Two Juniors Receive Research Grant from The Marjot Foundation

Dustin Ross and Zach Halem, both Class of 2014, have been awarded a $5000 grant by The Marjot Foundation, an independent organization in Falmouth, MA, that provides funding for high school research. The funds will be used to support their research project on “Potential Manifestation of Environmental Stress on the Genetics and Hormonal Expression of Guekensia demissa (Atlantic Ribbed Mussel)”.

                          Dustin Ross and Zach Halem in the lab

                          Dustin Ross and Zach Halem in the lab

For the past six years, Riverdale’s Summer Science Research Program (SSRP) has conducted a bio-monitoring study of the environmentally impacted Bronx River Estuary through analysis of indicative stress responding genes. Over the course of the study, Riverdale students have consistently documented low aquatic oxygen levels as well as significant physical changes in the morphological structures of estuarine molluscs from the Bronx River. Dustin and Zach decided to expand the Riverdale research program to include a close examination of the potential impact of environmentally induced hypoxia on sexual maturation in this molluscan population from the Bronx River. To do this they will measure steroid hormone levels from Bronx River molluscs and compare these values to organisms taken from a less impacted site. In order to carry out this study, Ross and Halem must first answer a fundamental question regarding species diversity. Using molecular approaches, they will compare mitochondrial DNA sequences in order to confirm species identities of organisms taken from the two sites.

“We are pleased to support Dustin Ross and Zach Halem in this research,” said Dr. Carol Reinisch, President of The Marjot Foundation. The Foundation supports students in grades 9-12 who are conducting environmentally related research—along with a mentor—over a one-year period. Students who receive grants are required to participate in a science fair at the conclusion of their research.

Dustin and Zach will be conducting their field research this summer, during the course of Riverdale’s annual Summer Science Research Program. Their mentor is Dr. Rachel Cox, who runs the Summer Science Research Program.

Caitlin Feehery