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Sixth grader impresses academics with lionfish experiment

The 13-year-old's experiment was replicated and confirmed by Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 22, 2014 at 9:36 AM   |   Comments

http://cdnph.upi.com/sv/em/i/UPI-7621406028984/2014/1/14060356499050/Sixth-grader-impresses-academics-with-lionfish-experiment.jpg
JUPITER, Fla., July 22 (UPI) -- Lauren Arrington is only 13 years old and just graduated from sixth grade. But she's keen on science, and her most recent experiment impressed even veteran scientists like her dad, who has a Ph.D in fish ecology.

For her recent science project, Arrington decided to study the lionfish, an invasive species that's been invading Florida's coastal waters and pushing out other vulnerable marine life. Growing up snorkeling and fishing near her home in Jupiter, Fla., Arrington has seen her fair share of lionfish.

The lionfish is magnificent, outfitted with an elaborate structure and feather-like mane, a poisonous spine and outrageous striped coloring. But it doesn't belong here.

Even so, it wasn't clear where it belonged -- or more accurately, where it could go. Arrington wanted to know how far up coastal rivers the invader might travel, so she tested the fish's tolerance for desalinized water.

"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Arrington told NPR. "So I was like, 'Well, hey guys, what about the river?'"

Arrington's father guessed the fish could withstand an environment with a salinity of 12 parts per 1000, but his daughter's experiment proved it could thrive in half that, 6 parts per 1000.

Her experiment was replicated and confirmed by Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University. Earlier this year, the findings where published in the science journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Arrington, the budding scientist, was thrilled just to be mentioned in the acknowledgments.

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