Science Fair Project Inspired by Bird Banding Field Trip!

5th-grader Ana Saenz’s science fair project was inspired by Bandelier National Monument’s bird banding efforts!

Bandelier National Monument and PEEC have been partnering for almost 20 years to bring students on a field trip to a scientific bird-banding site at Bandelier. This year, because of the pandemic, we had to bring bird banding to the students via a virtual field trip experience.

In both the virtual and in-person bird-banding programs, students gain insight into the processes of field science and learn about a key method of collecting data for understanding our local and migratory bird populations.

This year, 5th-grader Ana Saenz took things a step further by analyzing a subset of Bandelier’s bird-banding data for her science fair project:

“My friends and I started a nature club at our school, Chamisa Elementary. One day, Zoë Moffett, who was a bird bander at Bandelier National Monument, talked to the club about bird banding. I had first seen Zoë at the virtual owl talk she gave for PEEC,” Ana says. “I was trying to think of a science fair project then, so I decided to ask her if I could borrow some data about banding, and she agreed to give me the masses of the Audubon’s and Wilson’s Warblers that they had tagged since 2014.”

Click through the slides below to see Ana’s project!

PEEC’s 2020 Science Fair Award Recipients

By Jennifer Macke

The 2020 Los Alamos County science fair was held on February 1st. Each year, PEEC provides small cash awards to students at the fair. In judging for these prizes, we look for projects that take inspiration from nature, particularly those that make use of local materials from nature, are conducted outdoors, or aim to improve or understand the environment. There are usually several projects with these characteristics, and we choose a few of the best for prizes. This year there were an unusually large number of Junior projects in PEEC’s interest areas, so we gave more Junior level prizes than usual, and still wished we could reward more students for their interest in nature.

We enjoy talking to students, who are often enthusiastic and have new perspectives on the natural world as a result of their research. Students, in turn, appreciate talking with adults who take an interest in their work. Judging is a positive experience for all involved, and we encourage local citizens to volunteer as science fair judges.

Here are this year’s PEEC award winners. Read more PEEC’s 2020 Science Fair Award Recipients

By Jennifer Macke

The 2020 Los Alamos County science fair was held on February 1st. Each year, PEEC provides small cash awards to students at the fair. In judging for these prizes, we look for projects that take inspiration from nature, particularly those that make use of local materials from nature, are conducted outdoors, or aim to improve or understand the environment. There are usually several projects with these characteristics, and we choose a few of the best for prizes. This year there were an unusually large number of Junior projects in PEEC’s interest areas, so we gave more Junior level prizes than usual, and still wished we could reward more students for their interest in nature.

We enjoy talking to students, who are often enthusiastic and have new perspectives on the natural world as a result of their research. Students, in turn, appreciate talking with adults who take an interest in their work. Judging is a positive experience for all involved, and we encourage local citizens to volunteer as science fair judges.

Here are this year’s PEEC award winners. Read more PEEC’s 2020 Science Fair Award Recipients

PEEC’s 2019 Science Fair Award Recipients

By Terry Beery and Jennifer Macke

The 2019 Los Alamos County science fair was held on January 19th. Each year, PEEC provides small cash awards to students at the fair. In judging for these prizes, we look for projects about the natural world, particularly ones that take inspiration from nature, make use of local materials from nature, are conducted outdoors, or aim to improve or understand the environment. There are usually several projects with these characteristics, and we choose a few of the best for prizes.

We enjoyed talking to the students, who are often enthusiastic and have new perspectives on the natural world as a result of their research. Students, in turn, appreciate talking with adults who take an interest in their work. Judging is a positive experience for all involved, and we encourage local citizens to volunteer as science fair judges.

Here are this year’s PEEC award winners:

Senior Division

Ice vs. Water: Estimating Ice Shelf Melt Rates by Christie Djidjev

This student was interested in better understanding global climate change. It is difficult to estimate melt rates of ice shelves, because most of the melting occurs under water. The student found a set of data taken by sensors near a major ice sheet. She documented the inward flow of warm water and outward flow of cold less-dense water and estimated the total amount of melt water generated over time.


Junior Division

Global Warming and Your Health by Yunseo Kim

This student was interested in the effect of global climate change on human health. She used data from Colombia to correlate temperature with disease morbidity. She then made an equation to extrapolate these data to higher temperatures.

How Will Feeding Earthworms Different Diets Affect Their Growth by Annabelle Rosette

This student put earthworms in cups with different food types: fruits, vegetables, coffee grounds, or leaves. She carefully measured the weight of the worms over time, and she had very reasonable interpretations for the changes she observed. The worms that gained the most weight were those that ate fruits or vegetables.

Picky Picky Birds by Zoe Bent

This project asked a question that many birders have wondered: what kind of seed do birds prefer to eat? To answer this, the student tried putting out various types of bird seed in her backyard feeders. She found that mixed seed types were eaten more quickly than single types.


Elementary Division

Wildlife Patterns on the Pajarito Plateau by Aditya Viswanathan

This student had photographs of wildlife sightings collected by a camera at a pond, and used this information to look for seasonal and other patterns in the visitation of animals to the site.

Dissection and Structure of a Bold-Faced Hornet’s Nest by Matthea Fung

This student made a careful examination of a hornet nest. The information presented included a very carefully-drawn detailed schematic of the interior of the nest, as well as photos and observations. 

I Got Worms by Hyla McKown

This project examined the effect of various food and soil types on earthworms.


Judges for Next Year

Students appreciate being visited by several judges. They have their interests taken seriously and discussed with interested adults. Adults also can obtain a sense of what is occurring with science and math education in the Los Alamos schools. Please watch for calls for judges next fall.

PEEC’s 2018 Science Fair Award Recipients

By Terry Beery, Bob Dryja, and Jennifer Macke

The 2018 Los Alamos County science fair was held on January 20th. Each year, PEEC provides small cash awards to students at the fair. In judging for these prizes, we look for projects about the natural world, particularly ones that take inspiration from nature, make use of local materials from nature, are conducted outdoors, or aim to improve the environment. There are usually several projects with these characteristics, and we choose a few of the best for prizes.

We enjoyed talking to the students, who are often enthusiastic and have new perspectives on the natural world as a result of their research. Students, in turn, appreciate talking with adults who take an interest in their work. Judging is a positive experience for all involved, and we encourage local citizens to volunteer as science fair judges.

Here are this year’s PEEC award winners:

Senior Division

“Hydroponic Agriculture: Commercial vs Individual Growth in New Mexico” by Gabriel Holesinger, Uriah Sanchez, and Xavier McTeigue

These high school scientists were interested in agricultural water usage, specifically in the Santa Fe area. They built indoor growing structures where they compared plant growth, along with water and electrical usage, in soil versus hydroponic systems. They found that hydroponic farming used far less water and had fewer problems with insect pests. They hope that their work will be encourage more hydroponic farming in the area.

science fair projectJunior Division

“What Seeds do Birds Prefer” by Cohen McKown

This project asked a question that many birders have wondered: how can I attract the greatest diversity of birds to my feeder? To answer this, the student-scientist took motion-activated photos of birds at a backyard feeder, and tested two variables: food type and feeder location. The results showed the greatest diversity of birds came to eat black sunflower seed, and a location near trees attracted more diversity than a feeder in an open location.

“Plant Leaf Chromotography” by Marissa Meierdierks

We liked this project because the student-scientist used various types of leaves from her own back yard, and did several experiments to try to separate the leaf pigments from both green and autumn leaves.

“Cosmic Rays in New Mexico” by Ellie Merrill

This student-scientist built her own cosmic ray detector, and counted the occurrence of cosmic rays in Los Alamos, and in Roswell, at a lower elevation. We were impressed with the effectiveness of the apparatus itself, and with the quality of the experiment, which was done with multiple trials and counts done by multiple people.

Elementary Division

“New Mexico’s ‘Irontastic’ Soil” by Malaya Haynes

We liked this project for its use of several types of local rocks. The scientific method was used in taking measurements over time following cycles of freeze-thaw. The conclusions were relevant to geological weathering.

“What is Living in Your Water” by Wesley Lementino

This project looked at the presence of bacteria and other particles in water from Ashley Pond, the Jemez River, and Los Alamos tap water. We liked this project for its use of local outdoor resources. Happily, no bacteria were found in Los Alamos tap water.

“Mitchell Trail Discoveries” by Freddy Bnoyles

We liked this project because it took place outdoors on a local trail. The student seemed to have learned a lot about local volcanic rocks!

Judges for Next Year

Students appreciate being visited by several judges. They have their interests taken seriously and discussed with interested adults.  Adults also can obtain a sense of what is occurring with science and math education in the Los Alamos schools. Please contact David Coblentz if interested in helping next year. He is the lead organizer of the science fair, and you can contact him at dkcoblentz@yahoo.com or (505) 695-4839. 

PEEC’s 2017 Science Fair Award Recipients

By Jennifer Macke and Bob Dryja

Each year, PEEC provides small cash awards to students at the Los Alamos County science fair. In judging, we look for projects that incorporate PEEC-related topics: inspiration from nature, use of natural materials, tie-in with the local outdoors, and betterment of the environment. There is usually a good selection of projects on these topics, and we choose a few of the best for prizes.

We enjoy talking to students, who are often enthusiastic and have new perspectives on the natural world as a result of their research. Students in turn appreciate talking with adults who take an interest in their work. Judging is a positive experience for both the adult and student, and we encourage other local citizens to volunteer as judges. 

This year the county science fair was held on February 4th, and here are this year’s PEEC award winners:

Senior Division

“America’s Farming Future: The Impact of Climate Change on Crop Yields” by Lillian Petersen, 9th grade, Los Alamos High School.

This investigation asked the question: how will various future climate scenarios affect future crop yields of corn, soybeans, and rice? An extensive computational model was developed to make projections to the year 2100 under differing sets of assumptions, including both high and low estimates of future greenhouse gasses, and high and low estimates of future agricultural technological improvements. Agricultural and climate data were obtained from several publicly-available sources, including the USDA and NOAA websites. The conclusions show that corn is most susceptible to climate change, and rice the least susceptible. Crop yields will decrease, particularly for corn under high estimates of greenhouse gasses.

 

 

 

Junior Division

“Lichens Revisited: The Chlorophyll Connection” by Amaya Coblentz, 9th grade, Los Alamos High School.

This project asked the question: how sensitive is the photosynthesis activity of lichen to its water content during desiccation? The answer is that, once the desiccation process reaches a certain point, photosynthesis crashes abruptly. We liked this project for its clear, high-quality investigation using natural materials.

“Water is the New Oil” by Lenny Svyatsky, 6th grade, Barranca Elementary.

This project took its inspiration from the realization that fresh water is becoming scarce in some parts of the world. The student wanted to explore the variables involved in the desalination process, comparing the desalination of water with varying levels of salt. We were particularly impressed with the student’s command of the issues surrounding groundwater depletion, and the physiology of salts in the body. In the future, the student would like to expand his project by examining desalination of naturally-occurring water that we have in New Mexico, and we’d enjoy seeing a project like that in the future.

“Ecosystem in a Bottle” by Erin Gattis, 6th grade, Chamisa Elementary.

This project involved growing small plants and animals in mini-ecosystems built from 2-liter soda bottles. The scientific method was used to compare the results from several different types of soil. The student impressed us with her enthusiasm for ecosystems.

Elementary Division

“Frozen Rocks” by Bethany Rieke, 5th grade, Pinon Elementary.

We liked this project for its use of several types of local rocks. The scientific method was used in taking measurements over time following cycles of freeze-thaw. The conclusions were relevant to geological weathering.

“Growin’ Like a Plant” by Dylan Marciano, 5th grade, Pinon Elementary.

We liked this project for having a measurable outcome and its use of several different seeds for each set of conditions. The student compared the effects of several types of liquids on plant growth. The conclusions are relevant to gardening and to understanding plants.

“How Does Dirt Affect Plant Growth?” by Tanner Noakes, 5th grade, Chamisa Elementary.

We liked this project for having a measurable outcome and its use of several different seeds for each set of conditions. The student compared the effects of several types of soil, including soil that contained added fertilizer. The conclusions of this experiment also are relevant to gardening and to understanding plants.