On The Story (an American Public Media radio program) this morning, I learned of fifth-grader Nick Kuzma, who took top honors in his local, regional and state science fairs for his project on cleaning up oil using...chicken poop.
Nick's research started long before the BP spill - the science fairs were held in February and March - but he's excited that his findings might, in some way, help the clean-up process along. The idea for his project came from prior studies on oil and chicken manure in China. While Nick didn't do any testing in water, he did add chicken manure to one of two jars also containing dirt and oil. About 30% of the oil in the manure jar had broken down after two weeks, compared to only 7% in the control jar.
While filling the Gulf full of chicken manure is most likely not the solution to this catastrophe, what's most important here is that through this experience, Nick - and hopefully other children around our nation - can recognize first-hand the importance and excitement of scientific research. And, even more importantly, that they can really be a part of the process, whether it's through a fifth-grade science fair, a PhD thesis project, or the next big publication in Nature. Because all great scientists have to start somewhere.