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Mar. 11, 2010

Mary Jane Schramm

Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary Recognizes Student Scientist

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Eigth-grade student Julie Avetisyan with her Young Marine Scientest Award. Click here for a larger image.

NOAA’s Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary presented its Young Marine Scientist Award to eighth-grade student Julie Avetisyan for her biological sciences project, “Effects of an Oil Spill on Aquatic Plantlife.” The winning entry was part of the 28th Annual San Francisco Middle School Science Fair, held last month at the Randall Museum.

Ms. Avetisyan attends KZV Armenian School in San Francisco. She conducted observations of plant structure and growth rate of the water-weed Elodea, which is native to North America. After formulating her hypothesis that oil might affect normal plant growth, Ms. Avetisyan exposed five groups of eight plants each to heating oil in varying degrees. She processed the raw data, and formed her conclusion: The leaves, and cross-sections of the stems, showed that plants with maximum oil exposure had significant changes in cell structure, and didn’t grow, compared with non-oiled or minimally-oiled plants.

Farallones sanctuary Education Specialist Christy Walker judged the entries in the marine sciences division. “I was impressed with the clear and effective experimental design, which is a key to solid scientific explorations, as well as the painstakingly accurate and detailed scientific illustrations used in her project,” Ms. Walker said. The project is also relevant to the sanctuary, which has experienced several significant oil spills, including the Cosco Busan in 2007.

;Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary is dedicated to encouraging the next generation of scientists, and Ms. Avetisyan is a wonderful example of a young scientist whose work deserves recognition,” said Maria Brown, sanctuary superintendent. “We are proud to present her with this award, and hope she continues to follow her interest in marine science in the future.” (A photo of the winner and her exhibit is available upon request.)

Designated in 1981, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary encompasses nearly 1,300 square miles of ocean and coastal waters beyond San Francisco’s Golden Gate. The sanctuary supports an abundance of species including the largest breeding seabird rookery in the contiguous United States, and endangered blue and humpback whales.

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