21 Oct Of mice and mussels

Last week four Nayland College students won special criteria awards at the Nelson Tasman Cawthron Science and Technology Fair Awards Event.  Year 13 student Helena George (pictured above left) won the NMIT Aquaculture Award for best investigation focused on aquaculture ($250).  Fellow year 13 student Zoe Risner won The Port Nelson Ltd Award for best marine-related project to the tune of $150.  Helena and Zoe both studied mussel spat (baby mussels) during the level 3 biology workshops at the Cawthron Aquaculture Centre earlier in the year.

Zoe decided to make the effect of pharmaceuticals, specifically the painkiller ibuprofen, the focus of her project titled ‘Sore Mussels’.  She was inspired by studies documenting the effect of oestrogen, from women taking the pill, making its way into marine environments via the sewerage system.   Many shellfish were found subsequently displaying as females.  The effect of ibuprofen in marine environments is as yet unknown.  Zoe is planning to study biochemistry at Victoria University next year.

Helena is also following a science path in her tertiary studies where she will study Health Sciences at Otago University. Her project was called ‘Salty Strings’.  She looked at how changing salinity levels in ocean water affects the strength of mussels’ strings or beards.  She found with decreasing salinity the strings become weaker.  “I was happy to receive the award” Helena said.  “It’s relevant to the marine industry we have here and is based on the effects of global warming.”

Nayland’s junior school was also represented in the accolades.  Year 10 students Mia Faulkner and Olivia Williams won the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Prize for Best Conservation Study.  The prize comprised a historic shield, a one year membership and a $50 book voucher.

Mia and Olivia used ink tracking cards to investigate how the population of mice on Oyster Island has changed over the last year.  The results of their research showed that as food sources for the mice changed, along with their predators, they moved to different parts of the island.  It was “cool” to receive the award Mia said.


Mia (left) and Olivia with the historic shield.

Mia (left) and Olivia with the historic shield.