Teen's Groundbreaking Lionfish Research

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 by Caroline Cassals

Brilliant scientific research can be done by anyone, anywhere, and 13 year old Lauren Arrington’s science fair project has proved that beyond a doubt. Lionfish (Pterois spp.) are invasive species of poisonous fish that are impacting reefs from North Carolina to Florida. When Lauren entered a local science fair, she knew she wanted to study the invasive fish, so she chose to ask a question that no one had thought of before: how much salinity do lionfish need to survive?

As it turns out, not very much. Lauren was surprised to find how little salinity they needed, less than six parts per thousand (6ppt) where normal sea water is around 35ppt. She actually had to stop lowering the salinity due to science fair rules about animal welfare. Her research had broad reaching implications because it means that lionfish could impact estuarine systems in addition to ocean reefs. The scientific community found out about her project, and within a year scientists at North Carolina State University published a follow up study which confirmed Lauren’s findings, showing that lionfish can even survive bursts of freshwater!

All we can say is, way to go Lauren! Read more about this amazing scientist here.

Can you think of an invasive species in Maine? Want to help scientists monitor those species? Check out the Vital Signs field missions!

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