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2011 Winning Essays

Twelve winning essays from the 2011 contest year of the Young Naturalist Awards by students from grade 7 - 12. Winning essays ranged from an investigation the effects of acidification in the Chesapeake Bay on grass shrimp, to the feeding preferences of painted lady butterflies, to a study of the effects of open ocean plastic pollution on a marine insect.

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The Secret of the Fibonacci Sequence in Trees

People see winter as a cold and gloomy time in nature. The days are short. Snow blankets the ground. Lakes and ponds freeze, and animals scurry to burrows to wait for spring. The rainbow of red, yellow and orange autumn leaves has been blown away by the wind turning trees into black skeletons that stretch bony fingers of branches into the sky. It seems like nature has disappeared.

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Butterfly Buffet: The Feeding Preferences of Painted Ladies

Can you imagine a world without butterflies? Although butterflies are insects, most people think they are beautiful, peaceful creatures and enjoy them as part of nature. They are also helpful as pollinators for plants and trees. But currently, seventeen species of butterflies are endangered, two are threatened and three are extinct.

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Are Dogs' Tongues Really Cleaner Than Humans'?

"Abby! Don't let the dog lick you! Her tongue is full of bacteria!" Ever since we got a dog a few years ago, my mom has always been saying that. I love when my dog runs to greet me when I get home from school and says "hello" by giving me licks. What I hated, though, was feeling guilty and disgusted about having her doggy bacteria all over my face. So I decided to do a test to see how dirty dogs' tongues really are.

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Plant Extracts as Natural Insecticides

Every year my family and I wage a constant war for homegrown fruits and vegetables. We weed-whack, fence, and cover our plants to keep them from rabbits and deer. However, the killers we cannot evade are insects. Which begs the question: Do we want organic produce or plentiful produce? This question inspired my science project theme: Can insecticides be created out of natural substances?

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The Effects of pH, Salinity, and Water Temperature on Palaemonetes pugio

The objective of this research was to determine the effects of acidification, a change in water pH, on the grass shrimp Palaemonetes pugio. The null hypothesis is that when water temperature, salinity and pH change, the heart rate of the grass shrimp in beats per minute will not change. The dependent variable was heart rate as a measure of metabolic oxygen consumption. The independent variables were salinity, water temperature, pH and the length of each P. pugio.

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Tiny Allies

Countless shades of green carpet the ground below a sapphire sky stretching to the horizon. Cows graze peacefully nearby. I take a breath of the fresh air wafting through the pasture. With the crisp scent of grass comes the unmistakable odor of manure. The source of this smell is why I am here. Ignoring the stench, I scoop dung into a bucket and continue my quest for the creatures that call this dung home.

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Hamadryas Baboons, Papio hamadryas: Captive vs. Wild

As I headed to the exhibit where the hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas) resided, I knew something interesting would happen over the next few hours. As I walked into the exhibit, I found two mothers pulling their infants' tails to keep them from straying. This particular act reminded me of how some parents put leashes on their children so they won't wander too far. This example demonstrated how similar the behavior of hamadryas baboons and humans can be.

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Memory Retention in Landscape Learning of Honeybees, Apis mellifera

Honeybees (Apis mellifera) play a vital role in U.S. agriculture as pollinators of several crops, including carrots, almonds and apples. Pollination is the result of honeybees' ability to remember foraging sites. This study investigated honeybee memory endurance using the relay landscape learning method. Honeybees (n=1,000, Day 0) were released 0.8 kilometers from the experimental hive in opposite directions, 500 for the relay and 500 for the control. On Days 1, 3, 6 and 9, 40 relay and 40 control honeybees were recaptured, repainted, and re-released 1.8 kilometers from the hive.

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Evaluation of Fecal Contamination in Strawberry River

As a young child I spent many hours enjoying the cool refreshing water of Strawberry River. My favorite swimming hole was below an old abandoned bridge. A rope was tied to a tall oak tree, and I would use it to swing over the deepest spot and plunge into the river. Fish abounded in the waters, and everyone in the community picnicked in the shade by the sandy beach. It was the perfect spot to while away the summer. That is, until the Western Lawrence County Waste Water Treatment Facility (WLCWWTF) was constructed half a mile upstream.

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