Ontario highschooler wins Stockholm Junior Water Prize for algae-fighting experiments

HRH Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden presents Annabelle Rayson, 16, of Sarnia, Ontario, with the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for her research on algal blooms. Photo credit: The Stockholm International Water Institute

When her father, a commercial fisherman, was finding it more and more difficult to ply his trade due to harmful algal blooms, 16-year-old Annabelle Rayson decided it was time to fight blooms in the Great Lakes.

Now, the Sarnia, Ontario, highschooler is the proud recipient of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for her research, which examined biomanipulation and the species of zooplankton best suited to prevent algal blooms.

The international competition celebrates young researchers between the ages of 15 and 20 who present solutions to major water challenges.

“It’s an absolute honour to be here with so many other brilliant young people, representing all the small-town little girls out there, dreaming of their own microscope and lab coat. Hey girls, we can still make it,” Rayson said at the recent presentation in Stockholm, which has been held annually since 1997.

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The thrust of Rayson’s project was aimed at comparing different genotypes of Daphnia magna, a small planktonic crustacean, for algae consumption. There were five experiments in all. She said that the most effective genotype was then tested under different environmental conditions to see which factors helped or hindered harmful algae bloom treatment and prevention.

Rayson ultimately discovered that genotype 4 was the ideal genotype of  Daphnia magna for treating blooms.

“It can produce significant algae decreases in all of the different algae combinations,” Rayson wrote in her research paper, noting that it can even be effective in plastic-polluted environments.

Ecological health can be improved through calcium carbonate and naturally occurring aquatic microbes, she found. “Clones exposed to nutrient pollution had equal average algae decreases to the controls, which were significant average algae decreases of 94%,” she wrote.

Rayson’s algal bloom research can be viewed in full here.

Last year’s winner was Eshani Jha, a student at Lynbrook High School in San José, California. She won for her research on removing contaminants from freshwater, primarily by replacing active carbon with biochar for use in efficient and cheap water filters.

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