3 local students bring home California Science Fair awards – Times-Standard

Three Humboldt County students received awards for their projects at the California Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles last month. Norah Sousa, a student at Hydesville Elementary School, won first place, Elizabeth Stevens, who attends Fortuna Middle School (pictured), won second place and Kjersti Macdonald, a student at Jacoby Creek Elementary School, received honorable mention. (Mary Bullwinkel/For the Times-Standard)

Three Humboldt Couty students returned home with awards from the California Science and Engineering Fair held in April at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Hydesville Elementary School sixth-grader Norah Souza took first place with her project “Trout n' About,” Fortuna Middle School eighth-grader Elizabeth Stevens took second place with her project “Bursting Bubble Ice,” and Kjersti Macdonald from the Jacoby Creek Elementary School received an honorable mention for its project “Is “Moss the Boss of Water Loss?”” All awards were given in the “Earth and Environment: Air/Water” category.

Of the more than 700 projects submitted to the state fair, 16 came from Humboldt County students. The three Humboldt County students who received awards for their projects were just a few of the more than 850 participants from 344 schools across California.

Souza's project, as the title suggests, was to search for trout in Barber Creek in the Hydesville area.

“I conducted tests at three locations along the stream, measuring pH, turbidity, water temperature and stream depth. I found that the pH was too high for trout,” she added, “but all other conditions were pretty good.”

According to one of her neighbors, Souza was told that there were trout and salmon in the creek, but none had been seen in several decades. Souza said she hopes to continue her research on Barber Creek as part of her science project next year and then potentially develop ways to improve the river environment in future years.

“I gave all my information to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and they said it could be useful,” Souza said. “I hope they use it to improve our environment in the creek.”

Souza said she was really excited and started crying when she found out she won first place.

“It was really cool,” she said.

Second place winner Elizabeth (Liz) Stevens said her project was to study the reasons for sea level rise. She wanted to study glacial melting and how it contributes to sea level rise.

“I bought some glacier ice and then did three experiments with it,” Stevens said.

Their first experiment was to find out whether glacial ice in salt water melts faster than regular ice. “I tested my second experiment without water because I thought the glacier ice would melt faster because of the bubbles in the glacier ice. When the bubbles melt or pop out, they create turbulence in the water,” she added, “and that allows the warmer water to get to the ice because when it melts, the water gets colder.”

The third experiment she conducted was to measure stratification and turbulence.

Speaking about her award, Stevens said: “It was great to be recognized for my work and to have this opportunity. I’m really glad my work paid off.”

Kjersti Macdonald, a student at Jacoby Creek Elementary School, investigated the question of whether tree moss releases more moisture into the air than the soil. The idea came to her after a moss-covered tree fell in her backyard forest last fall.

*She collected 20 squares of moss and 20 squares of soil and each set was weighed every day for a week. One set was in a dry environment and one set was in a wet environment. Macdonald found that moss evaporates almost as much water as the soil, rather than more.

“In summary,” Macdonald said in her project submission, “the moss does not evaporate more than the soil, but still has a significant impact on the healthy, moist air in the sequoia forest.”

The three young women are currently in the process of applying to take part in the Thermo-Fisher Scientific Junior Innovators Challenge. The application deadline is June 12th. In September, the students will find out whether they are among the 30 finalists who will advance to the national level competition in October.

“I am incredibly proud of our Humboldt County students’ outstanding achievements at the science fair. Their innovative projects demonstrate not only their commitment to scientific research, but also their commitment to excellence in education,” said Humboldt County Schools Superintendent Michael Davies-Hughes. “These students are the future leaders and problem solvers, and their success at the science fair is a testament to their hard work and ingenuity,” Davies-Hughes said.

Anna Harden

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