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Rebecca Wolfe

Location: Summerside, PE

Award: Young Canadians


Year: 2008


Identifying Ciona Intestinalis

News Release

Budding Environmental Scientists Make Splash at Canada-Wide Science Fair

OTTAWA, ON - (May 16, 2008) Rebecca Wolfe's science fair project to detect invasive species in waterways has earned her a $4000 Manning Young Canadian Award and $500 Manning Innovation Achievement Award. Wolfe was among over 450 finalists at the 2008 Canada-Wide Science Fair, held in Ottawa, May 10th to 18th. The 17-year-old student from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, developed a genetic tool to detect the troublesome sea squirt, Ciona intestinalis.

Also known as the vase tunicate, C. intestinalis is a small, tube-like invertebrate that affixes itself to buoys, harvesting gear, ships' hulls and docks. In Nova Scotia and P.E.I, far from its natural habitat, the tenacious tunicate disrupts aquatic ecosystems and wreaks havoc with aquaculture equipment. The mussel growing industry in P.E.I. has been particularly affected by vase tunicate infestations.

Current methods to detect the vase tunicate include suspending plates in the water and waiting-up to four months-for tunicate larvae to attach and grow, or directly inspecting water samples for vase tunicate larvae. Distinguishing C. intestinalis from other tunicate species at the larval stage is very difficult, however. Wolfe developed a genetic test that would allow the invasive species to be quickly detected. Specifically, she designed and tested a DNA primer that matches a gene sequence unique to C. intestinalis. The primer can be used with the polymerase chain reaction technique to amplify and therefore identify even minute amounts of the vase tunicate's DNA in water samples.

Wolfe, who has long been interested in marine biology, plans to build on her environmental innovation.

Two young environmental scientists from Ontario also won $500 Manning Innovation Achievement Awards. Waterloo's Daniel Burd was recognised for his project to identify plastic-degrading microbes in landfill soil. He discovered that two types of bacteria, Sphingomonas and Pseudomonas, work together to degrade polyethylene, the type of plastic typically used to make plastic bags. David Castelino of Mississauga won for his work on dye-sensitized solar cells. He demonstrated the efficiency of solar cells that used natural plant pigments in place of synthesized dyes for converting light energy to electricity. Using his innovation, he built cost-effective solar tiles that could easily be manufactured in developing countries.

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation introduced the Young Canadian Program in 1992 to recognize Canada's innovative youth. Each year a judging team selects eight winning projects at the Canada-Wide Science Fair (CWSF) for a $500 Manning Innovation Achievement Award. These are presented at the CWSF ceremony; four of these are selected for a $4000 Manning Young Canadian Innovation Award. These top four young winners and other Manning Innovation Award winners are recognized in person at the Foundation's Annual Awards Gala. Visit www.manningawards.ca for more information and winner videos.

Bruce Fenwick, Executive Director, Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, Phone: 403-645-8277 Email: bruce.fenwick@encana.com

Lori Murray, Youth Science Foundation Canada, Phone: (Toll free) 866-341-0040 ext. 3 Email: communications@ysf-fsj.ca