AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY HAS ANNOUNCED 2009 YOUNG NATURALIST AWARDS WINNERS
TWELVE STUDENTS FROM ACROSS THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA INCLUDE THREE REPEAT WINNERS FROM TEXAS, MARYLAND, AND NEW YORK
NEW YORK, May 2009 – The American Museum of Natural History announced the 12 winners of the 12th Annual Young Naturalist Awards, a nationwide, science-based research contest for students in grades 7 through 12, presented by the American Museum of Natural History and supported by Alcoa Foundation.
The program challenges youngsters to embark on their own scientific investigations and then to document their research, observations, and analyses of the natural world. Investigations undertaken by this year's winners ranged from exploring the feeding preferences of birds in the Red Oak Nature Center in Aurora, Illinois, to studying the effects of controlled prairie fires on invasive plants in southern Michigan, to studying the microbes living in coral mucus collected from Leleiwi Beach in Hilo, Hawaii. The 12 students, who demonstrated accuracy in observation and thoroughness in research as well as creativity in writing and drawing, traveled to the Museum from their hometowns in eleven different states and Ontario, Canada on Friday, May 29, 2009, to accept cash awards ranging from $500 to $2,500, meet Museum scientists, take a behind-the-scenes tour, and be recognized at an award ceremony.
"The Young Naturalist Awards is a superb example of students engaging creatively and enthusiastically with the scientific process," said Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History. "We are proud to help foster a love of science and nature in all the participants and especially the terrific winners, whom we congratulate for their exceptional and inspiring work."
The Young Naturalist Awards is a program of the National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology (NCSLET), part of the Museum's Department of Education. Founded in 1997, the National Center is dedicated to capturing the Museum's unparalleled resources—collections, scientific research, and exhibitions—and making them available to the broadest possible audience across the nation and throughout the world. The Young Naturalist Awards program was developed by the Museum to promote young people's active participation in the sciences and to recognize excellence in biology, ecology, Earth science, and astronomy.
"We are pleased support the American Museum of Natural History Young Naturalist Awards program - combining education, conservation, and sustainability — key areas of focus for Alcoa and Alcoa Foundation," said Meg McDonald, President of Alcoa Foundation. "We congratulate these young award winners and are proud to encourage the scientists and environment professionals of tomorrow."
Judges from the Museum's scientific, educational, and editorial staff used the following criteria to evaluate the essays: originality; demonstration of the ability to conduct research, thoughtfulness in analyzing and interpreting findings; and creativity and clarity in written and visual presentation. In addition to a cash prize, the winning entries are published on the Museum's Web site, and excerpts are featured in Natural History magazine. (The public can visit the Young Naturalist Awards Web site at www.amnh.org/yna to view winning essays and learn more about the program. Inquiries may also be made via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
"The winners of the Young Naturalist Awards demonstrate a true passion for science research and communication," said Rosamond Kinzler, Director of NCSLET. "Whether these young people investigated the levels of trichloroethylene contamination on a local softball field or studied the impact of Bay grasses on water quality in the Chesapeake, their essays reveal the same dedication to and excitement for the practice of science that our Museum scientists have. The Museum is committed to inspiring and supporting young people – like this year's winners – in their quest to learn more about the world around them."
The awards ceremony featured remarks by Dr. Kinzler; Ms. McDonald; and Melanie L. J. Stiassny, Axelrod Research Curator in the Museum's Division of Vertebrate Zoology. Dr. Stiassny spoke to the 12 young winners on the parallels between their fieldwork and the original research conducted at the Museum.
Following are the 12 winners and excerpts from their winning projects:
"I went on a class field trip to Fernwood Botanic garden in southwest Michigan when I was in sixth grade. When we toured the restored prairies, the naturalist told us about invasive, non-native plants such as garlic mustard and how they destroy native habitats."
"When the weather is dry, dust fills the air and covers the soles of our shoes; when it is wet water soaks our socks and tickles out feet causing many laughs and a few complaints. For me, those laughs turned to concern when I read an article in the Orlando Sentinel that said the softball field I marched on was being considered for Superfund designation by the Environmental Protection Agency because of a chemical called trichloroethylene!"
"I felt whatever project I chose needed to be useful. To study and not pass that knowledge on is no better than not studying at all...(The) data on which seeds and feeder birds preferred would be useful in helping the center determine what to use as they are on a limited budget and want to make the best use of seed."
"One night when I was about three years old. I found a luna moth at our front porch light. I was absolutely fascinated by its delicate beauty! Since then I have been intrigued by the mystery of light attraction in night-flying insects."
"Our perception of color allows enables us to see the fire red of autumn leaves and the deep purple of violets on a rich, green back. It is hard to imagine some species may not share this ability while others may see a wider spectrum of color than us...perceive a world of color with richer detail than we do."
"Waking up at six in the morning, I grab my gear...I walk through the damp, knee-high grass to the edge of a small, pristine stream, no more than 4 feet wide. I see flashes of silver and red as I look down the length of the stream. These are the brown trout that came to sample. I am here. The work begins."
"Watching the sun rise over Baltimore's skyline, it is difficult for me to realize that this bustling metropolis lies on a tributary of the second largest estuary in the world. Waterfowl and litter float together in the shadow of the factories below giant exhaust towers sending skyward. The interruption of the modern world into one of the most beautiful natural settings I know is difficult to grasp, and I worry anew about the difficulties facing this unique and ancient bay."
"The farmers are struggling; money is lost; the livestock are suffering; and the landscape reflects the all too familiar brown grass and cracked earth...If only there were a way to capture that much needed moisture and lock it away to be used when the rains cease and the soil begins to dry out."
"With this study, our understanding of the way that coral animals are dealing with the onslaught of disease and other stressors will strengthen and provide a means for more effective coral conservation."
"All over the world people are at risk from mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue, yellow fever, West Nile virus and many other encephalitis causing agents...My hope is that one day these plants may serve as a source for managing the control of mosquitoes."
"I never realized how much one could learn from simple movements that most do not notice...I hypothesized that western lowland gorillas display a variety of facial expression that change with the onset of gesture."
"Living in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, I have witnessed our forests be exploited by commercial use for many years and feared the destruction of the natural habitat. I simply could not imagine our country, or continent, without the vast expanses of primeval forests, home to thousands of organisms, water purification systems and recreational areas for humans, leading to a study on long-term effects of herbicides."
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