Sarnia high school student Annabelle Rayson has never left North America.
That will all change in September when she heads to the Netherlands to represent Canada at an international youth science contest.
The 16-year-old won multiple awards at the 2022 Canada-Wide Science Fair last week, including the best project award in discovery. Her science fair project explores how to better protect freshwater ecosystems against harmful algae blooms in a sustainable way using zooplankton.
“Since freshwater is very important, as well as these ecosystems are important, we need to do everything we can to ensure that we are protecting our freshwater environments such as the Great Lakes,” she said.
Algae blooms are harmful both environmentally and economically, and can have an impact on tourism and fishing industries, she said. They release toxins that are deadly to humans and other animals, and can lead to unsafe swimming and fishing conditions.
“We can’t swim in them. We can’t fish in them. We can’t use them for tourism purposes. We can’t use them to drink. And of course, it’s damaging to biodiversity,” she said.
The Grade 11 student at St. Patrick’s Catholic High School spent two years researching for her project, Plankton Wars: An Innovative Analysis of Daphnia Genotype Biomanipulation for Algae Bloom Prevention.
“To see all of my hard work and effort pay off is amazing,” she said. Rayson has been participating in science fairs since grade 4. This was her third time competing at a national level.
Rayson’s interest in the topic was inspired by her mother’s work as a biology teacher and father’s work as a commercial fisherman.
“Fresh water is a vital yet finite resource and without water, we truly have nothing,” she said.
Rayson’s passion for science has built a community around her. “Through science fair, I’ve met the most amazing and incredible people. Many of my best friends I’ve met through science fair,” she said.
Her interests don’t stop there. Rayson is involved in her school’s curling team, concert band, social justice club, math club, and debate team. She also sits on the Ontario Youth Environment Council and the youth advisory board for MP Marilyn Gladu of Sarnia-Lampton.
This September, as she begins her term as student trustee on the St. Clair Catholic District school board, she’ll head to the European Union Contest for Young Scientists in the Netherlands.
“I like to adventure, so I’m very excited to have the opportunity to go and travel,” she said. “I’m overall just excited to meet as many new people as possible and for the learning opportunities that come as well.”
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