NCEAS Awards Prizes for Best Ecology Projects at SB County Science Fair
Katie Lefley and Julia Pilkington were honored with awards for outstanding ecology projects at the 2010 Santa Barbara County Science Fair . Katie, from Goleta Valley Junior High School, won first place in the junior division for her project entitled "Exhausted Grass".
Julia, from Bishop Garcia Diego High School, placed first in the senior division. Her project demonstrated "Solar Oven Improvement".
NCEAS presented two awards for Best Ecology Project at the 54rd Annual Santa Barbara County Science Fair .
Erendiz Tarakci from La Colina Junior High School won the Junior Division award for her research project entitled Is There Plastic in Your Water?
Kelly McKay and Jenise Fretz from San Marcos High School were Senior Division award winners. Their project explored The Effect of Lipophilic Chain Length of Detergents on Breaking Down Oil in Seawater.
Jessica Davis, from La Colina Junior High School, won in the Junior Division for her research project, Plant Wars. She tested the allelopathic effectiveness of oil in Purple Sage (Salvia leucophylla) leaves in inhibiting germination of native California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and nonnative, invasive Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare).
Kenneth Pessino, a student at San Marcos High School, won in the Senior Division for his project, A Preliminary Investigation into the Spatial and Temporal Patterns of Red Sea Urchins and Kelp Bass in the Santa Barbara Channel. He worked with mentors J.A. Macfarlan, pictured, Dr. Cesar Vilas, and Dr. Nick Shear. Kenneth's work demonstrates that recruitment differs between the mainland and the island, and between the eastern and western islands. He also found that there are different peak recruitment times for the two species.
NCEAS is pleased to feature first place winners of its Best Ecology Project Awards. Andrew Sanchez and Esther Flores from San Marcos High School won in the senior division for their project “How Does the Amount of Acanthocephalan (Thorny Head Worm) Parasites Affect Swimming and Burrowing?” Esther and Andrew tested beach crabs' swimming abilities, then exhaustively counted parasites inside each crab, evaluating whether infection by worms weakened the crabs so that they might be more susceptible to predation by birds. In fact, crabs with heavy parasite loads were not greatly affected, suggesting they would be no more susceptible to bird predation. In addition to Best Ecology Project, Esther and Andrew’s project was named Best in Fair and they will compete next at the state level.
Terra D’Antonio-Dudley from La Colina Junior High School won Best Ecology Project Award in the junior division for her project “To Eat or Not to Eat”. Terra did an elegant experiment on the preferences of wild sparrows for seeds of several grass and herb species, examining whether seeds of species native to California are at greater risk than seeds of species introduced from Eurasia. Birds showed strong preferences for certain species, but there was no tendency for plants native to California to be at greater risk than those introduced from Eurasia. Terra’s project also received a silver medal in the junior high school Biological Division.
Encouraging ecological investigation among students at all levels of study has been a priority for NCEAS in its outreach efforts. In 2007 NCEAS established annual awards for Best Ecology Project in both the junior high and senior high school levels for the Santa Barbara County Science Fair. Dr. Richard Condit, Sabbatical Fellow from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, served as judge for the awards. Dr. Condit and Outreach Coordinator Margaret Connors presented the awards at the fair, held at UCSB’s Corwin Pavilion.
NCEAS has developed a webliography of resources for students who want to learn how to organize, analyze and present data  for science experiments.