Young Naturalist Awards 2000

Natural History, July/August 2000 | Go to article overview

Young Naturalist Awards 2000


For the American Museum of Natural History's third annual Young Naturalist Awards, students in grades 7 through 12 were invited to do a research project, document an expedition, or create an exhibition related to the fields of biodiversity, earth science, or astronomy. This year's theme was "Looking Back, Looking Ahead," from 1900 to the present and onward into the future. The winning entries (selected from nearly a thousand) are summarized below. Full-length versions are available in a catalog published by the Museum's National Center for Science Literacy, Education, and Technology and also online at www.amnh.org/youngnaturalistawards.

The Big Chill: Calming Signals Among Wolves, by Claire Esker (Sacred Heart Schools, Chicago, IL; Grade 8)

The wolf has been Claire Esker's favorite animal since the age of nine. She documents a range of behaviors in a wolf pack in Peoria Wildlife Prairie Park, especially their calming signalsthe gestures they make to reduce aggression, fear, and stress within the pack. "As we enter the twenty-first century, I believe the use of calming signals among wolves will eventually become less pronounced;' Claire concludes. "As the wild wolf population decreases, more wolf refuges will be created. The aggressive tendencies of these wolves will decrease due to contact with humans and the fact that hunting will no longer be essential to their survival."

Agricultural Genetic Engineering, by Elaine Gould (Toll Gate High School, Warwick, RI; Grade 20)

Elaine Gould designed a four-room exhibition that would explain the role of DNA in genetic engineering, plant biotechnology, and the alteration of animal traits, and that would examine some of the risks and benefits of genetically engineered foods. Perhaps the most innovative of her installations is the Cell Theater, representing the inside of a cell and its complex processes. "The aim of this museum exhibit," Elaine explains, "would be to educate the public about the ever increasing advances in agricultural genetic engineering."

Fiddler on the Marsh, by Gaurav Gupta (Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, UA; Grade 9) "The cold, salty wind blows over the marsh, invisible, detected only through the swaying of the knee-high cordgrass and the faint ripples on the surface of the creek," writes Gaurav Gupta in a report of his class's expedition to study the fiddler crab. He observes the crabs clustered together in mudflat burrows and muses on the kinds of threats they face-from pesticides, parasites, and viruses to earthen dams, ditches, and rerouted water. "I suddenly know I am observing a dwindling and precious resource," he states. "It is important that we preserve this key decapod. If fiddler crabs were to die out, the marsh would die with them."

Mars-Past, Present, Future, by Andrew Walker (Briscoe Middle School, Beverly, AM; Grade 7)

"Maybe one day we will need to live there," speculates Andrew Walker, who summarizes what has become known about Mars since the Babylonians first observed the planet 2,400 years ago. Today we know about the geography, atmosphere, and climate of the red planet, but Andrew believes we will learn much more in the twenty-first century, particularly in the next thirty years. He describes some of the proposed missions to the planet and talks about the possibility of colonizing Mars. "One thing that might be done in the next century," Andrew says, "is terraforming." This, he explains, "is when scientists change the temperature and atmosphere of a planet to allow life to exist on it."

Operation: Human Genome Project, by Wambui Kamuiru (Divine Savior Holy Angels High School, Milwaukee, WI; Grade 11)

Wambui Kamuiru is one of several young naturalists fascinated by the recent advances in genetics. Wambui's design for an interactive exhibit on the Human Genome Project (HGP) encompasses three rooms, or "pods;' organized around a giant 3-D model of a chromosome. …

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