Escambia Students Passionate About Waterways, Marine Science
– November 3, 2014
Washington High senior Allie Fuller’s passion, among many others in marine science, is horseshoe crabs.
(From Pensacola News Journal / by Jamie Secola) — West Florida High junior Jennifer Sublett’s focus has been investigating the long-term effects of the BP oil spill, while Jake Quillinan, also a senior at Washington, loves getting his hands dirty collecting samples in the field.
All three students are a part of the Escambia Marine Science Education program and are working toward finding solutions to the area’s water-quality and marine life problems.
On Saturday, the students were taking one more step toward that goal while raising money for the EMSE’s Bringing Back the Bayous project, which involves students from Washington, West Florida, Escambia and Pensacola High schools. About $4,000 was raised for equipment to investigate Bayou Chico, Bayou Texar, Bayou Grande and Perdido Bay.
For Quillinan, getting involved in EMSE was a no-brainer. He’s had a love of the water and science since a young age.
“When I was little, I was the only one in my family who got in trouble for reading because I was doing it when I was supposed to be doing other things,” Quillinan said. “So, I’ve always loved learning, and I’ve always loved sharks and the water. Being in the water just feels comforting and relaxing to me.”
Quillinan and Fuller are both enrolled in Washington’s four-year Marine Science Academy. Fuller’s interest in the field was peaked after her first visit to Sea World as a girl.
“I saw the trainers at Sea World, and I said, ‘Mom, I want to do that,’ ” Fuller said. “I thought, I have to do something that has to do with marine science. I have to save these creatures and work with these creatures, and it’s so intriguing.”
From there, Fuller began studying horseshoe crabs as a middle-schooler, and in her junior year, tried to condition the crustaceans to follow light.
“We found that horseshoe crabs are able to be classically conditioned to go to light, which I thought was really cool,” Fuller said. “(Horseshoe crabs) don’t look like intelligent creatures, but they are very important to us.”
The point of the study was to make horseshoe crabs more personable to the pharmaceutical industry, which uses horseshoe crab blood to test the safety of medicines, Fuller said.
“They’re taken from the beaches, drained of their blood, and left to die,” she said. “That really breaks my heart because they’re not getting the treatment they deserve.”
Washington High students like Quillinan and Fuller also have investigated the water quality of Bayou Texar for the past year and a half. They’ve found that run-off has increased the nutrient levels near Hyde Park and Carpenter’s Creek. Students also have researched potential solutions to the issue, which they will present to professional scientists next month.
“We have some great kids in the academy,” said Edward Bauer, one of the Marine Science Academy instructors at Washington. “It’s an honors academy, so we get some intelligent, enthusiastic kids who want to be here and do what we’re doing.”
Sublett was another enthusiastic student on hand Saturday, informing passersby about the effects of the BP oil spill, which still are being discovered. Last spring, she and other students, working with Gulf Oil Observers and other organizations, collected 40 tar patties in the Gulf of Mexico and sent them to a lab where they were tested against samples taken from the BP oil well.
“Of those samples that we sent off, 26 were an exact match to the BP oil spill,” Sublett said. “That’s really significant we think because we’re trying to figure out what areas have been affected and how it’s moving throughout the Gulf.”
“I’ve got a bigger picture of how things affect everything, and it’s going to be a really difficult job to clean this up,” Sublett added. “It’s not just boats producing oil. The oil from the spill is still there.”
Sublett’s passion about water quality is something Bauer hopes EMSE students will spread throughout the community, even after they graduate.
“We’re all trying to get people excited about looking at our waterways, coming up with ideas of how to clean them up and share that with the community,” Bauer said. “That’s what we’re raising money for today… So we can spread the word and get other people involved.”
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