4th grader presents at national geologists' meeting

December 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
When thousands of scientists from around the world met in San Francisco over the past couple of weeks, none stood out more than an impressive 9-year-old girl.

ABC7 health and science reporter Carolyn Johnson first met her in June. She might not look like your typical scientist, but 4th grader Claire Dworsky knows her stuff.

"As a soccer player and environmentalist, I looked down and I see the runoff water off the turf is murky," she said explaining why she chose the science she chose.

She also has no problem explaining her findings. She recently presented her research to San Francisco's Parks and Recreation Department as they debated synthetic turf fields in the city.

"The people that were making the turf, they took one sample from one field after it was filtered and they said it was clean," she said. "But, I took 110 water samples. So, that proves them wrong."

In early 2009, Dworsky won a National Science Foundation contest and spent eight months working with research professor Adina Paytan of UC Santa Cruz. She collected water samples from grass and artificial turf fields across San Francisco, then she and Dr. Paytan analyzed the findings in the lab.

Dworsky has now became the lead author of a poster presentation on the topic at December's meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which drew 16,000 scientists from around the world.

"I'm amazed. When I saw her standing there presenting, wow," said UCSC grad student Kerri Johnson. "And, she did a much better job than some of the scientists here in explaining her work."

When asked what it meant for science in general to have a young person like Dworsky so passionate about it, UCSC research professor Adina Paytan, Ph.D., replied, "What it means to me is if all kids are like her, I'm out of business."

Together Dworsky and Dr. Paytan discovered that there is no black and white answer.

"There's no easy, squeaky, green solution. It's not like 'Oh, the grass is good and the turf is bad,'" said Dworsky. "You've got to balance it out. You've got to do your research."


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