St. Patrick High student conducts water quality experiment

When the Bonnet Carre Spillway is opened, it can have impacts on marine life in the Mississippi Sound.

Sixteen-year-old Emerson Morris, a St. Patrick Catholic High School student, is trying to improve water quality on the Coast.

Emerson Morris is taking her science project this year to a new level. The St. Patrick Catholic High School sophomore says the algal blooms from the Bonnet Carre Spillway openings in 2019 inspired her to see if the effects could be lessened. “I noticed how bad our economy and environmental situation was with the blue green algae bloom. How we could not eat seafood and how tourism was so badly affected.”

Emerson currently has three oysters apiece in four tanks with water she collected from Gulfport Harbor with the goal of seeing if the filtration power of oysters and strategic oyster beds can make an impact on slowing the spread of algae in water. “I swabbed them on Petri dishes along with the blue-green algae, known as Microcystis aeruginosa, and allowed them to incubate for five days, and I examined the number of colonies that grew in each tank and after each time period.”

Emerson hopes the findings in these tests will one day lead to a cleaner and healthier Mississippi Sound for everyone to enjoy. So far, Emerson says she’s received interesting results from her tests. “Each of the water samples that I collected that had come in contact with the oysters grew significantly less amount of colonies of Microcystis aeruginosa as compared to the original water sample.”

Teachers and staff say Emerson is an example of how the next generation is already working on solutions to future challenges. Aaron Hommell said, “This is our home, and it’s obvious through Emerson’s project that she focused on making it the best home possible.”

Emerson’s hope is that some of her research can contribute to a healthier local ecosystem. “I want to make it the best that it can be, and I love my Mississippi home.”

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