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Sixth-Grader Shows Up Ecologists With Lionfish Project

Sixth-grader Lauren Arrington’s science fair project on lionfish showed that they can live in nearly fresh water, which surprised ecologists.

Arrington’s results show that if lionfish migrate upstream in rivers, they could damage ecosystems because the lionfish don’t have any predators.

“Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed [the lionfish] were in the ocean,” Arrington said, according to NPR. “So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’”

Arrington conducted her project by placing six lionfish in six tanks with one as the control fish and the rest as experimental. The science fair organizers gave her one rule: the fish couldn’t die.

All of the fish survived the experiment. Lionfish have been known to live in water with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand, so Arrington gradually lowered the salinity in the tanks. By the eighth day, the fish were still alive with salt levels at six parts per thousand.

Ecology professor at North Carolina State University Craig Layman continued Arrington’s research and credited her results with his findings in science journal “Environmental Biology of Fishes.”

“He credited a sixth-grader for coming up with his idea,” Arrington said.