Don't Think That You Can Affect Science?
Written by Brooke Shaw   
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 01:16 PM

Science has been popularized into becoming some complex statistical entity that only the "super smart" can comprehend and only the most complex research can identify new findings.  But science is little more than observation, theorization, experimentation and reproducibility, as this story shows.

When 12-year-old Lauren Arrington heard about her sixth-grade science project, she knew she wanted to study lionfish. Her project showed that the lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water. The results blew away professional ecologists. The invasive species has no predators on the Florida coast, so if they were to migrate upstream in rivers, they could pose a threat to the ecosystem.

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

Lauren put six different lionfish in six different tanks where she could watch her subjects closely. Lauren was given a strict set of rules by the science fair organizers. The most important one: Her fish could not die.

Lionfish had been found to live in water with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand. But no one knew that they could live in water salinity below that.

Every night for eight days, she would lower the salinity 5 parts per thousand in the experimental tanks. On the eighth day of her experiment, she found her experimental fish were living at 6 parts per thousand. She was amazed. But her research did not stop there. Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University, confirmed Lauren's results. "He credited a sixth-grader for coming up with his idea," Lauren says ecstatically. Layman's findings were published this year in the science journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Lauren is mentioned in the acknowledgments.

Science – "so easy a 6th grader can do it."  Observation, experimentation, and reproducibility.