On February 16, the Hawaii Academy of Science conducted the Kauai Regional Science and Engineering Fair with more than 50 students from local middle and high schools participating in the one-day event. Two staff from the NTBG Science and Conservation Department, Seana Walsh and Dustin Wolkis, judged for the Plant Sciences category.
One of the student participants, Kauai High School 9th grader Aidan Gregerson, received the “NTBG Young Ecologist Award” for his experiment which tested soil from the roots of native and invasive plants to see monitor changes in soil nutrients. Aidan tested three native plant species: Acacia koa (koa tree), Sadleria sp. (amau fern), and Pritchardia minor (loulu) and three invasive species: the obscure morning glory, ironwood tree, and a ginger species. He found that the pH level of the soil from the native plants was much lower (more acidic) than the invasive plants, with native plants preferring higher amounts of nitrogen. He noted that if invasive plants are introduced, they could potentially alter the balance of nutrients.
A second Kauai High School student, Isabella Parsons, received the “NTBG Plant Conservation Award” for her project: Investigating the Effects of the Removal of Red Mangrove Trees on the Ecosystem of Kauai.
Speaking of fostering Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, Dustin said, “It is my hope that by providing honest positive feedback and co-presenting these two awards that all Science Fair participants will continue their passion for STEM education.”
Seana added, “Supporting our science fairs on island is very much in line with NTBG’s mission. Many of the student projects aim to address problems in our community, and the students are really passionate about them. It gives me hope for the future of our island.”
Photo courtesy of MC2 Sara Sexton