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Cloquet science students advance to national competition

Cloquet senior Christine Neumann (from left), freshman Claire Taubman and juniors Levi Peterson and Jacob Schmidt all received the Minnesota Stockholm Junior Waterprize’s research paper awards. They were the three research paper chosen for this award from the Central States Water Environment Association (CSWEA-MN). Contributed Photo1 / 4
Cloquet freshman Claire Taubman sets up the small Daphnia magna habitats with and without microparticles. 2 / 4
Crystal Moynan (left) and Christine Neumann prepare minnow traps in order to attract round goby, invasive fish species that are expanding throughout the St. Louis River Estuary, at the National Estuarine Research Reserve. 3 / 4
Levi Peterson (left) and Jacob Schmidt with their award winning project that treats sediment worms to mining. 4 / 4

Cloquet High School juniors Jacob Schmidt and Levi Peterson submitted their water-related research paper and were chosen the first-place winners for Minnesota in the 2016 State Stockholm Junior Waterprize (www.cswea.org). The duo are sponsored by the Central States Water Environment Association’s Minnesota Chapter (CSWEA-MN).

They will represent Minnesota at the National Stockholm Junior Waterprize June 17-19 in Charlotte, N.C., with a chance to present their work at the International Stockholm Junior Waterprize in Stockholm, Sweden, in August 2016.

Schmidt and Peterson’s award-winning paper is “A Nice Fracking Solution: The Effect of Fracking Water Salts vs. Road Salts on the Growth of Lumbriculus variegatus” and they were given protocol guidance from Dr. Dave Mount, Dr. Joel Hoffman and Michelle Gutsch, Duluth EPA scientists, as well as fracking salt samples from Dr. Tim Hagen, University of Minnesota-Duluth NRRI research project specialist.

The second best water research paper award for the state of Minnesota was presented to Christine Neumann and Crystal Moynan, Cloquet seniors, for their paper titled “The effect of time, benthic substrate, and location within the St. Louis River Estuary on the invasion of Neogobius Melanostomus in the watershed, and the use of underwater speakers emitting the conspecific male mating call as a possible removal method.” Neumann and Moynan were given special protocol assistance from Dr. Robert Lloyd, University of Minnesota psychology professor and lab space and guidance from Dr. Allen Mesinger, UMD biology professor and Dr. Brooke Vetter, UMD biology department scientist, as well as field guidance from Dr. Shon Schooler, National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) researcher.

Awarded with the third place Minnesota water research paper award was Claire Taubman, Cloquet freshman, for her research paper titled “What effect do microplastics have on the mode of eating, egg production and reproduction rates of Daphnia magna?” Taubman was also given protocol assistance from EPA scientists Hoffman, Mount and Gutsch.

Peterson, Schmidt, Neumann, Moynan and Taubman were all mentored by Cloquet science teacher Dr. Cynthia Welsh.

Peterson and Schmidt teamed up to do a project related to mining and fracking, but were unsure of what direction they wanted to go or what question to ask. With impeccable timing, Dr. Tim Hagen, NRRI scientist, had a jar of fracking salts he had collected from fracking flow-back water gathered from a well site in North Dakota. Around this sample Peterson and Schmidt designed the questions and experiments they would do for the next two years. The problem, they discovered, was that fracking flow-back water is costly to properly dispose of, so they decided to try and change that. They proposed the idea of using fracking salts alongside or instead of road salts. Peterson and Schmidt found there was increased sediment worm reproduction in the Lake Superior water diluted with fracking salts when compared to the control and normal road salt (sodium chloride) dilutions. It appears fracking leftovers thought to be solely a problematic waste may now be recycled to our benefit: as another possible road deicer. This year’s research advanced Peterson and Schmidt to the Minnesota Academy of Science State Fair where they received a bronze medal. They presented their research at the International Sustainable World Environmental Energy and Engineering Project (I-SWEEEP) Olympiad, and attended the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Phoenix, Ariz., in May.

The Stockholm Junior Water Prize is the most prestigious national award for a water-related science project at the high school level. The prize taps into the unlimited potential of today's youth as they seek to address current and future water challenges. The competition is open to projects aimed at enhancing the quality of life through improvement of water quality, water resource management, or water and wastewater treatment (www.wef.org/AboutWater/ForStudents/SJWP/).

Students are selected to submit their water research paper by the Northeast Minnesota Regional Science Fair held at UMD in February. The Cloquet Public School’s student participation in science fair events is funded by Cloquet Schools with extra financial support for their projects from the Cloquet Educational Foundation, funded in part by the Minnesota Power Foundation. With special assistance from Holly Pellerin, director of the gidaa NASA funded Science Camp and the University of Minnesota’s Geoscience Alliance’s Diversity Director Diana Dalbotten and Emi Ito as well as University of Minnesota education professor Dr. Mark Bellcourt. The Northeast Minnesota Regional Science Fair’s major sponsors are UMD Swenson College of Science and Engineering, the Minnesota Power Foundation, Essentia Health, Donnary Consulting, Gregorich Family Dental, and the American Chemical Society (Lake Superior Section).