From across the Finger Lakes, middle school and high school students and their teachers gathered in Scandling Campus Center for the fifth annual Finger Lakes Institute (FLI) Science Fair, to present original research on environmental issues in the region. Hailing from the Geneseo, Honeoye Falls-Lima, and Romulus school districts, students presented on topics including animal habitat preferences, the mapping of invasive species, regional climate differences and water quality.
“It’s really exciting to see how enthusiastic the kids are and how they’ve become experts in their environmental topics,” says Nadia Harvieux, the FLI Education Program Manager and coordinator of the science fair. “The amount of work the teachers put in as well is really impressive; they are truly dedicated.”
Modeled after a professional science conference, the science fair provides participating students the chance to present their research in a poster session and compete for monetary prizes. Prizes for the poster presentation competition, awarded in both the middle school and high school divisions, were sponsored by the Genesee Chapter of the New York Environment Association, Inc. (NYWEA). Winners were selected by guest judges from NYWEA and Delta Laboratories in Rochester.
Taking first place in the middle school division, Geneseo middle-schoolers Emma Paecho, Molly Robinson, and Ellis Werner used trail cameras provided by the Conservation Department at Finger Lakes Community College to compare local animal populations for their project, “Number of Animals in the Woods Compared to the Number of Animals in the Field.” Their classmates, Isabel Granger, Brenna Henderson, and Michaela Bastso — who used a similar approach — won second place for their work, “Population of Animals in a Field versus a Creek Environment.”
In the high school division, Saige Vest and Lera Bornemann from Romulus Central School, took first place for their project, “Mapping Invasives in Sampson State Park,” which compared the number of native and invasive plant species in a section of the park using iMapInvasives, an online mapping tool. David Balcer of Romulus Central School and Eliza Crane of Honeoye-Falls Lima High School tied for second place for their respective projects, “Does Physical Stream Habitat and Water Quality affect the Biodiversity of Aquatic Organisms?” and “Honeoye Creek Water Quality,” which used the FLI’s stream monitoring protocols to assess the physical, chemical, and biological parameters of the streams.
“I support middle and high school students doing real research. It gives the students a look at science in college and in the field,” said Geneseo science teacher Randy French, referring to the academic benefits of the FLI Science Fair. “I like to see them solve problems.”
Holly Stekl, a science teacher at Romulus Central School District, added, “We’ve been doing this for three years, and the fair offers a great opportunity for local kids to go to visit a college and a scientific community.”
With a focus on community outreach and economic development, the FLI is dedicated to the promotion of environmental research and education about the Finger Lakes and surrounding environments. In collaboration with regional environmental partners and state and local government offices, the Institute fosters environmentally-sound development practices throughout the region, and disseminates accumulated knowledge to the public.
Read more about last year’s FLI Science Fair here.