Saturday, September 19, 2015

Science Fair Rock Star - Isabella O’Brien

This is the seventh in an eight part series highlighting some of the amazing young women participating in this year's Google Science Fair. (Here are the first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth posts.) Each has survived the rigorous regional rounds, and are awaiting the results of the final testing to see who will win this year's prizes. The results will be announced on September 21, 2015, and you can be sure I'll be watching!

As always, I am impressed with all the participants and their projects, but the nature of this blog is to highlight the stories of kickass women and girls, so I'm focusing on them for this series. Over the next week I will be sharing stories of many of these remarkable young women. Stay tuned!

Isabella O’Brien is one of the fantastic new breed of scientists who are working to use science to improve the environment for everyone. Isabella was on a diving trip in Mexico when she saw first hand the devastation climate change is having on sea life, and especially on coral reefs. She was inspired to learn more about ocean acidification -- the process where the ocean absorbs more carbon dioxide which lowers the pH balance, making it more acidic, which in turn weakens the shells of coral and other organisms.

She wondered if these waste shells, which are mostly calcium carbonate, were pulverized and added back into the water, would they create an alkaline buffer, effectively balancing out the pH and reducing further damage to these organisms? She was right: it did.

Fortunately, waste shells are somewhat easy to find as a byproduct of the seafood industry. Some are used in agriculture, but most waste shells are disposed of without being used. By grinding them up and returning them to the ocean somehow, we could dramatically reduce and perhaps even reverse ocean acidification.

This brilliant young woman seems to have already mastered the important advice she now offers to others: "My advice to other young scientists would be to be curious, ask questions and work on any subject you find interesting. Sometimes it will be difficult, and sometimes things go wrong and you may have to start again, but do not give up. Have fun and help change the world!" Hear hear!

For more reading, please check out the Google for Education blog post about Isabella O’Brien.


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