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Student Scientist Sonja Michaluk Presents Her Work to DRBC Staff

Recently, DRBC invited 13-year-old Sonja Michaluk to its office to present to staff on her work with macroinvertebrates (aquatic insects). This Hopewell Valley Central High School student has been monitoring local streams since she was seven years old and has been recognized locally and nationally for her field research and related efforts.

Sonja’s biology teacher, Ms. Karen Lucci, accompanied her to DRBC’s office. Sonja’s presentation to staff was entitled Environmental Analytics: Stream Assessment to Inform Decisions. It showcased her background and various awards received to date and also discussed her findings on stream health as indicated from her experiments involving macrovertebrate collection. 

The type and amount of macroinvertebrates found in a waterway can help indicate its water quality. Some bugs, for example mayfly or stonefly larva, are very sensitive to pollution; others, such as leeches or aquatic worms, are more pollution tolerant. Finding more pollution sensitive species in the water samples is a positive indicator of the health of the waterbody being monitored. Sonja has been sampling, collecting, and analyzing data since 2010 and has even developed a model that can predict how potential land development can impact a local waterway.

In addition to being an honors student, Sonja volunteers as a biological intern with the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association, is the youngest member of the Society for Freshwater Science, and does educational outreach to local groups and clubs. 

DRBC staff were quite impressed with Sonja’s accomplishments, intelligence, and passion for biology and the scientific process. We know that she will continue to do great things and has a very bright future ahead of her!