologists no matter what their ages.

WHB

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