POUGHKEEPSIE – Poughkeepsie High School senior Santana Wilson spent three weeks this summer studying the relationship between stream flow and the diversity of macroinvertebrates (animals large enough to be seen without a microscope) in those streams.
She was a member of this year’s Mid-Hudson Young Environmental Scientist program through the Cary Institute. It brings 12 high school students from across Dutchess County together with three scientists and undergraduate students to complete a project of their own design, Rebecca Van Tassell, educational program director at Cary Institute.
“The purpose is to give high school students the opportunity to engage in authentic science research,” Van Tassell said.
“I’ve been interested in environmental science – I love being outside and I always thought that if I’m going to have a career I want it to be something that is important to me and help with the betterment of something beyond myself,” Wilson said.
Wilson’s team had three other students (two from Arlington and one from Webutuck). They compared the diversity of macroinvertebrates collected from the Falkill and Wappinger creeks. They collected three different data sets at 16 sites along the creeks: species richness, total amount of dissolved solids and substrate temperature after the heavy rainfall in the area.“We thought that as the speed increased, the rate (of species) would go down, but it ended up being the exact opposite,” Wilson said, adding that she and her team questioned whether if they had more time or could do sampling during different seasons they would have gotten a more complete picture. “Their conclusion found a relationship between flow and biodiversity,” Van Tassell said.
Now that the program is over, Wilson is preparing for the start of her senior year. She plans to attend college and knows based on her experience that environmental science is a possibility. In fact, she is enrolled in an environmental science class at PHS. Wilson is also part of the swim team, National Honor Society and the NHS recycling program – in which she is a leader.
Since the program began six years ago, PHS has had four students participate.
“We would love to see more PHS students participate,” Van Tassell said.
Wilson encourages students to apply to the program. “You can’t go wrong,” she said, adding that the worst that will happen is discovering you don’t like it.