ROCK BRIDGE: Students prepare insect-pesticide projects for state competition

Monday, September 26, 2011 | 12:15 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Columbia Area Career Center students Micah Fletcher and Michael Pisanowill spend the next seven months researching insects and pesticides.

The two have begun preparations for the Missouri Junior Science Engineering and Humanities Symposium. The state competition will be held March 15-17 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. 

Fletcher and Pisano will submit a paper on their research to the symposium. The symposium helps students explore science and engineering by holding lectures, going on field trips and allowing them to present, according to the symposium brochure.

For their symposium research, the boys have chosen different topics. The one thing the two classmates topics do have in common is their study of pesticides.

Fletcher’s research focuses on the effect of glyphosate-based herbicide on spider behavior. A similar form of this pesticide is the chemical Roundup, Fletcher said.

"These spiders are like small wolf spiders you would find in an agriculture field," Fletcher said. "They would affect pest population because (their) diet is composed completely of insects."

He said he hopes to discover whether the pesticide changes spider behavior and if it has an effect on their control of the agricultural pest population via consumption.

Pisano will be working with a sprayable pesticide and BT, a bacterial toxin, to determine its impact on the health of a red worm population.

"To have healthy soil, we want a healthy worm population. If BT or pesticide is killing worms, it will have a negative effect on soil," Pisano said.

This will be the boys' first year competing.

"Just recently went out to collect a batch of spiders to see how easily I will be able to collect or whether will have to change the species I will use," Fletcher said.

The boys will carry out their research with the support of the Career Center. Inside the student lab at the Career Center, teachers ensure the boys put on protective eye wear and jackets.

Learning to use a microscope created a new level of understanding for them, they said.

A microscope allowed Fletcher to view spiders in ways he had only before seen in textbooks, he said.

"I will be ready for (the) future because will have to do this again and again," Pisanosaid.

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