Middle School students from The Volcano School of Arts & Sciences participated again this year in the Hawaiʻi District Science & Engineering Fair under the guidance and mentorship of Middle School Science teacher, David Wells. This year, Jada Cathcart and Gabriella Tuson advanced to the State science fair to represent our school and Hawaii Island!
Jada’s project investigated the effect of helicopter noise on the soundscape, particularly of native birds. Jada became interested in birds in 2019 when she participated in Three Mountain Alliance Watershed Partnership’s ʻImi Pono No Ka ʻĀina program. Through kilo manu (bird observation), she became interested in everything about birds. Jada even attended a NexTech STEM Exploration bird day camp where she learned about telemetry and how to read a spectrogram.
Jada realized that the COVID-19 restrictions on tourism provided a unique opportunity to study the forest soundscape with decreased anthropogenic sounds (sound created by humans), particularly of helicopters. Utilizing SM4 acoustic sensors and with mentorship by Sarah Knox of Akaka Foundation for Tropical Forests and Grace Tredinnick of USDA Forest Service, Jada was able to gather and analyze acoustic data from inside the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park (HVNP). Jada’s study was made possible through the school’s Hui Kiaʻi Wai O Kaʻū (Water Guardians of Kaʻū) project funded by USDA Forest Service (FS) Conservation Award, NOAA Ocean Guardian School grant, and US Department of Education Title I, Part A program.
Jada compared her data with that of Karen Gallardo Cruz, who analyzed anthropogenic noise on bird soundscape in 2017-18 when tourism numbers were at their peak. Jada’s findings were not what she expected. Her findings indicated that the diversity of the soundscape has decreased suggesting that “birds have adapted to vocalize before and after helicopter noise rather than during.” “The most exciting part of the project was going into HVNP to deploy the recorder,” Jada said. Jada also took 2nd in the Animal Sciences category and would like to acknowledge Sarah Knox, Grace Tredinnick, Karen Gallardo Cruz, David Wells, Hal Tredinnick, Crystal Cathcart, Sheena Cathcart and her 6 younger siblings who created some anthropogenic noise of their own!
Gabriella Tuson’s project was on discharge and deposition at Honoliʻi beach. Gabriella took samples from four locations at Honoliʻi to look at turbidity (cloudiness from floating particles) and salinity (saltiness) in the water. Gabriella’s hypothesis was that if the discharge is higher—such as at the river mouth—then the turbidity would be higher. Gabriella findings were that the highest turbidity was fartherest down coast from the river, which was not what she expected. Gabriella said that the project was interesting and fun to do. Collecting the samples took a while. She had to collect twice a day and get up early in the morning. She said that getting the results into a graph that was understandable was also a challenge. Gabriella was also mentored by Anne Farahi of National Park Service. Gabriella also won 2nd place in the Earth and Environmental category and received the "Association of Women Geosciences" prize.
Other awards included: Kalea Smith who took third place in the Plant Science division with mentorship from Russell Galanti, Horticulturalist, UH Hilo, and Edward Wirtz who took first place in the Sustainable materials and design category.
Science teacher and mentor, David Wells said, “I'm super proud of the independence students showed this year.”
All of these students showed enormous initiative and dedication to develop, design and execute their projects. We applaud their hard work and successful results and appreciate the support of MS Science teacher David Wells and the mentors.