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Ossining Students Finalists In Young Naturalist Competition

Pamela Brigleb (left) and Jessica Fleischman are finalists in the Young Naturalists Competition sponsored by the Museum of Natural History.
Pamela Brigleb (left) and Jessica Fleischman are finalists in the Young Naturalists Competition sponsored by the Museum of Natural History. Photo Credit: Ossining Schools

OSSINING, N.Y. – Ossining High School’s Pamela Brigleb and Jessica Fleischman have been named finalists in the American Museum of Natural History’s Young Naturalist competition.

Brigleb has been investigating whether the American eel population is declining in tributaries of the Hudson River, while Fleischman has been studying how weather affects the calls migratory birds make. Both students developed their projects in the Science Research Program at Ossining High School, the district announced.

For her project, Brigleb collected American eels from specific Hudson River tributaries every morning from March through June of the past two years. Using equipment obtained through grant funds from Ossining MATTERS, she also monitored water quality factors such as acidity, temperature and conductivity and tracked biological indicators of stream health.

“It is a great honor to be recognized," Brigleb said in a statement. "It was a great experience to be able to be part of my environment for the past two years by monitoring the ecosystem and species.”

Fleischman’s project involved collecting audio data of the calls that migratory birds make at night and analyzing the production of those calls in relation to the weather.

Her research was the first to correlate night flight calls and weather conditions. Ultimately, it could be used to help conservationists in efforts to protect certain bird species.

Fleischman said she would not have been successful without the critical assistance of her mentors, Dr. J. Alan Clark, assistant professor of biological sciences at Fordham University, and Bill Evans, director of Old Bird Inc., who developed the acoustic microphone she used to collect the calls.

“Getting a good mentor is really the luck of the draw,” she said. “I was extremely lucky to work with Bill Evans and Dr. Clark. Dr. Clark taught me statistics and made sure I understood everything while Bill Evans invented the equipment I used.”

The Young Naturalist Competition selects 12 winners, two from each grade 7 through 12, from hundreds of entries nationwide. Students research questions about biology, Earth science, astronomy and ecology and then recount their investigations and findings in an essay, which is judged by a museum panel. Winners will be announced in mid-April.

In addition to conducting groundbreaking research, Brigleb and Fleishman have been involved in many activities inside and outside school. Fleishman, who plans to study stage management in college, is vice president of the high school Drama Club and will participate in I-SWEEP (International Sustainable World Energy Engineering Environment Project Olympiad) in Houston, Texas, in May.

Brigleb, who hopes to major in biomedical engineering, is president of the Engineering Club, a varsity swimmer, Girl Scout and pianist. She will compete with the school robotics team at the FIRST Tech International Competition in St. Louis later this year.

Valerie Holmes, who teaches the science research class with Angelo Piccirillo, applauded the students' work.

“I think it is really nice that there is a competition like this that recognizes students whose projects highlight field work," she said. "We need to keep conservation and the environment in the forefront for this generation.”

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