SARSEF Awards, March 10, 2023

Post by Peggy Ollerhead C3

As an all-volunteer organization focused on the ecology and natural history of the Sonoran Desert, we have sponsored awards at the Regional SARSEF Science Fair for the past 3 years.  SARSEF strives to create AZ’s future critical thinkers and problem solvers through science and engineering and focuses on engaging student populations underrepresented in the field of STEM. This year’s Science Fair was a hybrid with projects available for on-line or in-person judging, as SARSEF (like so many organizations) attempts to adapt to a new post-Covid normal. 

This year, PCMN was asked to review and judge middle school (grades 6-8) projects. The team of volunteer judges selected approximately 45 projects to judge that pertained to Sonoran Desert topics. The first prize winner was a unanimous choice. Wade Olsson representing grade 8 of the Olsson Homeschool, demonstrated remarkable persistence and a passion for field work clocking more than 900 field hours over 4 years gathering data and generating hypotheses for his project, “The Invasion of Non-Native Green Sunfish in La Milagrosa Canyon in Pima County.” For his efforts, PCMN awarded a saguaro trophy and a $100 cash prize.

With such a large field, PCMN decided to also award two Honorable Mention Awards of smaller saguaro trophies. Angela Madrid, a sixth grader at Imago Dei Middle School, was recognized for her project “Man-Made Border Wall vs The Natural World.”  She gathered information from studies of how animal habits and migration have been impacted by the Border Wall. Greyson Weber, A seventh grader at Dodge Traditional Magnet school was recognized for His project “The AZ Water Crisis” and the website he developed to share sources of information and suggestions for actions that can be taken by the public. Links to winning projects are available on the SARSEF website, listed alphabetically by school. 

A special thank you to Franklin Lane, former president of PCMN, who initiated this relationship with SARSEF; to the judges, Marlene Shamis, Richard Linsenberg, Francesca Ziemba, and Peggy Ollerhead; and to Marlene Shamis for donating the cash award. 

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