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Science!

Sixth grade student surprises scientists with her lionfish discovery

When Lauren Arrington decided to study the lionfish for her sixth grade science fair, the 12-year-old had no idea she would make a discovery that would surprise conservationists.

The Jupiter, Florida, youth had long been interested by the lionfish, an invasive species known for its spiky (and venomous) fin rays. Along with her father, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, Lauren worked on determining how far lionfish can make it in water that's not salty. Her dad believed they wouldn't be able to survive in salinity of less than 12 parts per 1,000, which is about a third as salty as ocean water. Lauren decided to go lower than that, and slowly went down to six parts per 1,000. The fish continued to do well, but Lauren stopped there, afraid she might kill her subjects if she dipped below that number.

Lauren's research shows conservationists that lionfish might be able to make their way into more waters than previously thought. North Carolina State University ecology professor Craig Layman used her findings and expanded upon them in a new study; he was sure to give Lauren credit for her discovery.