High school students Ella Alfaro and Lizzie Hardiman have been working on real-life research at Auckland University of Technology to solve the problem of how climate change is affecting aquaculture. The girls who are Year 11 at St. Cuthbert's College, Auckland had been helping maintain experimental tanks for the Aquaculture Biotechnology Research Group, led by Professor Andrea Alfaro.
The group has been conducting research on how environmental stressors such as rising ocean temperatures and increasing pathogen (an organism that causes disease to its host) loads due to climate change affect the farmed mussels which make up New Zealand's mussel industry.
Ella and Lizzie enjoyed maintaining the tanks so much they asked if they could do more, so the research team designed a short project that they could conduct to test the effect of a bacterial challenge on mussels. With guidance they carried out every aspect of the experiment.
Lizzie says her favourite part was growing bacteria cultures. “It was so interesting because with every row, a separate culture would grow and there was so much cool equipment I’d never seen before. I’ve never had such an intimate role in an experiment before, especially one that could be used to help the mussels of New Zealand.”
They had so much fun they're hoping to get back to AUT at some stage to participate in data analysis and write up their results.
Professor Alfaro says, the group hopes to publish the findings in a scientific journal and the students are keen to present their work at the New Zealand Marine Sciences conference next year.