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Student Research Highlights

Our Young Scientists Symposium gives young people the unique opportunity to showcase their research projects, mingle with guest scientists, learn public speaking skills and share information about their scientific results with family, friends and members of the public. Here are a few project highlights from this year’s event:

Red abalone and food preference
Jeimy Rodriguez and Jady Moran, both 8th graders at South Gate Middle School, teamed up to learn more about red abalone feeding preferences. In the wild, the color of an abalone’s shell tends to reflect the color of what they eat. For example, red abalone eat red algae and green abalone eat green algae. But what do red abalone raised in CMA’s Aquatic Nursery prefer to eat?

Rodriguez and Moran hypothesized that red abalone in the Aquatic Nursery would rather eat brown algae because that’s what they are typically fed and have been conditioned to eat. To find the answer, Rodriguez and Moran placed red algae, green algae and brown algae in front of eight red abalone and timed how long it took them to start eating each variety. The results: Red abalone started eating brown algae the fastest indicating their hypothesis was correct.

Sea anemone population growth
Luis Camarena, a 7th grader at South Gate Middle School, took a closer look at local aggregating anemone populations and where they live. His hypothesis: Populations of aggregating anemones will be bigger 100 meters from the cliff. By carefully observing and counting where aggregating anemones are found using quadrats, he collected data from the base of the cliff to 100 meters out into the ocean.

He discovered that his hypothesis was correct; there were more aggregating anemones 100 meters from the cliff. Camarena concluded polluted runoff from land washing into the ocean was preventing aggregating anemones from flourishing in greater numbers closer to shore. His message: “We need to care for our environment and keep it clean!”

Bay pipefish courtship activity
Colette Toal, a 10th grader at Immaculate Heart High School, wanted to find out how pipefish behaviors changed in captivity with rising water temperatures that matched the lead up to summer spawning season. During a three-month project, she monitored and observed bay pipefish in a tank at three different temperatures: first at 57 degrees, then at 63 degrees and lastly at 69 degrees.

The experiment revealed that an increase in water temperature does stimulate courtship and breeding in bay pipefish. Pipefish only mated during the third and warmest trial. Toal’s results are very useful for Aquariums trying to successfully breed bay pipefish in captivity; the key to success is a water temperature of 69 degrees.

Abalone larval development under pressure
Lauren Lee, a 9th grader at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, tested how pressure influences the spawning and larval development of red abalone. She hoped the results could lead to more information on how to successfully breed endangered white abalone in captivity by creating a high pressure environment similar to the ocean floor. Since white abalone are at high risk for extinction, Lee used the much more abundant species of red abalone in her research project.

To determine the impacts of pressure, Lee placed two red abalone in a pressure chamber for two hours comparing them to two abalone that stayed out of water for 30 minutes and a control group that stayed in a normal tank. All six abalone were induced to spawn after the treatments. Lee recreated this scenario several times and then measured the results. She discovered that pressure had a positive effect on red abalone spawning and a negative effect on larval development.

Sex changes in red rock shrimp
Anna Furuta, an 11th grader at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, investigated how the number of male red rock shrimp influences the sex ratio of a population. Red rock shrimp start their lives as male and later transition to female, a common reproductive strategy for ocean animals. But what is unusual, is that female red rock shrimp retain their male reproductive parts and are able to successfully function as either gender making them hermaphrodites.

To find the optimal density of male red rock shrimp leading to the greatest frequency of gender changes, Furuta enlisted the help of more than 40 male red rock shrimp and placed either two, four or eight shrimp in a tank for three separate trials. She predicted that the tanks containing eight males would experience the greatest number of gender changes, but her results indicated the opposite. The tanks containing two or four shrimp ended up having the highest ratio of males to females, usually averaging 1:1.

Post Date: Monday, April 15, 2013

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