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Sarnia teen’s project honoured at EU Contest for Young Scientists

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Tara Jeffrey 

Annabelle Rayson almost didn’t believe it when her name was called.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” the Sarnia teen said about her third prize win at the European Union Contest for Young Scientists (EUCYS) this month.

“Canada is a guest country at the event,” she said of the five-day competition held in the Netherlands. “I was just happy to be there, but didn’t expect to place.”

Rayson, a Grade 12 student at St. Pat’s, was one of four, third-prize winners at the prestigious event featuring the world’s top young scientists aged 14 to 20, from 33 countries.

Her project — “Plankton Wars: An Innovative Analysis of Daphnia Genotype Biomanipulation for Algae Bloom Prevention” — was one of two Canadian entries, representing Youth Science Canada.

“It was absolutely incredible,” said Rayson, who was selected as Canada’s flag bearer at the event, which included long hours of judging each day.

But that doesn’t phase Rayson, who, in August, received the prestigious 2022 Stockholm Junior Water Prize — just the third Canadian to win the competition since 1995. She also earned multiple prizes at the Canada Wide Science Fair earlier this year.

“I’ve been doing science fairs since the fourth grade; it’s sort of normal now,” she said. “I’m just so incredibly inspired by the work being done by youth. It’s given me hope for the future.”

Rayson’s work — which explores how to use zooplankton to protect freshwater ecosystems against harmful algae blooms — was inspired by a keen interest in the changes happening in Lake Erie, impacting commercial fishermen like her dad. Her research, according to Youth Science Canada, is seen as a “potential solution for a multi-faceted global problem.”

Students at the EUCYS presented 85 different projects — from a broad spectrum of scientific areas including biology, physics, chemistry, computing, social sciences, environment, mathematics, engineering and medicine — to an international jury of 22 highly qualified scientists and engineers.

This year, 37% of the participants were young women.

“I’m still overwhelmed myself — I never dreamed of getting to this level,” said Rayson, who plans to attend university next year for Environmental or Integrated Science. She also hopes to compete at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) in 2023 in Dallas.

“I’ve met the most incredible, bright people.

“It’s great to represent women in STEM and small-town science.”

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